Drama in W12


John Sergeant’s departure from Strictly Come Dancing wasn’t the only drama at the BBC today. In the spirit of transparency, I figure it’s vital to explain what happened to me this afternoon..

I’ve started a new job just recently. It’s been in the BBC newspaper and everything. It explained exactly where I was leaving and what I was moving on to do (so why did a former colleague still ask me if I still remained a member of staff at the BBC now that I’d left the department we used to work in together? Goodness only knows.)

This new job has seen some changes for me. First are my efforts – on the whole successful – trying to get into work for 10.00am. Second, my attempts to be a little more professional in my dealings with people. Some people have commented on how much smarter I look and how much better I look clean shaven. One even commented on how much younger I look.  How very flattering. I’m sure it wasn’t a come on. He’s married, after all.

The most challenging aspect of this new role however, has been grappling with the new toilet arrangements.

Back where I used to work big, plush and modern Media Centre the toilet experience is a secluded one. Each cubicle is cut off from the rest of the world behind a heavy door, the perfect location to shut out the rest of the world and ponder on the day’s trials, tribulations and resulting personal insecurities.

In stark contrast – and like the very worst kind of time-travelling adventure – my new job sees me working in the impenetrable fortress known as the White City building. The lifts aren’t regular, the staircases difficult to locate and get the wrong floor and you’ll spend the rest of the day wandering around looking like an idiot. I know this because I have.

But worst of all are the toilets, reminiscent of old-school cubicles with a gap at the top and the bottom of the doors and partitions. They’re a nightmare. If I’m in need of using the facilities, the prospect of using the White City toilets fills me with fear and dread. On the few ocassions I’ve used them, I’ve sat in one of the narrow cubicles and waited for an opportune moment to do what I have to do. It’s so annoying, so tiresome .. so very humiliating. In short – as expertly summed up by a friend who also works in White City – I suffer from severe performance anxiety.

That’s why, a little after six this evening having spent a great deal of time thinking over potential solutions to the day’s challenges, I shut down my computer and took myself off back to the Media Centre – in the opposite direction to my journey home – in order to use the toilets there. Even at the end of the day the prospect of using the nearby toilets made me feel quite nervous.

I leapt across the square in W12 and settled myself down. The door was shut. Here was an opportunity to have a spot of me time, ponder on the day’s events. Was John Sergeant right to quit or should he have stuck it out? Had the judges pushed him too far? Could he have made more of an effort? Was it important he read the Guardian?

Mid-way through my effort, I became aware of a number of ladies standing outside. “Are you waiting too?” said one to another. “Yes,” she replied, “How long have they been occupied?” asked the other, “No idea,” came the reply.

There was I, sat on the toilet bowl keen to complete the operation I’d started and flush, painfully aware that the secluded cubicle lacked a throughput of air and probably wouldn’t be in a fit usable state if I was to vacate it immediately. There was no way I was going to finish proceedings, flush, wash my hands and then leave risking seeing the faces of people who could well make use of the same cubicle earlier than advised.

I needed a delaying tactic and opted – for some utterly bizarre reason – to start running a sinkful of soapy water with the intention of washing my face. This I did almost convinced that one of the other cubicles would become free or maybe they’d make the effort and climb the few short steps to the first floor and use the toilets there.

No such luck.

I adopted a second measure washing my face again and then my hands and then face once more, before spending considerably more time than I anticipated drying my face with a paper towel.

Still no joy.

I rolled a cigarette. And then another. The voices were gone now. I was certain I could hear just one pair of feet pacing up and down the corridor.

It was a good ten minutes after I’d entered the cubicle and finished my business that one of the other cubicles finally became vacant and my not-unjustifiable embarrassment was avoided.

Note to self: make sure all ablutions are carried out fully before the end-of-day rush hour. I’ve run out of plausible delaying tactics. Probably best not to blog about it either. I bet John Sergeant doesn’t have that problem.