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November 26, 2008 | News

Tales from the loo

Tales from the loo

Warning: This article is about toilets! Don't read if you've never used one.

Last week, as the world marked International Toilet Day, I heard that in Ghana getting a place to attend to nature's call is more difficult than getting a place to lay one's head. The statistics indicate that just about 10 percent of us have access to the most basic toilet facilities.

This got me thinking about my loo and how important it is to me.

Thank God, I am one of the lucky 10 percent in Ghana who have access to a good loo. Truth be told, I just recently joined the group. The loo is one of my favourite spots in my small apartment. I like to keep it spic-and-span because I like to spend a lot of time there.

Almost ten years ago, I heard NDC vice presidential candidate John Mahama (then deputy Information Minister) say in a speech that the loo is one of the best places to read. I took that advice and I can testify today that he was right. Reading 'The Economist' and 'Time' in the loo is a simple pleasure I won't give up for all the diamonds in Akwatia.

But I've not always had it this good. That's why I want to spare a moment and doff my hat for the millions of my compatriots for whom finding a decent place to poo is a daily hustle.

I am talking about those who have to join a queue to use a KVIP or a pit latrine. I've been there before and I know how it feels like to jump repeatedly just to 'manage' the urgency of the moment.

If your loo is shared by the whole community and you need to walk ten minutes to reach it, one of your constant prayers is to cast out the demons of “running” – when your bowels become so loose that the calls of nature become annoyingly incessant. I've been there before.

If you think you are unlucky because you are forced by circumstances to use a stinking KVIP just pause a moment and count your blessings. I've seen people use the areas around KVIPs as social centres. If you are not busy trying to suppress 'the things', those moments in the queue provide a fine opportunity to catch up on neighbourhood gossip or chat up the beautiful chick next door. This is how we did social networking long before 'Facebook'.

If you have neither a loo in your house nor a “public place of convenience” you are in deep trouble. In circumstances like these people are compelled to either do it “free range” or resort to “tie and throw”. I've done both before – especially when I lived in an uncompleted building in Adenta.

In case you didn't know, free range is when you throw caution to the wind and bear the indignity of squatting (as dogs do) in any available space to do what you have to do. It could be at the beach, in the bush, behind your neighbour's window or by a drain. This is very popular in areas like Ashaiman and Labadi.

With “tie and throw” you just deposit 'the goods' in a receptacle (usually a black polythene bag), tie it and throw it in a place where it's hard to find. This is very popular in the educational institutions and developing residential communities. Unfortunately in these areas, I am told, some people have become very lax with the principles of “tie and throw” – they “tie” alright but the “throwing” leaves a lot to be desired. So I won't advise you to pick up a well-tied black polythene bag you find on the street. You never know.

It really bothers me that 90 percent of my compatriots have been pooing rough. I wish everyone could have a decent place to attend to nature's call in dignity. It's not a privilege – it's a right.

On paper, we have rules that should help deliver this right to everyone. Sadly, it seems no one has any intention of enforcing the rules about loos. The law states that every house must have a toilet facility. This, clearly, is not the case today. Greedy landlords have turned the “small” rooms which were meant for toilets into bedrooms. If you are a tenant, you dare not complain. Otherwise you will be on the streets in no time – looking for two places: one to lay your head, the other to just let go!

If you don't have a decent loo in your house, I respect you. I share in your frustration. You deserve better. Whenever I sit in my loo I'd spare a thought for you and pray that one day, you will break free like I did so that you will get a loo you can call your own. When that happens, invite me over for the 'loo warming'.

Credit: Ato Kwamena Dadzie

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