It is amazing how once an idea – however outlandish – permeates our consciousness, related events seem to follow as if from nowhere. Such information must always be there, yet it normally it passes us by, flowing past in the deluge of information that we struggle to swim through every day.
I give you an example from last week. During the popular music comedy-quiz ‘Never Mind the Buzzcocks’ the presenter related an anecdote about the Kiss guitarist Gene Simmons. Apparently Simmons came to the realisation that he could never keep pace with wild man of rock Ozzy Osbourne when he happened upon Ozzy smearing his own excrement on the walls of his hotel room. There was no discussion of why Ozzy had felt compelled to indulge in such a revolting act, nor any discussion of the practical considerations. Had Ozzy simply grasped a handful or had he used plasterer’s tools to obtain a smooth and even coat? Was he mindlessly daubing or was he attempting to capture a creative thought of some sort? Perhaps some further research might uncover the details, but to be honest they matter not a jot. What matters is that this story struck a chord with me because earlier the same day news had reached me of a similar story; perhaps Ozzy could offer some insight into the mind and motivations of the vandal who wrote the word ‘Shit’ on the walls of a workplace convenience. Disturbingly, perhaps the same vandal had used a pen to draw a swastika on the walls of another cubicle the previous week. I am not sure which of these depraved acts is worse, but certainly it would have been worse still had the two offences been combined.
So it was that, having given the topic of the stool as a creative medium only scant consideration for a number of years, my mind was flooded with recollections of related incidents. For instance I can recall hearing of a cubicle in a Rothesay pub being defaced, in excrement, with the words ‘Shit Graffiti’. But my favourite is another workplace incident, recorded in an Ayrshire chemical plant. The chap who told me this story had been working a nightshift on the upper floors of a plant, surrounded by great vats, hissing steam pipes, flashing lights and nerve-jarring alarms. He retired to the stalls with the intention of letting one go. As his eyes adjusted to the dim light he became aware that in the corner of the cubicle, behind the door, lurked what appeared to be a giant Malteser, the size of a softball. On closer examination it turned out to be a perfectly spherical toley. Both diameter and aspect ratio were inconsistent with its having been extruded through an aperture in the form in which it was found. My correspondent concluded that the perpetrator had grasped their output – either by fishing it from the bowl or by catching it on the way down, then carefully shaped it by rolling between – presumably gloved – hands. They had then left it for the pleasure of future visitors, like a public work of art.
Reactions to such antics vary widely. Disgust is common and understandable, but a minority cannot help but laugh at such a foul display. Perpetrating an act as insanitary and inconsiderate as deliberately leaving excrement on the walls or floor of a workplace convenience may at first appear to require an unusual degree of mindlessness, or even severe mental health issues, but I reckon that it is just the extreme end of a continuum. I mean who among us can honestly say that they have never found themselves issuing a small chuckle when they fart in a lift, or when they realise that a slowly-filling cistern will oblige them to leave an un-flushable offering for the consideration of the next user?