Howard Feldman

Cape Town's No.1 'flusher'

2017-12-13 11:32

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I have flushed for 49 years – give or take a few years during the infant and toddler stage where I most likely didn’t. Like any well entrenched habit or pattern of behaviour, this one is harder to break than I thought. 

"Flush for a number 2," they say here in Cape Town. Not for a number one.

Simple? Not really.

In the 5 days that we have been in drought stricken Cape Town, I have unnecessarily flushed the toilet repeatedly and each time have been as shocked by my behaviour as I am ashamed. So much so that on occasion I even considered trying to pee again for appearance sake, but each time abandoned that tactic and skulked out of the bathroom, head bowed. I figured there is enough time for that sort of behaviour when I am in my sixties and the whole prostate thing kicks in. Or is it seventies?

My wife is doing no better than me in that department and I am now getting used to the sound of a “flush” followed by a short muffled scream when she realises what she has done. I feel really bad for her. Especially because the one toilet in the flat seems to be a “long flusher” and an unnecessary pulling chain seems to last for days. Along with the humiliation.

We are nervous wrecks the two of us are.

We are managing the ninety second shower thing though. Thanks to my sneaky but ingenious plan, I am not finding this a challenge at all. Like a true gent, I let my wife shower first – which also means that her 90 seconds has to include the heating up of the water. I gain around 15 seconds here which is a reasonable percentage gain if you consider the time allocated.

I am the designated shower time keeper (self appointed) and assist in making sure that we remain on the straight and narrow in this regard. She claims not to enjoy my countdowns from outside the bathroom door but I think it’s sensible to call it every 20 seconds so that she knows exactly how she is doing. It’s only the last 22 seconds where I count down each number out loud before shouting “pens down!” in my sternest of voices.

They say that water is therapeutic and relaxing but for some reason she doesn’t seem calmer when she storms past me after showering – quite the contrary, in fact.

We had discussed and agreed on our strategy ahead of time. I pondered publicly in this medium if we should be visiting Cape Town at all during the severe drought and debated if it would be fair to place more strain on the severely strained system. My wife felt it wasn’t the right thing to do, but discussions with the Cape Tourism Board on my radio show, comments from readers of my column, and well, the selfish desire to be in Cape Town convinced me that as long as we respected the system and the rules in place, then we would be welcome.

Not as simple as it sounds.

This flushing thing is killing me. And I am petrified that at any moment, there is going to be a short, sharp knock on the front door, and that when I open it, a disappointed and sad looking Capetonian holding a clipboard, a chewed Bic pen and a computer print-out with my futile flushes circled in red, will be standing there shaking her head slowly from side to side. It will be a silent exchange. Because there are no words for us "flushers".

The hotels in Cape Town are pretty smart too. The President in Seapoint is particularly crafty. They pump moist air through the taps in their public toilets. True story. It is meant to fool guests into thinking that they are washing their hands but really they are just aerating them.

That said, admittedly, it is a rather pleasant sensation. No more sweaty palms for their patrons. At the end of the experience I had no idea whether to “dry” them on the paper towels provided in order to continue the experience or to go and actually get them wet in the salt water swimming pool.

Cape Town needs its tourists. But it also needs its water. And those “water privileged” of us have to be aware of the situation and the impact – good and bad that we might have on the city.

Reality is also that aside from not being able to bath and being stressed by the whole not flushing thing, it’s pretty much holiday as usual for us in Cape Town. True, the grass is a little browner than usual. True, there are signs most places to remind both locals and visitors of the crises and the beach showers are no longer a thing. But for us, so long as we are able to remain cognisant of not leaving a “water footprint”, there is pretty much no other place that we would rather be. 

- Feldman is the author of Carry on Baggage and Tightrope and the afternoon drive show presenter on Chai FM.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    cape town  |  drought  |  water crisis
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