Did you know that every 40 seconds a child dies from water-related diseases? Or that 40% of the world’s population don’t have access to a toilet? This is my entry to splashdirect’s #Blog4Sanitation Competition in support of World Toilet Day on 19th November 2013.
It was very, very early in the morning and I was suited and booted to travel by train from Cardiff to Swansea. I had to be there at 9 am sharp because there was a tender document to be drafted and posted out by 5 pm and I was responsible for adding the marketing section. Senior managers were waiting for me.
The train was on time. The air was cold and crisp and like most of the passengers I clutched an irradiated coffee from the one small stall actually open at that time of day. The heat seered through the thin walls of the paper cup offering at least a little warmth.
The train glided into view and we duly piled on, rushing to claim seats facing forward and tables. Mobile phones were brandished; iPod headphones were plugged into ears; tickets were felt for and prepared for inspection. As we pulled through the outskirts of Cardiff I decided to use the toilet. There were few other passengers in my carriage and the toilet was empty.
I opened the door with the door handle (a pretty common method of opening doors I find) and it clicked shut behind me. It was only when seated and pondering whether my team members were likely to have prepared their text for editing that I noticed there was no door handle on the inside of the door. Just a hole where the handle should have been.
Slowly the realisation dawned on me. I was trapped in the toilet of the Great Western Paddington to Swansea service. I banged on the door but there were so few passengers that nobody heard me. I shouted at the top of my lungs but, again, there was no response.
By this time I was feeling quite hot and panicky. What would happen to me if I didn’t get out? Would I be shuttling back and forth from Swansea to Paddington for the rest of the day? And what about the document I need to work on – I could just imagine the hilarity if it became known in the office that I was late because I was locked in a toilet!
The train was beginning to gather speed. My shouting was having very little effect and so there was only one way out. I pulled the emergency cord. The effect was dramatic and very impressive. The train glided to a smooth halt. There was no juddering, no shaking, just a smooth skate into complete silence. There was no sound except for the tweeting of birds outside the train.
The silence was soon broken, however, by my shouts of “help! help!” and a guard finally released me from my closeted prison. I was frog marched by the guard to the nearest free seat and instructed to complete a set of forms to explain why I had taken an action which could carry a £200 fine. Having been imprisoned through no fault of my own, I was less than impressed by an additional 10 minutes of form filling, however, I was pleased that I did not have to pay £200 just to spend a penny.
Luckily, I had delayed the train by only a few minutes and we pulled into Swansea on time. And, happily, I did not have to explain to my colleagues that “oh dear, what a calamity, marketing assistant got stuck in the lavatory”. Since then, I am always very wary of train toilets and double check there is a door handle on both sides of the train toilet door!