S & M Files, Part XIII

Distribution Permission

This version of S & M Files is freely distributable provided that the copyright notice remains intact. All material in the Annals, unless otherwise stipulated, is copyrighted (1999-2006) to Michelle A. Hoyle & Stephen B. Dodd.


*** Here we go!
In this week's episode we watch helplessly as:
-> S&M are confronted with Italian washrooms
-> We, um, rave about customer service at British Telecom (oh boy!)
-> Stephen is beaten to a pulp by midget gypsies
Get your popcorn out... ***

(No, wait, save for the popcorn
for after the Italian washrooms...)


How do you say "the loo" in Italian?

All the toilet seats in Italy are up. A country of male influence. Well, at least that's the first impression. On second impression, the toilet seats are distinctly missing.

Yes, that's right. Gone. No toilet seats. Just the naked bowl.

It's not even as if the bowl is shaped with nice seats. It's as if someone broke into your house and stole all your toilet seats. Ha! Ha! The Grinch who stole your toilet seat. Have a nice loo! Naked bowl meet your butt. Butt, meet the naked bowl.

Of course the bowls must be smaller to accommodate regular size bottoms. Smaller bowls mean a smaller target area. Now, when I think of countries of the world, I think of German precision and Swiss order but, peculiarly, never of Italian accuracy. It is particularly interesting, while sitting half-naked on a bare bowl, to suddenly be struck with thoughts of inebriated and erratic Italian males who, for reasons already mentioned, have no lid to lift.

The toilets are also about the same height off the ground as a kindergarten school desk seat. These two unique properties lend to some adventurous gymnastics. This is especially amusing in public washrooms.


The Shower

Italian bath rooms also seem to have had their bathtubs and shower cubicles stolen by the same Grinch. It's not that there are no bathing facilities. It is simply that there is no visible bath or shower. Instead, you find simply a hand-held shower nozzle hanging from the wall. No tub, no shower curtain. Just you, a toilet and a drain in the floor.

Our tour guide says this is quite convenient; you can take a shower while sitting on the toilet.

If my secret shower habits are to be known, I like to sit down to achieve that full Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head experience. It is a rather interesting experience sitting on the floor of someone else's bathroom naked as a jaybird. One must also be careful though not to accidentally spray the sink, the toilet paper, the walls and rest of the bathroom as I did.

Our hotel bathroom also came equipped with a bidet. My past attempts at learning the proper usage of a bidet have always been met with surprising resistance. I'd be given embarrassed smiles followed by a change of subject or simply, "It's a bidet, ok?". One European explained it simply as, "North Americans just don't understand the bidet. I mean, would you feel satisfied just wiping your armpits with dry tissue paper?"


Imagine if your local telephone company was the de-facto monopoly for 70 million people. Imagine that every other teleco was dependent upon them. Imagine the kind of customer service you would get from such an organization. Got it?

It's here! Introducing BT - your telephone partner. Yes, Sign Me Up! I would like BT to take care of all my business needs. In fact simply by phoning them up, I got:


Altavista came here and announced a new Internet service. Three hundred thousand people pre-signed up for it before front page news declared Altavista was pulling the plug. Why? Altavista is completely dependent upon BT and BT, peculiarly, was unable to supply them with quality service. Coincidentally, BT offers quality Internet service. Heck, why sell to your competitors when you can sell to the public? The President of Altavista UK resigned over the fiasco.

Every other week I read an article about how some other teleco trying to compete with British Telecom has had to further delay service and profitability after, inexplicably, having difficulty getting the giant monopoly to provide infrastructure service. It's funny how if your service is dependent upon your disgruntled competitor's service, you might have a hard time providing quality service.

A client of ours, a network professional, used to phone up BT regularly to find out why his Internet suddenly disappeared. His name is Mr. Lin and apparently there is another Mr. Lin (with a different first name) also subscribed to the service. BT had a regular routine where they would accidently swap the two accounts every few weeks - perhaps just for fun. Suddenly, neither of their accounts would work.

When this became clear, he would phone them up each time and explain the problem to them. It's rather simple, he would explain, just look up our two accounts and switch them back AGAIN. The friendly help desk technicians were trained however to first walk him through each and every setting on his computer carefully and meticulously. "I'm sorry sir," they explained. "That's standard procedure. We have to check the settings on your system before we can escalate the call."

