The warmer months are coming, and Will Milner smells trouble
How can I tell my neighbour I want to sniff his toilet? It seems to me there is no easy way to go about it. If I ask a direct question, he’s likely to slam a door in my face. If I try to drop hints on the subject, he’ll think I’m crazy – then slam a door in my face. But I need to know if the plumbing in his apartment is as bad as it is in mine.
Summer is coming and my bathroom is starting to take on its usual seasonal stench. Every year, as regular as clockwork, the moment the thermometer creeps above 38°C for the first time, my home starts to hum.
The first year it happened, the nose of blame was pointed accusingly at my baby son. Recently out of nappies and with first-class honours in the stink-making department, he was the most obvious odorous offender. But as summer went on and he was rubbed down with a variety of powders, lotions and sprays, it became clear that he was innocent. (I use the term relatively.)
The smell comes from the guest toilet in my apartment. It’s rarely used and cleaned three times a week, so this is a matter of plumbing and not hygiene. A fact I have pointed out to a procession of handymen, landlords and guiltless pizza delivery men on a dozen occasions.
For a few eye-watering months the building supervisor actually refused to accept there is a smell. Only when a family of cockroaches cancelled their tenancy and moved into the car park did he start trying to fix it. Four farcical visits, three tubes of sealant, two broken plungers and a shrug of the shoulders later and he has given up. My toilet, my problem.
I’ve been told to just accept this as part of summer life. It happens. The people who told me this, however, have lemon-scented facilities and drains like a citrus glade. They don’t know how it feels to wake up each morning thinking about cabbages.
So I need to get into my neighbour’s bathroom to find out whether it is actually a block-wide problem. Perhaps he too has been suffering in silence. Maybe he yearns to inhale the pungency of my apartment. And his other neighbour, and his neighbour’s neighbours. Are we all too ashamed to admit that our home is the stinky one?
I’d like to think so. The smell wouldn’t vanish and I’d still have to hold my breathby the front door. But at least if I knew, I wouldn’t have to go around the corridors at night sniffing under doors. Will Milner is our digital editorial director. He would rather become a plumber than simply move apartment.