How hard can it be to keep a toilet clean? I can’t remember the last time I used one in a cafe, restaurant, pub or service station that wasn’t, well, minging is the word that comes to mind. They’re not all minging, to be fair, but they are somewhere between minging and merely unpleasant. They’re never clean, and invariably smell a bit. Or a lot. And there is always, but always, something broken. A urinal out of action; a lock hanging off; a hand dryer that doesn’t work; a paper-towel dispenser dispensing no towels; a paper-towel dispenser dispensing paper towels all over the floor; an empty toilet-tissue dispenser; a toilet-tissue dispenser from which it is next to impossible to extract toilet tissues; a loose toilet seat; a missing toilet seat; a soap dispenser with no soap to dispense … the list goes on. When, I ask you, is the last time you sat there and thought: “Ooh, this is rather pleasant in here; this is actually quite nice”?
I’m not talking about public conveniences here, but toilets for clients. Clients who presumably you would want treated well so they come back another time. I can’t understand why places, especially those serving food, don’t take this more seriously. If standards of toilet hygiene are poor – which they always are – then why wouldn’t we conclude that things might not be quite right in the kitchen? I’m not asking for potpourri, bottles of cologne or a selection of improving reading matter. I just want an environment that isn’t actively unpleasant. The coffee shop in which I’m writing this is part of a major chain. It’s a perfectly pleasant environment in which to read, write or chat. Sadly though, I’m sitting near the door to the toilet. Somebody approaches it every few minutes. Elsewhere, that walk of shame is particular to those intent on using the wretched facilities without buying anything. Not here: no buy, no bog. If you want a key, get a coffee. Yet, even with this restricted access, the air within is fetid. Every time a lucky keyholder opens the door, I get a waft of it. I fancy the dog asleep at my feet wrinkles his nose in disdain. Perhaps the issue of non-patron toilet usage presents an opportunity. Something along the lines of: non-patrons are welcome to use our toilets as long as they’re prepared to give them a clean. Please ask at the counter for gloves, cloths, brushes, hazmat suit and disinfectant. And pick up your free coffee on the way out.
What is the opposite of crème de la crème, I wonder? The crap de la crap? The worst of the worst client toilets are to be found in motorway service stations. I speak not of the big facilities in the main food and shopping areas – strenuous efforts are apparently made to keep them respectable – but the toilets in the filling stations at these places. If all you want is some petrol or a snack, then these are much more convenient – easy in and out and less of a scrum. However, if it’s a wee you’re after, ye gods, prepare yourselves. These petrol station loos are so ghastly that I can only think it is a deliberate policy, lest too many of us give the main shopping area a miss. I saw something in a petrol station toilet southbound on the M1 in the east Midlands on Monday afternoon that I can never unsee.
I once had a Partridge-esque gig presenting the British Parking Awards. It was easy to mock, obviously, but it struck me how much effort we expend in worrying about parking – especially elderly people for whom it can become a serious quality of life issue. Anything that makes it more straightforward is worth an award. And it’s plainly the same with toilets. To host the Client Khazi of the Year awards, I hereby offer my services for nothing.