There is an agonised howl from the toilet cubicle next to the one from which I have just emerged. I pause in my handwashing activities. Agonised howls in toilet cubicles are not good, not that I’ve ever heard one until now.
Due to an unfortunate series of events involving a broken shower at The Parents’ house, a botched repair job, water dripping through the ceiling, and a plumber who has yet to turn up, I have had to nip out to Sainsbury’s to use the toilet. And now someone is howling in the cubicle. What a day.
“Is somebody there?” asks the howler, in a quavering voice.
“Erm… ye-essssss…” I reply somewhat dubiously. I am really not sure that I want to be involved in the toilet difficulties of a howling stranger, but I am a good person. It would be wrong to sneak out at this point.
And so I am still standing there as the door flies open and a tearful young woman emerges, with mad hair and a slightly crazed look on her face. She looks distressed, to say the least. And she is clutching a pregnancy test.
She thrusts the stick into my hand, which means that I am now holding a stick that has just been peed on by another human being. I am uncomfortable with the way that this day is turning out, but I take the accompanying leaflet and skim over the instructions as my sobbing companion launches into some hysterical babbling, every sentence punctuated with another “is that what it says – am I – am I….?” and some more swearing.
“Well, um…” I try to interject, looking up from the leaflet and trying to get the woman off me at the same time, “there’s one line here. That means it’s negative.”
“No, no!” howls the woman, clutching at her hair in a terribly dramatic fashion, “a line means I’m p-p-pregggggnannnnnt!”. She does some more howling, and I gingerly hold out the pee stick to let her see.
“Look – this is the control line. It just means that the test is working. It’s here in the diagram, see? If you were pregnant, there would be two lines, not one.”
The howling stops.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. It’s negative. You’re not pregnant.”
There is blissful silence. “Thank ****!” she says eventually. I smile politely, wash my hands again and, leaving her staring joyously at the peed-on stick, return to check that The Parents’ house has not floated away in my absence.
The world is a strange and alarming place at times. And that’s just Ballymena…