Central London pubs are different. Pubs in the suburbs are tamer, more perpendicular. No clambering up a wonky staircase to sit at a 30˚ angle on a toilet trying not to fall off while drunk in the outer reaches. But in central London, this is life.
If you do find yourself in a central London pub, 5% of the time it’s because you were in central London and decided to stop for a drink nearby. The other 95% of the time it’s because you had friends to meet and you needed to find a place that was equally awkward transport wise for each of you. So you went with the central London, multi story, wonky toilet, franchise pub.
This is why I ended up in such a place. I was told to meet in an alehouse that was an awkwardly long stroll away from a tube station but still deemed “central”. I duly obliged. This was going to be an irritating journey for everyone equally, and who am I to get in the way of fairness?
The night went well. We talked, we gossiped, we laughed. We purchased a food platter of terrible things and immediately regretted our decision. Eventually, it became time to break the seal. I needed to pee. No big deal. I climbed down from my stool and toddled on inebriated legs through the rabbit warren of stairways and corridors; following the signs promising to lead me to the ladies’ loo.
Success! I had located two empty cubicles, each with what appeared to be a functioning lavatory. I chose the one seemingly furthest away from humanity. I plonked myself onto the seat and emptied my full-to-bursting bladder. This took a little while, so I began to take note of my surroundings. The usual wonky wooden room. The usual poster on the door trying to convince me to go to a wedding fair, or join a quiz team or book a private party. The usual plastic toilet roll holder.
Oh. Wait. Let’s look a little more closely at that. It was a circular plastic case attached to the wall, completely enclosing the loo paper. There was a lock, so you needed a key if you wanted to change the roll. There was a small circular opening in the centre where the tissue was supposed to feed out, letting you take only a civilised number of squares in one go.
However, the toilet tissue had been pushed inside the holder and there was no way to pull any out of the specified hole. There was still about a third of a roll left and it was just trapped inside this plastic prison.
I had been indulging in some serious urination. While things were damp and there may have been a little splash back, this was nothing a sober person couldn’t handle with a harumph and a little bit of bootie wiggling to shake off the excess before pulling up her knickers and going back out into the world.
However, I wasn’t a sober person. I was a person who had imbibed the exact number of alcoholic beverages needed to convince a person that they are in fact a master locksmith. I was not about to be beaten by a system that employed a locked plastic toilet roll holder. I was bigger than the system.
I rattled the locked compartment. I jimmied. I tried to jam the nail of my pinky finger into the keyhole as a makeshift key to turn the mechanism. The loo paper holder proved to be more difficult to break into than an eight year old’s diary, which was my only previous experience at lock picking.
Right, plan B. I was not to be defeated. This time I decided to coax the paper back out through the gap intended. The end sat just behind the hole, having been shoved back in by some previous idiot who obviously couldn’t handle the responsibility of tinkling while drunk.
I plunged my finger into the opening, yelped in pain, retracted and tried again with a smaller finger. This one fit through and I tried to bend it like David Beckham in The Matrix with a spoon. I could basically touch the paper, but had no way of dragging it back through the hole. I searched for a hair pin, tweezers, anything that could help me with my gripping dilemma. No dice. I considered trying to suck the paper back through the hole, but quickly realised that I wasn’t even close to being drunk enough for that kind of insanity.
Nope, I had to move on to Plan C. How was this baby fixed to the wall? Surely it just clipped onto something that was screwed into the wall. Coming at this from the back entrance was the obvious solution, the lock and key was just a diversion for drunks who weren’t totally serious about toilet paper access. I gave it a good shake. It wriggled a little but it would not budge from its position. I twisted it and pressed my head up against the wall, peering down into the gap between wall and contraption, trying to see how it was attached. I continued jiggling, pulling and rotating my plastic enemy with building desperation. I even tried a little wrenching, but lacked the truly depraved sense of mania needed to willfully vandalise a public restroom.
Time was getting on. People would soon begin to notice my absence and come looking for me. No one wants to be found with their knickers around their ankles smashing up a bog roll holder. Fuck it. Victory had slipped away from me and I must now wallow in musty toilet stench of defeat.
I half heartedly waggled my hindquarters, even though by now I was perfectly dry down there. I stood up, fixing my knickers and reaching around to flush all at once. Even through my drunken haze I was down for some nifty multi tasking. That’s when I saw it, out of the corner of my eye.
I turned around fully and gave out a frightful sound that was half gasp of shock, half groan of despair. There on the cistern sat a pyramid of toilet rolls, unwrapped and ready for use.