We Need to Socialize Public Restrooms

Portland might be winning the War on Drugs, but it’s completely undermining the War on Public Urination.

Here, just like in other metropolitan areas, I imagine, public restrooms are at a premium. Thanks to junkies who’ve abused the privilege over the years, most of the restrooms in Portland require you either a) purchase something from the store b) find someone to let you into the locked restroom and sometimes c) have a security guard. For instance, the Fred Meyer across the street has a security guy whose job, among other things, is to monitor the restroom.

This is America. We found a way to allow astronauts to go No. 2 in zero gravity. We put restrooms on airplanes! There must be a way public restrooms can exist in a city full of syringes and capsules.

The case in Portland is particularly desperate because of a few factors:

Need a drink? Find a Benson bubbler anywhere downtown. Need a restroom? That's crazy talk.

  1. There’s water everywhere. Between the Willamette River, Tom McCall Waterfront Park, the Salmon Street Fountain and, oh, I don’t know, the seemingly constant rain, it seems impossible to hold it in a city where free flowing water is part of the geology, infrastructure and climate.
  2. There’s public water fountains — Benson bubblers, they call them — located throughout downtown. So, you can stay hydrated and get yourself nice and water-logged, but good luck trying to find somewhere to relieve yourself. That’s putting kerosene on the fire.
  3. Downtown is where the beer is. And sure, you can use the restrooms at any establishment where you might be drinking, but if it’s a good jaunt home, you’ll start seeing mirages of Porta Potties. Suddenly, a dark alleyway won’t look so bad, and before you know it, you’re disgracing the Rose City.

What’s most grating is local businesses are completely justified for guarding their restrooms. There are a few public restrooms smattered alongside the river that have been used and abused. In most cases, if the toilet is a basketball hoop, the average field-goal percentage is about 54 percent. If you walk out without bleeding, catching a high or gagging, you’ve survived. You can’t be expected to run a business dealing with those types of conditions. Frankly, I would limit public access, too.

This could be the most elitist thing I’ve ever proposed, but bear with me. What if the city created public restrooms for downtown with keycard entry? To attain the keycard, you would need to be pay $15 per year and pass a drug test. The money from the keycard would go to the construction and upkeep of the restrooms, while the drug test would keep those more likely to abuse the restrooms from getting in.

Seriously, astronauts can safely defecate on space shuttles. You know that started with an idea crazier than mine!

Does anyone have any better ideas?

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6 thoughts on “We Need to Socialize Public Restrooms

  1. My favorite memory of my trip to Portugal in the mid-90’s was the public restrooms at the various tourist destinations. Almost everywhere, an old Gypsy crone (I use the term advisedly, in a technical manner) would be sitting on a chair, not at the entrance, but inside the restroom itself, charging admission. Not only is that creepy as hell, but seriously, who’s going to argue with her? THere’s no way of knowing what she’s capable of…

  2. I’m from Ohio. We have public bathrooms everywhere. When there’s not a rest station in site, it is perfectly normal to stop by your local McDonald’s. The people behind the counter don’t even give you a strange look as your march by them to use the facility and leave without ordering a thing. Everybody in the Midwest knows that McDonald’s = rest station.

    Imagine my surprise on my first visit to California, when I encountered The Payroom. After a long day of site-seeing, I stopped by a McDonald’s and couldn’t figure out why the door was locked. I was almost in tears by the time I got the magic quarter to pay for the room.

    I had forgotten about that experience. I guess one of the perks of living in Ohio is not dealing with this. Good luck!

  3. Are you having problems with having to pee on your way to work? You shouldn’t complain, if I remember right your bathrooms are immaculate, airplane looking but perfect. They are remodeling our employee bathrooms so we’re stuck using the public ones, which do not have a lock and key. Someone dies in there daily. it hurts just to walk by them. I only use it for emergencies, but still I always walk up as someones coming out twitching…
    There is one girl who is hired to bring in the carts and clean the bathroom, I thank her daily.

  4. What kind of drugs would you test for? I am assuming over half the population of Portland would test positive for dope. :)

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