Homeless in Vancouver: Public restrooms are so stressful

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      Whoever coined the expression “the unexamined life isn’t worth living” never lived much of their life in pubic restrooms.

      This is a part of modern life that doesn’t stand up to close examination.

      We all use public restrooms because we have to, not because we want to. I think it’s even fair to say we’re often in them against our will, a hostage to nature.

      We don’t really want to touch anything, and excuse me, but who can help but picture the “rubbie” who may have sat on that seat before us.

      Can’t count how many times I’ve felt the need to give everything a preparatory wipe—some people actually put down a layer of toilet paper before they dare sit down.

      There when you can’t hold it till you get home

      As a homeless person, I use pubic washrooms a lot. Really, what else do I have?

      I freely admit that I routinely push the envelope. Over the years I’ve done many stereotypically homeless things in restrooms: shaved, given myself a sponge bath, and washed my hair. All things, incidentally, business travelers routinely do in airport restrooms.

      I don’t know though if frequent flyers also dry out their shoes and socks using the air dryer. I’ve done that but not for years.

      I don’t concern myself with what other homeless people might do in restroom, and frankly, the less I know about that the better. My concern is always what I do.

      In the case of restrooms, I’m sensitive about the length time I spend in them and what state I leave them in. I have no excuse to leave them messy.

      Unlike some people, I really know how to clean a bathroom—I took care to learn how during the two years I worked as a custodian.

      Cleaning restrooms is hardly ennobling work but it’s work that needs to be done. While it was part of my job to do it, I kept in mind how much I wanted public facilities to be clean when I used them.

      That said I don’t expect much from the restrooms I use. Not because conscientious cleaning of toilets is above the pay grade of minimum-wage employees, but in spite of any good effort made to keep a public restroom clean it only to takes one slob to mess it back up again.

      At the very least I try not to be that slob—it’s bad enough that I’m probably in line behind him.

      Stanley Q. Woodvine is a homeless resident of Vancouver who has worked in the past as an illustrator, graphic designer, and writer.