What I cannot understand is why people use air-refresher to deodorise the loo after using the loo to poo. The resultant odour – an unstable, immiscible combination of organic ketones and aldehydes, and inorganic komininis – is non-biodegrable, lingers longer and diffuses faster. I prefer the natural smell, which is more friendly to the nose, and even if not, dissipates faster.
The use of that air-refresher is a new age thing to try to mask the inevitable. It is akin to an attempt to call a slap a ‘friendly massage with slightly more force than usual, administered with instantaneous alacrity over a limited surface area’. That does nothing to the fact that a slap, a good one, like the type delivered by a fufu-pounding, farmer-turned-soldier leaves the recipient reciting multiple Hail-Marys as he literally feels heavenly, what with the stars he sees.
You see, there are some poo scents no air-refresher can cure or eradicate, even if sprayed with one of those fancy fire-fighting helicopters we see on CNN sprinkling foam over forest fires.
The elders say that when one has carried both water and akpeteshie, he knows the difference. In weight. But also in smell. And when someone has chewed the gong, the challenge of chewing the stick used to beat the gong is like a stroll in the Efua Sutherland park. I have sampled smells and know that there are smells and there are smells. Scents move in intensities. Not all scents of poos are the same. I have known the poo scents across a wide spectrum and there is no way you can compare the scents in the Pigfarm and Kotobabi maami, also called Prempeh Down, public toilets to those in Alisa. Scents mu scents. There is the champions league scent and then the local league scent. Different lanes.
The public latrine has a distinctive smell around it. Note that, unlike the poo in Alisa or the one in a typical ‘water closet’ (cistern), the one in a typical Accra public toilet is more than a day old. Even there, there are differences and over time, improvements have happened.
In the days of yore, when Rawlings chains were beauty ornaments and don’t-touch-me ruled both ghettos and high-rise apartments, way before KVIPs, the pan-type latrines were the portion of those of us who lived by the highways and byways around Pigfarm, Kotobabi, Lagos Town, Nkansa-Djan, Alajo, Nima, Maamobi and Kawukudi. Pan latrines both at home and near parks; the former if you were lucky and your compound house was organised enough – first, to collect contributions to pay the latrine man and, secondly, to have a scrubbing timetable that was respected by all the individual tenant families. For the latrine man was not a patient man to owe arrears. If his tolerance threshold, which was shorter than the thumb of a year-old baby’s, was reached, he would still perform the duty of removing the up-to-the-brim pan but change where he emptied it. A new scent from the centre of the compound house is usually the first warning that he had visited and left a souvenir.
For those who didn’t have such an organised compound, trips to pan-latrine public toilets were like daily pilgrimages.
And, for these pilgrims, the scent is usually not a main concern when the primary issues are weightier. Imagine a guy who lives near Maxwell Hotel having a urgent collect call from Papa Nature at the godly hour of 2.53 a.m. Imagine further that this call is of the semi-liquid, semi-solid, semi-demi-gaseous nature, that is accompanied by brass band music in the tummy, in F-major, ‘F’ for ‘fush’. Imagine that this combination of immiscible contents of the bowels has the attribute of impatience as well, knocking eagerly at the door of no return.
The call recipient has to get off his mat or straw bed, aka sorekɔ adwuma, and peep outside to be sure no armed robbers are on tour in his area. He then has to find this torchlight which has the habit of vanishing under the sitting room sofas which have been packed against one wall in the room so the other members of his large family can spread their mats on the floor. He then has to tip-toe around so he doesn’t step on the big head of that son, that head which was spread out like an African map, occupying space. All this while, he continues to hear the rumbling in the jungle of this tummy…