I hop from foot to foot. I’m in a pre-race queue for the toilet. No one says a word. What’s to say, in a queue with other people, all waiting to perform one of life’s most intimate acts?
It’s incredible. As soon as I arrive at a race, my body clock strikes ‘go’.
I hate public loos, which is one of the main reasons I can’t go to jail. Going to the loo before a race is the pits: wearing bibshorts means you have to strip, the floor is soaked with urine, and the strange things that exit cyclists’ bottoms and line the toilet bowl are straight out of the Apoocalypse!
A guy takes his place behind me.
I look at my watch. It’s 5.40am. My group start is 6.20am. That’s 40 minutes.
Twenty people in front of me, four toilets in the men’s section, average evacuation time of four minutes a person including unbibbing and rebibbing, that’s, um… 16 minutes until my turn. Plenty of time to make it to my start chute.
There are three toilet sections to choose from: the virtually queueless women’s, a 20-person-queue men’s, and a single toilet the race organisers had opened specially, which in non-race times is reserved for disabled people. There are only five people in that queue.
I have to gamble on choosing the right queue – it’s Toilet Roulette. Although the women’s section is the jackpot, I don’t want to be chased away by the poolice. Some more mental maths, and I decide the queue for the men’s section is my best bet. Of course, as soon as I take my place in that queue, the other line moves.
5.47am – still enough time.
Then a guy in the men’s queue walks into one of the cubicles and immediately sprints out again, holding his nose and gasping for air. That toilet is clogged. We’re down to three toilets for 17 people. I recalibrate. No, the odds are still in my favour.
But then a rider steps out of the disabled toilet, and the person next in that line takes his place, and someone else leaves the queue altogether, making the queue for the single loo shorter by two – a saving of eight minutes!
I sense the guy behind me starting to head for the shortened queue. Before he can get there I make a dash for it, and join the line myself. Muttering darkly under his breath, he returns to the men’s queue. I’m now just two people away from relief.
What I haven’t counted on, though, is that the guy who’s just gone into the single loo is in it for the long haul. Four minutes go by, but he doesn’t emerge. Six minutes. Eight minutes. The stakes are high. Eleven minutes.
Then that curious toilet-line paranoia: maybe the guy slipped out when no-one was looking, and we’re queueing at an empty loo? No way, my eyes haven’t left that door. Maybe he’s been in so long, he’s embarrassed to come out? Hmm…
Then the guy who was behind me in the queue I left 11 minutes earlier emerges from one of the men’s toilets, a smug smile plastered on his face. Damn! Do I cut my losses, and rejoin the men’s toilet queue? If I do, then as sure as eggs is eggs the guy in the single toilet will finally surface. And it’s 6.03am – 17 minutes to the starter’s gun. I’m sweating bullets.
Never mind Toilet Roulette – this is Toilet Poker; but instead of a flush, I’ve got a full house.