Tuesday, July 05, 2005
The Arabs call it (or so I’m told) “the-room-where-everyone-goes”. In their case, it doesn’t make sense. I mean, why would nomadic tribes, with several thousand square kilometres of awe-inspiring desert to poop in, start building privies in the first place? (Not to mention the water issues .. yecchhh) Perhaps they used Port-a-Potties? So much for Rudolf Valentino!
* Time out for short film …
Arab caravan lurches over the horizon, shadows black under the desert sun … camera moves in slowly … craggy features, far-seeing eyes crinkled against the sun… aforesaid far-seeing eyes light up as a speck appears afar and draws closer … much pointing and gesticulation and … TA-DAA-DA-DAAA, T.E. Lawrence emerges heroically over the dunes, motorcycle and sidecar heading a plume of dust .. but wait, wait, that’s too TALL to be a side-car, that’s too BIG, it’s .. it’s a … PORT-A-POTTY!
General hubbub, Arabs leap off camels and race each other towards it, groping in their robes for the equivalent of 25 Eurocents. OST from David Lean film builds towards a crescendo. Peter O’ Toole tries to look heroic and magnanimous even though he really looks as if he Needs to Go.
Meanwhile, Omar Sharif has shot the three men who got there ahead of him and is the first one into the Port-a-Potty. Exultant yells and other less polite noises emerge.
Camels look at each other with Very Camel Expressions … they reach a consensus and (all together now!) demonstrate in unison why they Do Not Need to Go in That Thing. The desert reeks ...*
Overcome with emotion at the grandeur of the spectacle, one takes a Short Break from Blogging …
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The Arabian Desert is still a whole lot better than the Indian Highway. Miles and miles of super-smooth six-lane asphalt, and what does one have when one needs some relief? Hello, George! (Some of the snazzier stretches of highway these days - now do NOT say ‘Bombay – Pune’, because it’s just Not True - actually have Rest Stops. Oh joy.)
Back in the dark ages (like even July last year, actually), the Comfort Stop was one of the great issues in the Battle of the Sexes, at least in India. Men had it comparatively easy, even though it takes a little time to work out the issues of protocol (Does one tell a chauffeur to pull over at the next big tree? If he needs to go as well, does one look for a site with multiple waterable poles or does one assume he will wait his turn? When he gets back, how does one stop worrying about whether he washed his hands?)
(Speaking of last July - Cuffe Parade to Lokhandwala took all of four hours. Four of us in the car, with a 4-year-old. By the time we got there, our social graces were reduced to "Pleased-to-meet-you where's-the-bathroom?" The valiant child deserves a better balladeer than Ms. Hemans.)
When there are Wimmin in the car, confusion is worse compounded. There is the Woman who will Not Go but will make you feel like a Slug because you are a Male and Unfairly Endowed. There is the Woman who will Fidget until you stop at every second shop and ask (usually in a guilty mumble, as if you’re asking about smutty pictures) whether there is a loo available. There is the Woman who will Make Do with Adequate Shrubbery but You-Have-To-Stand-Guard, even if this is the only scrub between Jodhpur and Jaisalmer and it’s 9 at night in December. There is even the Woman who Doesn’t Give a Damn and will Go Anywhere, short of letting fly out of the window.
The dice are loaded unfairly against women in this respect. I sympathise. Sometimes, after a few beers, I even empathise. What I refuse to do any more is Stand Guard. I cannot, however, escape the Awful Responsibility of Scouting for Suitable Shrubs.
A piece of advice for young people who are still undecided on career choices: don’t even dream of being a Shrub Spotter. There’s no future in it. One is always caught in the middle, between the Person at the Wheel who shouts because it’s too late to stop at that particular shrub and the Woman who Can’t Hold It In Any More (as in, WHY can’t you tell us a little earlier?!?! Yes, like I’m Superman and I have a special GPRS to locate suitable cover from 10 miles away!)
A further piece of advice – when she says she wants another Coke, dissuade her. You know why.
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