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Olympics

What Kind Of Toilet Destruction Are We Talking About, Here?

An airplane toilet
Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images

“Staggering new details emerge over ‘excessively drunk’ Aussie Olympians’ wild flight home,” promises the Seven News headline. I take no pleasure in sharing with you that, overall, the reported details do not in fact cause much staggering. A Japan Airlines flight carrying players from the Australian Olympic soccer and rugby sevens teams, plus competitors from some number of other Olympic sports, reportedly featured “loud,” “disruptive,” and “unruly” behavior, plus “excessive alcohol consumption”; athletes “failed to respond to requests made to do whatever they needed to do on the flight,” according to Ian Chesterman, a top honcho in Australia’s Olympic committee.

Don’t get me wrong! I do not mean to dismiss the plight of the crew and other passengers on this flight. I’m sure that being trapped on an airplane with any number of rowdy drunken jocks was a genuinely stressful and possibly outright nightmarish experience; I’d rather poke a thumbtack into the tip of my tongue than endure even five minutes of that topline description. Flying is awful even when it’s placid; I once had to sit with my shoes in a puddle of melting snow on a connecting flight from Philadelphia to D.C. and it’s a travel horror story I still tell people more than 10 years later.

It’s just, I don’t think anybody would be shocked, much less staggered, to learn that a bunch of Olympic athletes—young, healthy, horny, famous people, returning home en masse from the pinnacle of their lives to be received as celebrated heroes, with abundant access to the kinds of substances they’d been denied during the Games themselves—acted like a pack of horse’s asses on a plane. For this story’s details to stagger, they need to really deliver the juice.

That’s where the mystery of the airplane’s toilet comes in. According to the Seven News report, “at least one drunk footballer vomited in the plane’s toilet, which couldn’t be used again during the 10-hour flight.” Farther down, it quotes Chesterman referring to “at least one person being sick in the toilet and leaving that inoperable for the remainder of the flight.” Well now!

I am no kind of plumber, to say nothing of whatever specialization of plumber would know a damn thing about airplane toilets. However! I have a normal familiarity with the very loud and violent-seeming flush of an airplane toilet. It seems very unlikely to me, a broadly normal person who has flushed an airplane toilet more than once, that even the most prodigious of human craps could render an airplane toilet real-deal inoperable. And on the whole, craps seem like they’d be a lot harder to flush than any plausible barf! I truly cannot imagine a human barf that could shut down even a weakling low-flow terrestrial toilet, much less a mighty active-vacuum airplane toilet, which howstuffworks.com tells me can even flush upward. If some Aussie athlete unleashed a fuckin’ puke so powerful and, uh, like voluminous or whatever that it could shut down a toilet capable of sucking solid craps upward, against gravity, that would be not only a puke truly befitting the term “Olympian,” but also an authentically staggering detail!

Unfortunately, the Seven News blog leaves unclear whether this is what actually happened. All we have is that somebody barfed in “the toilet,” and then the toilet “couldn’t be used” or was left “inoperable.” I see several possible variables. The first is the word “toilet,” which here in the U.S. usually refers to the fixture itself, the hardware, the actual commode directly into which you do your vile pissing and shitting—but which in other parts of the English-speaking world can be used to refer to the room, commonly known as a “bathroom” here in the U.S., where a person goes to visit “the shitter” and evacuate their various bodily wastes.

The second variable is all the possible things you could mean when you say that a toilet—either definition—”couldn’t be used” or was rendered “inoperable.” A toilet—the fixture—could be inoperable because it literally cannot function, like in the case of a nightmare monster crap or giant wad of toilet paper that completely clogs its pipes. But you could also imagine that, say, the hospitality industry (including an airline) would consider a toilet “inoperable” (or agree that it “couldn’t be used”) if it were so splattered with reeking effluvia that a reasonable human could not possibly take a dump in it without also barfing all over the place and making the overall situation even worse. That latter meaning could apply to either definition of “toilet.”

So you see, this introduces a whole range of possibilities, from an Aussie jock having blown such a horrific Cyclopean chunk as to render a vacuum-powered plumbing fixture capable of sucking a solid human turd upward mechanically nonfunctional (staggering), to an Aussie jock having puked messily all over the inside of a bathroom, outstripping the flight crew’s cleaning capacities and thus leaving the bathroom merely too disgusting for reasonable use (not really staggering).

For help with triangulating this thing, we can turn to Japan’s Kyodo News agency, whose report on the incident not only adds some scandalous details (the athletes refused to wear masks, for example, which is fucking appalling and antisocial) but also quotes an anonymous fellow passenger as saying that the toilet in question was “wasted.” To me, “wasted,” as an adjective, seems more applicable to a situation in which we’re talking about a ruinously befouled toilet (either definition), rather than one rendered mechanically unusable. If I’m describing a toilet taken fully out of mechanical commission by, for example, a basketball-sized bolus of regurgitated gristle, I am way more likely to say that it is “broken” or “destroyed” or to claw my eyes out and scream “Bigger than you think, Dad! Bigger than you think!” than to say that it is “wasted.” What would inspire me to describe a toilet as “wasted,” by contrast, is if it has been blasted by a tidal wave of human ejecta and I will not under any circumstances consider lowering my innocent asscheeks to its surface.

Possibly complicating matters is the still-open question of whether this is an English-language translation of a passenger who may have been speaking one of any number of plausible other languages you might find on a Japan Airlines flight from Tokyo to Australia. Maybe “wasted” has other meanings or connotations in one or all of those languages! The only way to get to the bottom of this is with visual evidence.

Do you have photographs of the toilet in its puke-wrecked “inoperable” state—or, even better, truly fucking horrifying shaky smartphone video footage of a drunken Aussie firehosing rancid barf all over the inside of an airplane bathroom, and like moaning and maybe even shitting disgustingly at the same time? Please send it to patrick@defector.com right away. Thank you.