Thursday, 23 April 2009

Bathroom, restroom, toilet or loo?

Whether you're in them or on them, it's the last place you want to be during an earthquake. English to American translation becomes important in situations like these, but more about that in a bit. If you're a tourist at the summit of Mauna Kea, you can always relieve yourself off the summit ridge, just don't let anyone catch you doing that.

I lived in the UK for nearly thirty years and was and still am quite patriotic about the place despite it going to absolute hell in recent years. Now I live in a relatively small island, despite its name, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. In the last three days I have experienced everything that makes me want to continue living here. In those 72-hours I've experienced an earthquake, near-hurricane force winds, freezing temperatures, ice, snow, a drive up to the summit of Mauna Kea that'll test even the best dentures even in a well-equipped 4-WD and views that'll knock anyone's socks off.

(We may have also detected the most distant object yet observed in our universe during all the excitement - by a long way. Or it may be something much more mundane - more later. It'd be quite cool if I was the observer that for a short period of time looked back further in time than anyone else on this planet! People will look back in history and say "Oh yeah, he's the guy that looked back in time further than anyone else and was confused about bathrooms and toilets.").

Driving back home today from the mountain I experienced heavy rain, thunderstorms, flooding and finally when I got home, a forecast of flooding rivaling biblical proportions that we'd be getting in the next day or so. To make it worse, the forecast says it'll be just great on Sunday and Monday and then make sure you have a boat or at the very least a life vest for the middle of next week, as the rains will start again.

I'll moan about it, but truthfully I actually enjoy it! My yard may have washed away, but at least I've had a bit of excitement as well as some fear and one day I will write about the lightning storm a few years ago when my psychologist allows me to. I still haven't recovered from that event but I'm told one day I will...

So, back to the bathroom business. Those that live on the windward side of the Big Island will know we had another earthquake on Tuesday. It wasn't huge, but it was felt all the way up at 9,000-feet on Mauna Kea. It wasn't a jolt, it was a slow swaying that got stronger, then levelled out for a bit before weakening and then stopping, but the swaying went on a bit longer than normal.

Those that live in earthquake zones know the rules, dive under something solid. What do you do if you're sat on the toilet in the bathroom with your pants around your ankles?

Do you dive under the doorway because that might be the safest place in the middle of a large dormitory with dozens of other people staying there, or do you just continue to sit on the loo and hope that if the building collapses your rescuers will understand?

Actually, it wasn't that big an earthquake, but since I was occupied in the restroom at the time, I wondered what the official advice might be. HP residents, at least those I told, looked a little puzzled when I asked them what I should do when I was in the toilet and it starts to shake.


Zuzana said...

Wow! Ok, all those things you list as why you love to live in Hawaii, would give me nightmares.;) You ARE a true scientist.;))
Now if someone would have ask me, I think I might have listed the tropical heat and the beautiful beaches. Or at least I think that they must exist there, as that is what Hawaii is known for. But of course, I have never been there myself.;))
Have a great weekend and please stay safe.;)

Beep said...

It does all sound exciting but I hope your near future has more of the potential discovery in it and less earthquakes! Hope you do turn out to be in the history books and that you also are safe and happy while getting there :)

Diane said...

Am I a bad person for laughing at the mental image you left me with? I AM concerned for your well-being, of course... but... the shaking toilet... pants around your ankles... sorry... hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha... sorry! Hahahahahahahahahahahaha... OK, I'm finished ;)

Hey, how's the Jehovah's Witness working out for you? ;)

Anonymous said...

When I need to go, I need to go. I don't want somewhere to rest, and I prefer showers to baths. I've been searching for an alternative that I can use here in the USA and not need to explain to the waitress what I meant by reverting to restroom or bathroom. Perhaps one of your helpful readers can help me out here. 'Loo' just doesn't work for me here (as a word, that is!).

I remember being at HP for the 6.8 tremblor in 2006. It shook me off my bed, and I remember that my first thought was to get my trousers back on. The reason being, if I was going to be eventually found under a pile of rubble and a TV crew were about, my backside was not going to be the first thing the world would see of me. My mother would be very upset with me at the state of my underpants!

I'm sure you know how difficult it is to put trousers on while there's a 6.8mag earthquake shaking you around...


parv said...

Use "toilet" I say -- cuts to the chase, does not burden with the rest- or bathroom.

Beep said...

Speaking as one of the clueless Americans, I have no objection to the use of "loo", but confess I did initially need the definition for it to make any sense :)

Keera Ann Fox said...

Then there's "lavatory", a word airplane travel taught me. Or W.C. Or powder room. Or my father's favorite: "The euphemism." ;-) (I use "toilet".)

And Tom, your adventure on the loo reminds me of the time I sat in an airplane lavatory and the "fasten seatbelt" sign came on, and with it, lots of turbulence. All I could think then was how hard would my head hit the ceiling if we dropped through an air pocket and are there are enough paper towels to clean myself off with afterwards and does the blue in the toilet water leave a stain?

(And yes, the rescue workers will understand.)

Anonymous said...

My problem with 'lavatory' is that if you say it really fast it sounds like 'laboratory' - what would the restaurant folk think then...?

Yes, powder room - I'd forgotten about that, but what sort of powder would you be looking for in this room? In this day and age?

BTW, if you're ever in the UK and find yourself in a pub, then "where's the bog, mate?" works perfectly well.

sigh... it'll have to be toilet I guess...

Keera Ann Fox said...

"Bog." Nice visual. There's also "head" and "john" but those are used more by men than by women.

In the old days, the powder was compact. Nowadays, it's white. (Elton John song.) But originally it was gun.

Tom said...

All - thanks for your comments, I enjoyed reading them all! I've just posted a blog entry with a link to a New York Times article about the English language. I hope you enjoy it. I had to read it a couple of times before I "got it".