Reflections on Occupied: Phase 1

Being stuck in a toilet for 3 and a half hours sounds like a nightmare but actually it was quite fun. Don’t get me wrong it was boring at times and a bit lonely and then a bit nerve racking. I did start whispering to myself at one point. But on the whole it was definitely worth it.

For my part I waited anxiously for a knock on the outer door. I pressed my ear to the door of my cubical and listened for footsteps, the sound of someone sitting on porcelain and the faint noise of headphones being adjusted. I then timed 2 minutes and 10 seconds. Once the timer was done I called “Hello…..hello?” and my bit began.

Everyone reacted differently. Some answered my calls straight away and some I had to open the door and check to see if they were even there at all. But once the ball got rolling on the whole my job was quite easy.

I talk through the cubical door. I ask questions easy yes or no things - “Have you ever been to the downstairs toilet in the Westblock?” We discussed the lenghth of time spent in toilets. Was it the simple nature of the questions or the fact that there is a door separating the performer from the audience that made people more inclined to chat with me?

Most smiled when I finally reveal myself. Most sat back a little. One leaned right back as if trying to avoid me. We talk a little more, before Elvis begins and I ask them to dance.

This part was the most awkward but the most enjoyable. We either stumbled, glided or simply moved through a waltz. I told them I only learnt to waltz a couple of weeks ago - which is true. Some stayed silent and others giggled. I smiled. It is fun to dance and I hope that the audience had fun dancing with me. Its like an ice breaker. Once you’ve waltzed in a toilet your ready for the next bit.

I moved into a hug. Most often it was a stumble, it was awkward but no one backed away and non were horrified which is quite honestly the best part about it. Everyone (except the one that didn’t dance with me) were happy to hug. I felt on a couple of occasions a real genuine warmth radiating. Perhaps a hug is what is necessary, sometimes.

I wonder about the intimacy of a hug. A hug is something that we do when greeting an old friend, when consoling someone, when expressing affection. It can be warm, passionate, awkward. It can be too long or too short. In my experience I sometimes feel a bit pressured into a hug - when someone comes up to you arms spread but your just not in the mood. Is a hug intimate? Or is it something we have gotten used to doing? Is it the tone of the hug that determines the intimacy? We can still be distanced whilst hugging, can we? I hugged all of my tutors and am intrigued to know how they felt about that particular moment.

I retreated smiling and it wasn’t a forced smile, it was real. I slunk back into my cubical happy that I encountered that person out there. I sat back down and I waited.