Originally not aired on ??/??/????
They say life is all about the journey, not the destination, but I’m sure this “they” have never been on a 5-hour train journey to Edinburgh. Wow…talk about the state of British transport. No seriously, talk about it. Let’s get a dialogue going, see if we can shift policy a bit.
To start with, I spent the best part of £200 on train tickets. Well, they were £50, but that is my favourite part of £200. And what did I get with that £50? I got to sit next to some creepy-looking guy with a complete lack of basic personal hygiene. I was totally beside myself. Also, the toilets on trains annoy me a lot these days. Have you ever been on a Virgin train where they have toilets that talk to you and try to be funny? Like they say stuff like “make sure you flush me – I used to be a public toilet and let me tell you, that wasn’t a pleasant experience.”
Bare creepy. Never makes me laugh.
About 3 hours into the journey, I remember just thinking, What the fuck am I doing? I was on a horrible train on my way to an over-hyped festival that makes me mentally ill. Neither the journey or the destination are gonna do anything for me.
The only thing I really enjoy about Edinburgh is my unrecorded podcast “Comedians In Edinburgh Getting Chai Lattes” but I know the industry are gonna ignore it yet again. I sent out press packs and everything and the only publication that got back to me were The Skinny to say, “I think you’ve misunderstood what a podcast is.”
I think they’ve misunderstood what art is.
The thought of my podcast really made me crave some sweet sweet Chai. When the man came by with the drinks trolley, I made my move.
“Any drinks?” he said.
“Excuse me mate, do you sell Chai Lattes?”
“Ermm… are you sure?”
There was a weird silence.
An old man in a cowboy hat sat across from me looked at me as if to say, Ain’t nobody ordered a Chai on this train for a long long time, son.
I turned back to the trolley guy.
“Yeah I’m sure. Why? What’s the problem?”
“Erm… there’s no problem.”
The trolley guy scrambled around at the bottom of the trolley until he came back up with a tub of Chai powder. His hands were shaking as he cleaned the dust and cobwebs off it. He proceeded to steam some milk and make up the drink. When he passed it to me, the old man in the cowboy hat got up and walked away, like he couldn’t watch what was about to happen.
“Why are you guys being so weird?”
I took a sip. It was fine. Better than fine – it was lovely lovely Chai. My favourite. I took another sip. Still fine. I kept sipping. Sipping away and loving it. Until eventually I’d smashed through the whole thing.
Five minutes later, I felt something weird happening in my stomach. Oh God.
I rushed to the nearest toilet. It said “currently engaged” so I congratulated it and headed to the toilet on the other side of the train. The other toilet thankfully wasn’t engaged, and I liked it, so I put my ring on it.
I don’t wanna go into details, but I did my business and it was disgusting. When I finished, the toilet piped up.
“Make sure you give me a flush.”
Not this, I thought.
I stood up, pulled my pants up, and flushed.
“There you go, mate,” I said to the toilet, mocking the whole idea of a talking toilet by continuing the conversation. Even when no one’s there to witness I still like to find interesting and funny ways to play around with society’s new conventions.
I turned to wash my hands.
“Thank you, Eric.”
“Huh,” I said, not sure if I was still playing with conventions or absolutely trippin’ balls.
“I said: thank you, Eric.”
“Okay, Virgin Trains, you can stop now, you win, technology is the future, AI will soon be better at small-talk than humans. Now can you just fuck off and let me take a shit without creeping me out.”
I started to wash my hands. I dunno why I even bother washing my hands on trains. I never do it properly; I just splash some water on there. No one’s even watching, but I feel a compulsion to make sure I at least pretend to be hygienic. I dunno why. It’s a bit like me talking back to the toilet to be funny even though no one’s watching. I guess it’s because even when we’re alone it kinds feels like someone IS watching. It must be a product of evolution that we need to believe in something bigger than ourselves, that we need to feel someone is watching us and that our actions have meaning.
There is a God – and we want him to think we’re funny and that we wash our hands.
“I’m just like you, you know, Eric.”
“Oh God, this again,” I said, trying to appeal to that higher power.
“You know, Eric, I’ve always wanted to do the Fringe.”
“Right this is getting weird now…why would they program the toilet to know I’m doing the Fringe?”
I decided to just go with it.
“Go on then,” I said, “Why mate? Why on Earth would a Virgin Toilet wanna do the Fringe? I don’t even wanna do the Fringe. It’s hard work, dead expensive, and ultimately soul-destroying.”
The toilet went quiet. I carried on.
“Oh NOW you’re giving me the silent treatment.”
The toilet sighed.
“You know, Eric, the Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, and you might think I’m full of shit, but that is something in itself. You get to be part of something huge. I’ve been a comedian my whole life, and all I get to play is this room. People complain about their venues in Edinburgh, but try being delivering your best lines to people who just want to drop a big juicy turd in your mouth before pretending to wash their hands. I’ve never got a single laugh. The Fringe might be expensive, but at least you get to make proper art.”
“Hmm, I suppose when you put it like that.”
“I like your stuff, Eric. I’ve seen your Hot Water video and that bit where you ask the audience about fingering gets me every time. Every. Single. Time. I’d be surprised if you didn’t get signed off the back of this Fringe. So go up there and smash it, mate. Do it for me.”
“Wow… err… thanks. That kinda seems very accurate. Maybe I should just smash it.”
“No worries mate,” the toilet replied. “I love your unrecorded podcast by the way. Maybe I could be on it one day.”
“Maybe you could, mate. Maybe you could.”
I dried my half-washed hands, said my goodbyes and returned to my seat. The whole incident had really given me a shift in perspective. I felt more determined, more confident, more satisfied with my physical appearance (I really like the mirrors in train toilets).
Mostly, I feel like I finally understand what this “they” mean when they say it’s all about the journey.
Because sometimes the journey really is the reward.
Sometimes on that journey a talking toilet will talk to you and tell you exactly what you need to hear.
See you next time xxx