Of human Bondage

Originally published some time in 2007.

Oscar, The Evil Sulphura and I have gone to see the new Bond film, Casino Royale. The first ten minutes takes place in a men's bathroom, in which a fight involving broken urinals and wildly spraying plumbing leads neatly into Bond's iconic flip-around-and-shoot-the-cameraman move.

It is exciting and violent and it awakens an urge deep in my bladder.

I squint at my ticket in the darkness. ‘8.30 — 11.15’, it says. It is barely quarter to nine. I decide to rush out and back as quickly as possible, but by the time I build up the nerve to slink across my row the first thrilling action sequence starts and I'm locked anxiously into my seat.

The following 150 minutes pass in alternating stripes of exhilaration and lower abdominal distress. The film seems to pass in a deliberately provocative sequence of scenes in which people are variously emerging from, plummeting into, pouring, drinking and occasionally spurting from multiple bullet holes with, watery fluids.

‘Stop squirming,’ hisses Sulph.

‘I have to pee,’ I whisper.

‘Just go then!’ she says.

‘I can’t! I’ll miss an important bit of plot!’

Sulph glares at me. ‘It’s a Bond film. Bond good, bad guy evil, woman evil stroke sexy. You’re just making an excuse because you’re scared of public toilets.’

‘I am not scared of public toilets!’ I exclaim.

Oscar leans over. ‘Is there a situation?’ he asks.

‘He needs to pee, but he’s afraid to go,’ says Sulphura.

Oscar observes me. ‘You can’t go,’ he says. ‘You’ll miss an important bit of plot.’

I make an expression which weaves triumph into excruciating pain. Sulph presses her eyeballs with her fingers. We sit back to watch the film, which had just reached a scene in which Bond undergoes horrific genital torture. Mentally switching chairs with him brings only temporary relief.

The credits roll, and because of a very specific kind of bloody-mindedness I sit through the entire credits, including the model makers and the drivers of the catering vans. When I see the words JAMES BOND WILL RETURN, however, I'm off like a hare.

The cinema toilets are large and white and remarkably reminiscent of the bathroom from the Bond film. The last of the other filmgoers is leaving as I arrive, so I have my choice of urinals. As the dam bursts, I think as I always do of my favourite word for this process: micturate

Then it’s over, and I'm standing alone at the urinal in the Bond-bathroom, and behind me are the mirrors for the basins. It’s silent. I can’t hear anyone coming. I may not get another chance to do this. Should I? What if someone opens the door just as I'm doing it? I’d hear someone coming. Wouldn't I?

I zip up. Listen. Silent. I’ll never get the chance again. Do it.

The soundtrack begins in my head: twangy guitar first, then the towering brass. I spin around, fingers cocked like a .38 Special, and shoot the mirror.

‘Bang!’ I yell joyously at the top of my voice. For a microsecond, I am as happy as it is possible for a freshly-relieved man who has just seen a Bond film to be.

Then I notice that one of the cubicles is not vacant. Under the door, a pair of shoes is keeping perfectly still.

‘Oh, um, sorry,’ I say, ‘I—’

Then every urinal in the room simultaneously begins its automatic flush cycle and the secret agent in the mirror leaps in three directions at once and yelps a G above high C.

Oscar walks in. He looks at me. I am standing in the middle of the public toilet, shaking, my fingers cocked like a gun.

‘ I'm not doing anything,’ I say reflexively.

There is a short silence.

‘It’s alright,’ says Oscar mildly. ‘Public toilets can be scary.’

When we get home, I admit to Oscar that I've never read anything by Ian Fleming. He sighs, reaches into his bookcase and hands me a slim volume.

A hundred pages in at two the next morning I begin to get frustrated at how long it’s taking for Bond to make his first appearance. Frowning at the cover, I try to remember who played Bond in the movie of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I decide it must have been George Lazenby.

Thinking about you

In the bathroom at work, I encounter a colleague who is hand-washing after exiting the toilet. ‘Hey!’ he says. ‘I was just thinking about you a second ago!’

There is a short silence.

‘I mean,’ he says, ‘like 20 minutes ago. Not …’ He glances at the loo door. There is a longer silence. We are trapped by his embarrassment.

‘I’m just going to get a cup of tea,’ I say, as gently as I can. I’m not, but only I can free us from this. I walk away. He is still washing his hands.