Oct 26, 2011

The Right to Pee

Downtown Vancouver, about to board the skytrain, no public toilet in sight. But behold, across the street is Trees Organic Coffee, where I enjoyed some good cheesecake and amazing apple pie back in the day. I slip right through to the back without meeting any eyes, but alas, one needs a key. As I sidle back up to the counter, the worker anticipates my request and points to the key on a hook.

Why is the key needed? To keep out unwanted people. Which means that country boy Rick, with purple pants and travellers backpack, is still on the Wanted list. Even though I haven't dropped a dime there in 4 years and have no intention of doing so today (though plenty of temptation.)

What would it feel like to be one of the people who are not welcome to use this bathroom? To have to find a quiet place behind a garbage bin in the alley and hope the police don't happen by, or walk all the way back to the East Side where a public facility exists? What would it feel like to be told that you're not human enough to be allowed to pee here?

This world is plenty welcoming and accommodating for an educated middle-class fairly-clean WASP like me. As I get on that train with no fears of making it to the end of the line comfortably, I'm thankful for my privileged position. And sad that a key has to exist at all; that the basic human right and dignity to relieve oneself is still considered a privilege.

1 comment:

  1. There was a great CBC radio summer series a while back, and I noted that there is something called the WTO, the World Toilet Organization. Its mission is to make access to facilities a recognized human right. They pointed out you can judge the civility of a city by its supply (or not) of public washrooms.