Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Toilet Can Be a Precious Thing. It's Not a Rest Stop

Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

Well here's a little bit of information for you. What struck me when I first came to the US 44 years ago was the absence of public toilets. Here I was in New York City in 1973 and they were very hard to find. Another thing that really pisses me off is restaurants that ply you full of food and beverages, coffee and the like and have one toilet
for 80 or more patrons. I use this term "toilet" as we don't "rest" "bathe" or generally "powder" anything in there. 

This has become more of an issue with me in my later years. You see, when we get older, our muscles are not as strong. Muscles are an important tool of the human body including in the elimination of waste. I know this is not a very sexy subject my young friends with the holes in your jeans, phones in hand and pants a sagging.  And while I may be a very sexy individual, I am not owning up to any leakage here that I can't control under healthy conditions, but I sure as hell can't control things the way I used to.  It's more common for me these days to have about 20 minutes, 30 max,  from the first tender moment the need is brought to my attention to the final crescendo. And I can share this with confidence------I am not alone, in fact, I am one sole example of millions.

I know this as like anything in life, when something happens to us personally we had never given a second thought to, we start finding out that there's lots of people in the same boat.  I'll often be talking about some person for whatever reason and might say "You see that old lady over there" and then it dawns on me that I'm the same age or older---but I never think of myself as old until my body or some other external event like looking in a mirror reminds me.

But back to the toilet.

I was having breakfast a few weeks ago and was chatting with my friend over coffee after the food had gone down, and my body began giving me some early warning signs. As we do when we're young and involved in something, we put such signs off for a bit but that's not such a good idea these days. I got up and went to the toilet but there was a line outside and the guy in there was on a long visit.  After about 10 or 15 minutes I began to get a bit desperate.  

There was a table next to where I was standing and there was a party of 6 or so sat around it, all old folks come from church looked like. I was becoming somewhat agitated and as anyone who knows me can testify, when I am afraid, shy, agitated, concerned, I verbalize. I started complaining like I do about a place that feeds 80 people but only provides one toilet; "They have no problem encouraging me to put food or liquid in but very stingy on providing me a way of getting it out. " I said. That's because there's no profit in it you see. A toilet takes up space and that means a table where a commodity is sold has no place to go. Toilets hurt profits for businesses unless they charge to use them.

So these other old folk started complaining about it too. One guy waxed eloquent about almost losing it one day (not literally) because of the lack of a toilet, it made me realize how prevalent this issue is and how such a demand is crucial in organizing. I worked in the streets and sometimes finding a toilet was impossible if businsses wouldn't let you in.  I couldn't wait any longer and walked up to the counter and told the manager if he doesn't find a toilet for me I'm going to crap my pants in his establishment. Turns out the employees have one upstairs and they sent me up there. What a relief.

I came back down and agitated a little with the other aforementioned older folks and we all agreed how age discrimination is so prevalent in our society. In all aspects of life, including homelessness, the aged suffer more than most except infants. 

This is a political question like everything else in life. It is more accurately an economic one as well. There are laws that determine whether an eating establishment, bakery, coffee shop has to have a toilet, a waste elimination plant. It's probably based on how many tables, customers or whatever. These laws are passed by capitalist politicians in capitalist parties who are bribed by associations representing the restaurant industry. We often hear talk about "big labor" in relation to the national federation of organized labor, the AFL-CIO. But structurally, big labor is minuscule (not in the potential power of workers organized or not) when compared to the thousand upon thousand of organizations representing various branches of industry. And of course, they control the state and the two capitalist parties represent their interests.

I do not believe a small local business serving  food and drinks should have to provide toilets for the public at large any more than I believe that health care for employees should be their responsibility. But if they serve food and beverages they should provide adequate toilet facilities. Public toilets are another matter and like any other crucial social needs, access to good health care for example, should be provided by society at large through the state, we have the money, resources and ability to do so.

Don't get me wrong. I prefer being older than the alternative. I don't want to die yet and few people do want to die plus as an atheist I am not concerned with heaven or hell and I am happy after 1000 years or so, a pope says hell doesn't exist. Of course, we knew that all the time and so did they.  I love life and the beauty of nature, the wonderful potential of humanity and of course, beer.

Speaking of beer, I gotta go.

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