*(this originally appeared in Crude Magazine, Issue 1 Dec 08/Jan 09)
We’ve all been in the situation: you are wandering around town shooting the breeze, trying to be a man or lady of leisure, when without a huge amount of prior warning, you just need one…the jacks, the crapper, the loo, the john, the bog; toilets have all kinds of names but really only serve a couple of main purposes (and a couple of subsidiary ones if you happen to be George Michael).
But just what happens when there is a kerfuffle in your nether regions, and you need to make friends with an Armitage Shanks so badly? Well, consider this first instalment of Captain Crankypants’ adventures in cosmopolitan Limerick as a guide to where to go when you need to go.
Think of me, as you will, as a Mr Muscle-type character – not a speccy, weedy looking sort, but someone who loves the jobs you hate. And like the string-vested wimp, I too have spent quite a lot of time in bathrooms over my years.
For the purposes of my extensive research, I have eliminated pubs and restaurants from the equation. There are so many of them that not even the worst dose of the scuts after a week-long kebab and Guinness binge session would necessitate using them all. Also, there is that kind of expectancy that you got to buy something, so it really is plain bad etiquette.
The best place to commence in search of an awesome loo is where a lot of people start off in Limerick – the bus/train station. Picture the scene: you guzzled back a “big one” Lucozade, and devoured a dodgy ham n’cheese sanger in Borris-In-Ossory; on top of that, you’ve landed the one bus driver that drives as slow as a granny on a Sunday drive in a Fiat Cinquencento, and you now need to go on both fronts. Some oaf beside you is slurping a mega-side soda pop beside you to compound your predicament, and suddenly the option of wetting yourself is getting more likely; so much so that you’d almost welcome it.
When you arrive at the bus station, that old adage that “beggars can’t be choosers” springs to mind. Now, these jacks used to rank with some of the worst; wading through a foot of water to get to a trap with the lock gone, the toilet blocked, and somebody thinking they were all Jackson Pollock went it came to aim.
Admittedly, times have changed, and an overhaul of sorts has happened ‘round Colbert Station. For instance, fancy new “cock blocks” (those individual urinal dividers) mean that good ‘ol juvenile games such as “who can hit the ceiling?”, and “knob-measuring”, are sadly things of the past.
Yet, and if you pardon the pun, you can’t really polish a turd; a brutal smell still emanates from the facilities. However, the necessities such as hand-soap and bogroll were all in tact when the Captain visited, so it wasn’t all bad. Not surprisingly, graffiti offering various sexual favours was scrawled inside the doors, while a couple of empty mini vodka bottles were down the side of the toilet I inspected. More bizarrely, a Mars-bar wrapper was also there…perhaps there’s a link between that and the aforementioned sexual favours?
All in all, not the worst of starts. From there, I strolled down via the People’s Park to investigate one of those supposedly upgraded public toilets. Looking like a disregarded prop from a dodgy sci-fi series, the flash exterior could kid somebody into thinking you are heading to the land of luxury where Andrex puppies are on hand, prancing about with baskets of quadruple-quilted toilet tissue, and soaps of all varieties are present for the after-experience.
How wrong you would be. After handing over a hard-earned fifty cent coin, the robotic door opened up. Upon first glance you could fit a Harley inside the roomy surroundings, but upon second glance, you’d probably be better off taking a leak against a Harley and angering some hairy bikers, than squatting over the drenched seat. Weirdly, some young lad was waiting to use it straight after me, trying to take advantage of the fifty cent I had spent. Can’t say I blame the dirty swine; I wouldn’t exactly be rushing to spend money there again.
As I got closer to town, I expected things would take a turn for the better. Stopping off at Dunnes Stores on Henry Street and Debenhams, I was shocked that I couldn’t even find one pot to piss in, not even for the ladies. At this juncture, I should point out dear readers that my work has been solely limited to men’s rooms only, following some complaints that the Crankypants law team are currently dealing with.
Anyway, while I previously denounced using pubs and restaurants for toilet-use, if you are stuck, hotels are fair game. And boy, do they have choice – kick ass handsoaps, toilet roll that couldn’t double up as sandpaper, and if you are cheeky enough, the opportunity to swipe a newspaper from the reception to read while you go about your merry business. Recommendations include the Marriott, the George, and the Clarion here.
Back to Limerick’s emporiums. That home of all kinds of swanky shit, Brown Thomas (or Todds if you are a culchie/ stuck in the nineties) would surely serve my needs? Now as a sophisticated, upstanding member of society, I’d be regularly known for dropping a few hundred notes for a pair of chinos and a polo shirt in BTs. However, most of you rabscallions have probably only ever gone in there to see if you can get some kind of high from the well-stacked perfume stands.
I made my way up to the first floor, and after carefully avoiding the lingerie department (again, something the Crankypants law crew are dealing with), I tried to track down the toilet. Denied: the jacks are inside the café, meaning one has to buy a scone and some type of posh coffee I can’t even pronounce.
However, my experience there got me thinking – the rich housewife’s shop of choice for wasting their husband’s cash, Instore, also has a crapper. Up on the top floor, pretending that I had a genuine interest in bed linen, I spotted my next port of call. The potted plant that was inside the door added an air of class alright, but Instore was docked marks for having the toilet situated so close to the shop floor – let’s just say any squeaks or trumpeting would be pretty audible to the rest of the place.
Having already splashed out on a fifty-cent slash by the People’s Park, I decided to give the pay-to-wee scheme another tryout. This time, I went upstairs in Limerick’s most depressing place – Arthur’s Quay Shopping Centre. The jacks here are ok; no major complaints really, but you expect a little bit more value for money.
Here’s a tip if you don’t want to hand over the twenty cent though: storm past the desk with the look of somebody off their tits on a fizz explosion that could only come with the consumption of a three litre Country Spring red lemonade in one sitting, shouting “I need to goooooo…”, and the likelihood is the nice ladies at the desk wouldn’t be pulling out Jackie Chan-esque moves to stop you. However, after relieving yourself, there is a strong possibility that some burly security types will “want a word” with you.
With my exploration at the eleventh hour, a last minute challenger entered the fray – the library. Nobody ever asks why you are at the library, and no over-zealous shop assistants will be asking you if you need help. In fact, if the facilities match up, it really is perfect.
And they didn’t totally disappoint. With a sort of rustic charm that befits the place, there isn’t exactly anything fancy about them, but for the first time on my epic adventure, the smell of air-freshner covered up any home-brewed odours, and a toilet brush was even there. Three cubicles with locks and jacksroll in tact, coupled with three urinals made this a real winner. Even a last minute discovery of an empty Linden Village can in the rubbish bin didn’t dent my joy.
So there you have it; the options aren’t limitless, but if you need to go, there is always a place in Limerick. If you aren’t happy with this survey, there are always the traps upstairs in Supermacs…