I've been keeping a log of codes for toilets in the city centre, the ones in shops that require a dedicated sequence for customer entry. The difference between a coded entry and your bog-standard public bogs can’t be overstated.There’s way less incidental traffic, less litter, cleaner toilet lids.
Neanderthals drag their knuckles at the thought of remembering the sequence: they go to the door, hit the first four buttons they see, set the alarm off, wet their pants and run away.
The coded bathroom entry seems to be a growth industry. I know of 10 in Glasgow city centre but feel I haven’t even scratched the surface. Flushing them out requires guile and observation. Often it’s made explicit you must be a customer of so-and-so franchised coffee shop within the main building, although this can be circumvented with ease.
All you do is grab a half-empty cup of skinnymochalatte from someone’s table, approach the most gormless looking member of staff and say: “Hey, chum, gonnae gie’s the code for the lavvies, ah’m pure dyin’ here ...” – and, voila, they give it to you.
(Sometimes you have to pull them into a quiet corner and beat the intelligence out of them, threaten their family, rip the name badge from their polo shirt and say you’re keep- ing it by your nunchucks, but this is almost too infrequent to merit a mention.)
Most commonly the code is a letter-number-letter-number combination, designed not to be too memorable, and most probably generated at random. As a back-up I always stick it into my phone, with a tag that reminds me of the location – wstones, frsrs – but this is mere formality. Once committed to memory they’re in there for good: my mind is a steel cistern, capable of holding heavy water. I come and go as I please, back and forth, no need for chit-chat, hassle or human interaction.
Truth be told I feel a bit like Jason Bourne. I wander through town unnoticed, like any other member of public, but I have a secret, I have the codes. Under attack from a rogue bladder or bowel movement, I know exactly what to do, exactly where to go. While other people hobble about holding their bum cheeks, desperately seeking assistance, I glide straight by, key in the code, get to work.
Which is not to say all you can do in the toilet is do the toilet. Sometimes it’s nice just to go in for a seat, put your feet up, read a book. When this gets boring you can write depraved haikus on the walls, practise your graffiti, make papier–mache sculptures from loo roll and stick them to the roof.
No-one suspects you if you look presentable enough – even less so if you corner the secu- rity man as you’re leaving and complain about the state of the toilets. They ask if you want to make a formal complaint, you say you don’t, you leave.
I’m pleased as Punch with my knowledge, and envisage the kind of convoluted code- cracking plots Dan Brown could only dream of. I can see it now: Tom Hanks hotfooting it round the Louvre in a bid to spend a penny: time’s running out, Hanky – yer scuds must be pure bustin! They could cast Mel Gibson in my role, shouting jumbled bits of codes through a hail of obscenities; a sinister Opus Dei monk could try to repeatedly deny himself relief as an act of self-flagellation; Audrey Tautou could follow the paper trail ...
It’s amazing what you think about when you have the codes. You feel invincible.
First published in The Sunday Herald.