Friday 18 January 2019

Roddy Doyle's Charlie Savage: Potty talk and Generation Overshare


'Silence is rare in pub jacks'
'Silence is rare in pub jacks'
Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle

I'm in the jacks. Not at home - in the local. Anyway, I'm in there. And I'm… I'll use the formal expression - I'm urinating. Now, normally I wouldn't be telling you this and you, I'm sure, would be happier if I wasn't. But there's a chap standing beside me and he isn't - urinating, that is. He's making a film.

I'm just standing there, minding my own business. Staring at the wall. And humming. Knowing me, knowing you - ahaaaaaaa! Counting the tiles. When I'm aware that there's someone beside me. I don't look but I'm assuming it's a man. You get the odd girl straying into the Gents' but she usually cops on quickly and she never, ever strolls up to the urinal unbuttoning her fly.

Anyway, like I said, I'm aware of someone beside me. Nothing unusual there - there's room for three good-sized men, as long as they're not doing the hokey-cokey.

But this chap is talking - and not to me.

In the world of the urinal, silence is golden. I know, there are men who are incapable of silence. If they're not talking, they're groaning. The unbuckling of the belt, and a groan. The unbuttoning/unzipping of the fly - a groan. The search for the little brother - groan. The meeting of the waters - groan. It's not age-related. If he's groaning when he's 10, he'll be groaning when he's 90.

And there are men who think they're commentating on Match of the Day. "Here we go - yes!" I know a chap who comes into the jacks humming the theme music from The Dam Busters, getting louder as he gets nearer to the urinal. He's been doing this two or three times - and, as he gets older, five, six, seven times a night - every night, since the film came out in 1955.

So, silence is rare in the pub jacks but it shouldn't be like Paris between the wars; philosophy and bulls*** should be left outside beside your pint. When your fly's shut, you can open your mouth. That's my philosophy.

But, anyway, this chap beside me is different. He's not groaning and he isn't trying to get me to chat about the rain or Newcastle United. I look to my right, very discreetly, and see his phone. He's holding it up to his face with one hand. And he's yapping away.

I can tell: he's not talking to anyone in particular - he's not Skyping his kids in Canada. He's only about 30, and he has the hair all the young lads have, gelled so hard, it might be made of wood.

- So, yeah, he says. - Now I'm in the toilet of a, like, genuine Dublin pub!

And - I swear to God - he points the phone down at the channel.

I jump back. Have you ever zipped up your fly and jumped back at the same time? It's not easy - it should be an Olympic event. But I manage it without cracking my head against the hand dryer. A Dyson, by the way.

Anyway. Outrage isn't something I feel very often. Or, if I do, I'm usually enjoying it - if that makes sense. There's nothing like a bit of well-managed outrage to get the blood going.

But this - here in the pub jacks - is genuinely outrageous. It's an invasion of - well, everything.

- What are you at? I yell at your man.

- What? he says.

He looks genuinely baffled. And that's the problem - that's the wall between this young lad, about 30, and me, more than twice his age. He sees nothing wrong in filming himself - and me - going to the jacks in a pub toilet and I don't have the words to even start telling him that it's about as wrong as it gets. I'd do a better job trying to explain the rules of hurling in Japanese.

He's grown up filming everything, and being sent everything. If I ask him to, he'll flick through his phone and show me the birth of his nephew, the death of his granny, the vomit he woke up beside at the Electric Picnic, his girlfriend, his boyfriend, his breakfast, his Holy Communion - everything.

I see it at home, my kids trotting after their kids with their cameras. And now the grandkids are toddling after the parents with their cameras.

- G'anda, 'ook!

It's the daughter's little lad and he's holding up her iPad; there's something I have to see.

- What's this? I ask him.

- Poo!

He's right. I'm looking at a photo of his first independent poo.

- Good man, I say. - Did you do that all by yourself?

- Yes!

I should be appalled but I pick him up and hug him.

I look now at the young lad in the jacks.

- I'm not an Equity member, son, I tell him. - And neither is my langer.

I walk out without using the Dyson.

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