I have come to appreciate that my mind is a small yet enjoyable place. I’m not given to expansive thought so much as tiny delight. Recently, I found myself in Edinburgh, Scotland. Me and my little mind. Edinburgh is a place I’d always wanted to visit, and as I had expected, my mind crackled audibly as I stood in front of buildings that were built in the 1600s – for an Australian, it’s difficult to comprehend that kind of history in a structure. It hurt my tiny mind in a wonderful way. The beauty and history dripped from every facade and the layers of hundreds of years of human life were palpable. It was awesome.
The most resonant thing I came away with however, was a little piece of information that a tour guide shared with us. On a nighttime tour of the underground vaults of the city (“the city of the dead”) our charismatic tour guide explained the city’s lack of sewage system hundreds of years ago. The city was surrounded by a wall enclosing it in an area half a mile by a mile wide. With crowded residential structures that towered 9 stories high (2 stories underground and 7 above), and no sewage pipes, as our guide put it, “the street were filled with excrement – literally”.
In his divine Scottish accent, our guide then proceeded to explain the way that the “toilet” worked. It was a bucket in the corner of the room, which, once filled, was taken to a window (if you lived on or above the 3rd floor) and emptied out the window. Before emptying the bucket out the window, the carrier would lean out and yell “Gardyloo!” to warn people passing underneath that it was about to rain excrement! I honestly think it’s an admirable thing that there was some warning. I do. And it’s childish I know, but as soon as he’d told this tale the word kept repeating in my mind.
I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since – Gardyloo (gär’ dè lòò’). There’s something that has stuck with me about the possible applications of this Scottish declaration … “Look out below! There’s a shower of feces on it’s way!”
Think of how one could revel in the use of the word: when you’re telling me that it’s nothing personal, but my loan application has been declined … Gardyloo! Or, when I’m about to tell you it was the train and not my oversleeping that made me late … Gardyloo! Or, when the recorded voice at British Telecom says my call is important … Gardyloo! … Oh so many reasons to yell out this marvelous word!
What I really love is the opportunity that this word opens up for us to celebrate bullsh*t. There’s so very much of it around. And often times, there’s nothing wrong with it per se. It is the fertilizer upon which many good things grow. However, it is important, I think, to point it out sometimes. Too often we see a whole load of bollocks and refrain from saying anything. Too often it’s uncomfortable or impolite to point at the bull-dust and call it what it is. But every now and again, it is titillating and downright liberating to declare out loud that what’s raining down in front of you is complete sh*t. It’s celebratory. Quite often the fantastic stories and little half-truths are far more enjoyable than the truth. If done right, then acknowledging that falsehood can be a sort of salute: “That’s a load of dung – and that’s okay – but I know that it is, and I’m going to call it that!”. Hoorah! Gardyloo!
It is possible that I need to grow up, and should be ashamed that I could come away from such a divine place being so excited by this one word. Gardyloo. It’s also possible, that at some point today, or this week, or this month, you may find yourself in a position where tilting your head back and yelling “Gardyloo!” is the only reasonable thing to do. I encourage you to yell it. Just once. With a smile on your face. Salute the showering mess. Gardyloo!