This was an excellent writing prompt from Janet:
What do you miss the least from pre-lockdown life?
I absolutely do not miss wandering around the office looking for a meeting room for a confidential call or if I hadn't managed to book a room in advance. Let's never return to that joyless frustration, hey?
— Janet Hughes (@JanetHughes) February 3, 2021
Toilets! That’s what I won’t miss. It isn’t the queueing for the single free bog, nor the (lack of) industrial-strength loo roll. It’s finding the bloody things that I won’t miss.
I quite often went to other offices as part of my work. When asking for directions to the nearest trap, the best case scenario was “Out that door, turn left, down the stairs, turn right, through the conference room, second left, and it will be just behind where the photocopier used to be.”
But occasionally, it was painfully difficult. I was once visiting a Very Secure Office. The sort where the guards on the door don’t even pretend to be friendly, and body scanners pick up even the faintest hint of sarcasm.
In the middle of the (extraordinarily dull) presentation, my guts began to churn. I don’t mean a little grumble. I mean churn. I slipped to the back of the room and asked one of the facilitators for directions to the nearest thunder-bucket.
“Ah,” she said, “please follow me. You’ll need to be escorted.”
So I walked, as calmly as possible, through the doors, scanned my guest pass, into the corridor, averted my eyes while she typed in a PIN, walked past Big Men with Big Guns, through an airlock, and – finally! – reached the privy.
“Thanks,” I said, “I’m sure I can find my own way back.”
“Oh, no, that won’t be possible,” said Sandra, “I have to wait outside for you.”
It was humiliating for both of us. I enjoy an unhurried visit to the porcelain throne. And, despite, my bowels making a bid for freedom – external pressure doesn’t make for a speedy visit.
From her point of view, I’m sure she didn’t graduate with a first in Russian in order to guide people to the дерьмовый дом all day long.
But, needs must. I performed a successful release of the Kraken. Ablouted. And we started walking back, making chit-chat.
Some time after the retinal scan, but before the laser grid, I felt that sensation beloved by all travellers to far-off Kingdoms.
“Errr… Would you mind if we reversed course? I think I have another delivery of high-quality merchandise…” And so we returned for another visit to the cupboard of infernal mysteries.
This story is, sadly, only lightly exaggerated. In my experience, retinal scanning is far from commonplace.