Answering the call of nature

2007-11-19 00:00

Nice guy, Selby. He always looks neat in a crisp shirt at the bus stop in the morning. He greets people with a warm smile and has a hearty laugh - like he has been waiting for you to tell him the best joke he has ever heard.

He also always offers to help me carry shopping bags back to my apartment when they look heavy.

One afternoon on my way to the bus stop I caught a glimpse of Selby standing against a wall. As I rushed over to greet him, he began blushing; he was urinating.

Five minutes later Selby put on his bravest face and stood next to me waiting for the bus. He greeted me again. Not knowing what to do, I replied and gave a half-hearted smile.

He muttered something about the bus being late. I muttered something back.

The ride home was awkward, as he sat next to me.

When I told my friend this over the phone the next morning she laughed and then said, “I really don't know what to say. It's such a disgusting thing to do and it's a violation to those who may be passing behind you.

“But I have seen enough men and women relieve themselves this way to know better than to judge,” she sighed.

My boyfriend begged me not to write about it. “Other than the fact that it would be an extremely difficult read, it would offend men in general,” he said.

I asked him if he were guilty of such a transgression. He was ambiguous, “There aren't enough public toilets that ‘working' men can use. A lot of residents refuse to let people into their houses to relieve themselves,” he said.

This explanation is flawed. Where does it place Selby? A male friend then made a valid point.

“In some instances, a man is better off handling his business outside. Some places, like certain taxi ranks, have filthy men's toilets. In instances like those I would rather find myself a quiet spot.”

This one had me. But then I thought of nasty lavatories I had found myself in.

“It's not easy,” I told him “but when nature calls and my choices are limited, I pucker up, steer clear of the seat and use my elbows to open the tap and door on my way out.”

I never did speak to Selby about the incident. When he walks on to the bus behind me I am quick to occupy the seat next to me with my belongings and he is quick to move on.

Although I would like to make amends with him, I find myself unable to look past the stench of urine at the bus stop.

I am even less fond of the idea of making up when I picture him extending his hand for a handshake.

* Nozipho Masabalala is a 20-something Johannesburg-based journalist, working for a group of community newspapers based in Soweto.

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