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Potty Training the Nation

13 January 2012, 11:32

If we had to develop a simple method for determining the level of refinement, sophistication, and development of the people of a country, what would it be? Perhaps, to establish the “State of the Nation,” we should evaluate the “State of the Loo.”


As background, let me tell you that I grew up on a farm; unaware of the fact that I would, in later life, be classified as belonging to the “previously advantaged” group. Our toilet consisted of a small outhouse over a pit – we never called it a "long drop." We called it a “toilet.” In those days the government didn’t give you a free toilet if you voted for them, so our toilet had walls around it; with a door and a roof – and no one using it ever lost their dignity – except me. Being a small boy, I used to be sh*t scared of falling into the deep, dark, stinking hole; drowning in muck, with no one to hear my farewell screams.


Although terrified of being bitten on my immature family jewels – or stung to death by some poisonous insect – I became quite an expert entomologist during my involuntary visits to the toilet. I used to sit quietly for hours, closely studying all the spiders, wasps, bugs, and countless other creepy crawlies that lived there. Some of the lizards even had names.


As fate would have it, my studies were mercifully cut short. We moved to the city and – low, and be holed – a short drop! (We still referred to it as a “toilet,” of course.) This masterpiece of engineering was inside the house! Clean, hygienic, smelling of roses – no scary bugs – and almost impossible to fall into and drown. I was flushed with relief! And so, growing up, I always had a genuine fondness and respect for the clean, user friendly, modern toilet.


Call it a loo, lavatory, latrine, John, convenience, water closet (WC), privvie, or whatever – to me, it remains a magnificent invention; right up there with electricity and the horseless carriage. (Excluding our taxis, of course.)


Ask anyone in this country, and they’ll be sure to tell you of something that has gone to the dogs since the ANC came into power. Be it service delivery, education, potholes, healthcare, or corruption – we all have our pet gripes. To me, the surest sign of the deterioration and decline in the level of refinement, sophistication, and development of this country, is the state of our toilets.


Being one of the previously advantaged (PA) – whose status has since changed to “currently disadvantaged and disillusioned,” I want to remind you of what we used to have; and what it is like to enter a Holey of Holeys, in the New South Africa.


We had clean, ventilated, hygienic toilets (with walls built around them) and plenty of quality toilet paper; doors that could lock, bowls that were not cracked or chipped; with seat covers and lids on the bowls, and toilets that could actually flush – and were. People showed consideration for the next occupier of the “throne.” Floors were dry and litter free. Maintenance and repairs were regularly done.


Nowadays “toilets” cannot even be compared to the primitive “long drop” of my youth. The condition of public toilets is a good indicator of the level of sophistication of some of the users; clearly reflecting their upbringing, mentality and education. Toilets are filthy, blocked, and rarely flushed – even if the flushing mechanism is still working; bowls are cracked and chipped, toilet paper is stolen; floors are often covered in urine and muck; toilet seats are broken or stolen; door locks are broken; light bulbs are stolen and walls are smeared with nasty looking substances.


Often unsavoury characters, masquerading as cleaners, hang around inside the toilet area; looking for handouts or selling drugs. People get mugged, robbed, and even raped in public toilets – no one is prepared to guarantee their safety.


At the gathering in Bloemfontein, where the ANC were celebrating the 100th anniversary of their long drop to freedom, President Zuma promised to take "urgent and practical steps to restore the core values.”


Is he going to launch a potty training campaign for the nation? Will we eventually have advanced training courses, teaching sophisticated toilet skills such as:


  • Lifting and Lowering the Lid, Using BOTH Hands
  • Aiming at the Bowl – Basic Techniques: for Men
  • The Purpose of the Sanitary Waste Bin: for Women
  • Why You Should Not Vent Your Anger at the Bowl or Seat: for Both Sexes
  • The Bowl – Just Because It’s White Doesn’t Mean It’s a Racist: For Everyone
  • Using Toilet Paper for the First Time: Tearing, Folding, and Wiping Procedures
  • Flushing – Using the Various Little Levers, Chains, and Push-buttons
  • Lifting and Lowering the Lid, Using ONE Hand
  • Buying (as opposed to stealing) Toilet Paper for Your Home: a New Experience
  • The Toilet Door Locking Mechanism – The Key to Your Solo Performance
  • Why Smoking Marijuana in the Toilet Promotes Antisocial Behaviour


Ah, we all have our dreams. Mine is of clean, safe, hygienic toilets – smelling of roses – with no scary bugs; and almost impossible to fall into and drown. That’s all I want.


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