It’s certainly not the biggest problem anyone is facing right now, but probably the one I’ve spent the most time puzzling over while my boyfriend helpfully shields me with his jacket. If long walks and bike rides are allowed now, but all the pubs, restaurants and facilities are still shut… where the hell are we supposed to wee?
Yesterday, I peed behind a bush.
Not a bush at the top of a remote hill or in the depths of a secluded forest, but a bush in the middle of a busy London park, overlooked by a road and approximately 20 metres away from two women having a cheerful catch-up on a picnic bench.
Look, I’m not proud of it. It wasn’t my finest hour. But as we all know, these are – quite literally in some cases – desperate times.
While it’s fair enough for Derbyshire police to ask people not to urinate freely all over the streets of Bakewell, there’s little word on when public loos might reopen, or what we’re supposed to do in the meantime. Our characters might have strengthened over these past few months, sure, but our bladders have not. I’ve heard rumours on the grapevine of people switching from beer to port for their heatwave park drinks, believing it to be “more dehydrating”, while one GLAMOUR staffer with more foresight than me has bought afor just such an occasion. I don’t know the public health risks associated with everybody merrily widdling across the UK’s green spaces, but let’s not think about that for now.
Because it’s just one of the many, many logistical dilemmas we’re suddenly encountering during the country’s bumpy journey out of lockdown. Our lives, we’re learning in these muddled times, are finely balanced systems full of structures and machinations that we all took for granted until now. Trying to achieve the elusive “new normal” feels a bit like playing Mousetrap with half the pieces missing.
There are so many questions. Luckily Phillip Schofield is asking most of them. “Don’t you see that’s utterly bonkers?” he asked Matt Hancock, in response to the answer that yes, it’s ok to visit your parents separately, 10 minutes apart, but not at the same time. Advice on whether the other parent is allowed to stand in the doorway, absent-mindedly wander into the garden or yell “DARLING, WHAT ON EARTH HAVE YOU DONE TO YOUR HAIR?” from an upstairs window remains unclear. I have friends trying to negotiate the guilt-laden minefield of which grandparents get to see their baby and when, with all the headache and frustration of a particularly tough sudoku. Meanwhile, because I’m a non-driver, I can only see my parents if I spend two hours on public transport to get there. Which isn’t allowed. Request does not compute. Try again.
Then there are the less emotionally-loaded questions. Is it better to wear one glove and risk an inadvertent Michael Jackson tribute, or don two like a 1930s debutante? As the temperature rises, are face mask tan lines going to become the new ‘ski goggles tan lines’; ie. the hottest aspirational sun damage around? We’ve already seen the inevitable rise of the fashion face mask – how long before people start plaiting them into their hair with ribbons or weaving flower crowns round the elastics? My friend Jo has got into the habit of going to Tesco Express on her way back from a run. “I get really hot and sweaty under my mask and am breathing really heavily,” she says. “It’s not an ideal look for the queue: feverish and panting.”
How will birthday drinks function in the new normal? Will we see a tag-team system emerge, where the birthdayee takes up residence in a public space for the afternoon and friends book in slots to stand two metres away from them for 20 minutes, before the next person rolls up? It’s already starting to happen in my social circle. The other day I attended a drive-by birthday celebration in a local park that felt not unlike a scene from a mafia movie. Place Colin the Caterpillar in the designated spot on the ground, and slowly back away.
Still, there will be silver linings. Photos have started to emerge of gyms in Hong Kong with screens between each machine to protect users from the customary shower of other people’s sweat, spittle and tears, and I for one am all for it. There are many ways in which life might have to adjust for the worse over the coming months or years, but I don’t think exercising without being speckled lightly by a stranger’s residual bodily fluids is one of them. Bring on the screens.
In fact, while we’re feeling optimistic, maybe the new normal will be a world without Gym Guys. You know, those uninvited spotters – lingering around your corner of the mat, all too keen to offer helpful tips, seemingly impervious to subtle hints like you putting yourin or pretending not to speak English. Perhaps in the gyms of the near-future, Gym Guys won’t be able to get near us in our clinically-sealed exercise pods. Or maybe they’ll just learn to shout “can I give you some advice on your gait?” from two metres away. It’s hard to say.
There’s more where that came from. When pubs (sob) finally reopen, we might see an end to men who think putting their hands on either side of your waist is an acceptable way to say ‘excuse me’? Could a socially distanced life be one in which nobody ever mouth-breathes on your neck in the cashpoint queue, or tells you to smile at the bus stop? If not being able to read someone’s dramatic WhatsApp conversation over their shoulder on the tube ever again is the price we have to pay, then I guess I’m ok with that.
Yes, it helps to look for silver linings in this semi-post-lockdown-but-not-at-all-normal-life world. A world in which our permanent earworm is MC Hammer’s U Can’t Touch This, playing on a loop as we try to scratch an itchy nose with our elbow, then press the button on the pelican crossing with our toe.
One day, I hope, we’ll look back and laugh at the time when peeing in bushes, kissing windows and yelling our bitchy gossip to a friend from the other side of the road was how we did our civic duty. But if only one thing is clear in all this confusion, it’s that that day is still too far away to start flouting rules now.
Until then the best thing we can do – as my mum might say if she were here, which I promise she isn’t – is mind our pees and queues. Good luck everyone.