Taking The Piss

by Quinn

As unsung heroes go, I can’t think of a better example than “that bloke” who one day came up with the idea of placing reading matter in front of the urinals in pubs. How did we ever spend our time before? Stare into space, or at porcelain, or at our bits? Some (though not me) would of course engage in a wee game of “compare and contrast”. But now, while we slash, we can read half of the lead story in yesterday’s Telegraph; then, our ablutions completed, we can loiter awkwardly, trying to skim read the rest of the article; that is until someone else enters the bogs, so we slowly wash our hands, dry them on the hot air dryer (which keeps cutting out on us as our hands move away from the enigmatically placed sensor) waiting for the other person to leave so we can continue our read; and then a second person arrives and so we finally give up and exit the toilets (the hot air dryer that kept cutting before out is now stuck on permanently once our hands are not only out of the way, but in a different room) and we resolve to read the rest of the article on our next trip to the toilet (not far away; we’ve already drunk six pints); but the next time we go to the toilet that specific urinal is in use, so we decide to finish off the article by reading it on the internet when we get home; but by then we are far too drunk and we forget all about it.

That is why, much as I like newspapers in toilets, the theory is flawed and so adverts can be a better choice. At the John Millington a few weeks ago, for example, I read a sign advertising the forthcoming (yes, forthcoming; I hate the word upcoming) events at the pub. One was for their Fathers’ Day extravaganza, and as someone who will play the fool for any excuse to go out for a meal, I was obviously interested. Problem; the John Millington does not allow children under the age of six years into their pub. Fair enough; their house, their rules. Though I must say I was tempted to phone them and explain just how taken I was with their offer, that I would love to join them for their Fathers’ Day festivities. But I can’t. Because I am a father.

Below the Fathers’ Day adverts was a second item explaining the changes the pub was in the process of making to their beer garden to enlarge, cover and heat the outside drinking area; it wasn’t explicit but I assume it was to make ready for the smoking ban that starts in England tomorrow. You may recall that I have written on the subject before, when I stated that I considered the action somewhat draconian, and that a compromise could surely be found to prevent an outright ban on smoking.

But I’m afraid it’s happened again; I start off as a qualified critic of a proposal but then when I hear the obnoxious views of it’s more vocal opponents I quite unfairly swing round and decide that the new idea deserves far more merit. Because I understand smokers being peeved by the new laws; they want to smoke in the pub and are being prevented from doing so, and if that were all then I can and will sympathise. I can see why they are vexed. It is the further inappropriate invoking of the issue of civil liberties that annoys me and which has shifted my viewpoint. The argument goes that it is our individual freedom to do as we wish and for some people to smoke if they like. Fine; but civil liberties only allow you to do as you wish so long as your actions don’t affect others. Smoking does affect others, be it passive smoking, stinging eyes or stinking clothes. So that is that…next!

Just because it has traditionally been non-smokers who have been inconvenienced by smokers doesn’t make it right. Perhaps it is time to redress that historical imbalance. It is a poor reason to change ones mind, but once again I feel my liberal position has been challenged by those people – in this case thoughtless smokers – who talk about freedom but who evidently don’t give a damn about the freedoms of others. As it is, every few Fridays I go out with Mike to the Kenilworth. Neither of us being smokers, we sit in the No Smoking area. It makes no difference, by midnight the whole place is awash with smoke and our clothes, hair and skin stink of the stuff; and I don’t know about you, but for me bath night isn’t until Sunday. So, while I previously questioned the smoking ban, as it appears in the headlights I can honestly say that I can’t wait.