His standard response as a trained computer professional was, "Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrggh!"


Recently while travelling with Michelle across the University of Sussex campus, I was beat up by a six-year-old child.

Retreating from recent days press of concrete against my psyche, I found myself sheltered under tall trees on the perimeter of campus. Light dappled green and yellow onto uncut grass. Overhead branches brown and fractaled stood against a blue-white sky. It was beautiful.

Taking advantage of my opportunity to commune with nature, I... whipped out my mobile and, sitting back against bark, confirmed at length the details of an upcoming contract. The air was still except for me, my mobile and... the roar of a jeep, close, thundering full throttle dragging a mattress of screaming children across the green, green grass.

"What?", I yelled into my mobile.

    "AHHHHHHHHH! EEEEEEIIIIII!", screamed the children in the background.

"Oh! Traffic!" I explained.

Investigating later, Michelle and I found acres of mobile homes encamped on rolling fields of grass, garbage and refuse. Curiosity swelling, we embarked on an investigation drawn in particular to the vandalized shell of a trailer sitting amongst a moat of topical trash. The trailer was badly listing from what looked like gunfire wounds. Little did we know our outsider's looks had drawn the neighbourhood patrol to investigate this incaution.

The patrol stood strong, three abreast and called us over for inspection. We attended. The leader was a fearsome site. He was eight years old and as about as tall as my chest. His sidekicks were considerably shorter at an age of about six and seven.

Now, my dear reader, I wish I could impart to you a full transcript of what happened next but some events are too strange and too surreal to leave coherent tracks in memory. Like a Dr. Seuss tale, it lives only as disjointed fragments tied together with band-aids of self-protective logic. It may help to think of a diminutive, squeaky Brad Pitt reprising his mostly unintelligible role from Snatch.

They were "Gyps" they explained. Then the leader insulted us. Then one asked a question. Then an insult. Then a boast. Then an insult. The accents were so thick and the statements so outrageous that it was hard to treat them seriously. It's like shaking hands with a smiling man who periodically spits in your face.

"Where are you from?"

"Do you live in stinky houses?"

"Where's Canada?"

"I heard you live in stinky houses."

"What's it like in Canada?"

"Stink! Stink! You live in manure!"

"Grrr. I'm gonna bite your ass!"

"Stinky! Stinky! Stinky!"

"Hey Dad! Wake up! We got Canadians!"

"Come get 'um!"

"I've been to Canada!"

"Fresh ones! Get 'um!"

"I'm gonna bite it off! Grrrr!"

"Have you ever been to Greenland?"

"You've got a stinky nose!"

"How much does a Mars bar cost in Canada?"

They then went on to inform us that they too, in fact, lived in Canada and were only errantly here camping in an English field. Rather than greeting our long lost comrades, we met this news with some skepticism. Eventually we explained our need to depart and extracted ourselves, knowing little of the violence to come.

"Good bye, " I said.

    "Good riddance!" screamed the youngest kid of six and ran up and kicked me, hard, in the shin.
    "Good riddance, ya lubbers!" he screamed again with abandon and made another lunge.

Now I had a momentary moral dilemma. What does one do when beat up by a six-year-old brat? My leg knew what to do. It wanted to kick the kid clear to Manchester and watch him bounce cartoon-like across the grass. But, in the end, I concluded there is no defence against youth. One must accept one's role in the pecking order and gracefully withdraw.

Victory cries sounded long into the distance as we beat a sorrowful retreat.

*** Stay tuned faithful readers!

In our next episode we watch as Stephen is propositioned by a gay telephone booth, discover why major traffic arteries enjoy sudden concrete walls in the middle of the lane, and pit an afternoon jogger against a speeding locomotive - (guess who wins!).

[Michelle's Mind]

S & M Files
Ep. 1 (I) | Ep. 2 (II) | Ep. 3 (III) | Ep. 4 (IV) | Ep. 5 (V) | Ep. 6 (VI) | Ep. 7 (VII) |
Ep. 8 (VIII) | Ep. 9 (IX) | Ep. 10 (X) | Ep. 11 (XI) | Ep. 12 (XII) | Ep. 13 (XIII) | Ep. 14 (XIV) |
Ep. 15 (XIV) | Ep. 16 (XIV)