Columnists Features

Of toilet cleaners and wives

TORN APART with BOYD PHIRI
PUBLIC toilets are known for one thing; disposal of human waste by everyone regardless of status in society, race or political affiliation.
And if there is anyone who knows how lavatories define who we are in the hood, it is a toilet cleaner.
Not that the cleaner is a snoop bent on poking his nose at what gives some people the enthusiasm to poo in undesignated places, but one thing is sure, he takes all the whiff.
Obviously, with most toilets in the hood stinking like a billion bottoms breaking wind, there is no escape for a toilet cleaner.
One could say a toilet cleaner’s job is a noble one. He or she takes responsibility for what comes out of man as opposed to what goes in.
Why else do you think some people keep on emptying their bowels in public toilets at every opportunity?
Even when some people clog up the toilets with dirt, toilet cleaners make sure that people find reason to return to the facility.
But not everyone appreciates what a toilet cleaner does for the community as one cleaner of Zebra Secondary School in Kitwe found out when his wife sued him for divorce.
In case you are wondering, there are no zebras at the school, only pupils and their teachers.
If there were zebras at the school, perhaps he would not have found a job as a toilet cleaner there. In fact, his wife would be happy if he were a game ranger.
However, coming back to the story, the man’s wife denied him his conjugal rights because of the kind of work he is doing.
He told the court that she did not want to have a roll in the hay with him because he reeked of human excreta.
“I love my wife although she does not want me to touch her. She tells me that I smell human excreta,” he told the court.
His wife had something to tell the court as well.
“My husband is a drunkard and says he drinks to get rid of the scent of human excreta,” she told the court.
Perhaps if it were the smell of zebra dung, the two would not have dragged each other to court.
Of course, the smell of human excreta is not sexually transmitted. In any case, she had to go to court to seek divorce and be separated from the scent on her husband’s body.
However, the court granted the couple divorce. Of course, the court of law did not grant them divorce because of the alleged scent from the toilet cleaner’s body.
I am sure if the cleaner’s former wife is allergic to poo, she is now looking forward to getting married to a butcherman.
How I wish the toilet cleaner could find another job as a banker while she is away so that he could be smelling money on his body. Obviously, she would sue him again to seek reconciliation.
However, the stench from some public toilets can be nauseating and it is the last facility one would like to use unless under stress – away from home.
Yet toilets define human dignity, placing toilet cleaners as noble men.
Little wonder it is one of the issues worth commemorating every year.
World Toilet Day was chosen as a day to take action. It is a day to raise awareness about all people who do not have access to a toilet – despite the human right to water and sanitation.
It is a day to do something about it and with the on-going campaigns for ward, parliamentary and presidential elections, politicians should have been talking about it, like how they will ensure access for people without access to toilets.
Even in villages nowadays, some chiefs have embarked on campaigns to ban open defecation.
Villagers are being encouraged to build toilets as opposed to using the bush to help themselves.
Gone are the days in most villages in Zambia when men would carry axes on their shoulders and head into the bush pretending to go and cut or fetch firewood when in fact they were going to empty their bowels.
Somehow, malnourished pigs had an instinct and followed children to help themselves to the human excreta after the children finished.
No longer do women pretend to be going to fetch water or fetch firewood because toilets are within reach and clean, with Chief Macha of the Tonga people declaring ‘One toilet, one family’.
So, World Toilet Day is about the 2.4 billion people, including thousands of our villagers who lack access to improved sanitation.
It is about the nearly a billion people who have to defecate in the open. It is about the millions of children whose futures are compromised by poor sanitation and related nutritional problems.
So, why the fuss about people, especially men who clean toilets to the extent that wives will file for divorce against them? For me, they are as good as plumbers who unblocked toilets and were infamously called bana mazai or baka pompa matuvi.
These are perfect gentlemen who chose a unique career path to contribute to the country’s socio-economic development, just like bankers, economists, lawyers, farmers, drivers, policemen, soldiers, pilots or journalists.
So, why should toilet cleaners be demonised? Imagine a society without toilet cleaners, which is a fast-growing industry?
All toilets at airports, shopping malls, in hotels and lodges would be stinking.
So, show love to toilet cleaners.
bjboydphiri@yahoo.com




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