Residents of an apartment building on West 8th Avenue, between Spruce and Alder streets, have taped up the nicest sign on the door in an entrance way alcove on the alley-side of their building.
It politely asks those concerned to stop pissing there!
The sign is hand lettered on an ordinary sheet of letter-sized paper and contained in a clear plastic sleeve (perhaps to protect it from spray).
It reads as follows:
Please stop urinating in this corner… It is seeping through the walls/flooring and making our corridor smell like urine. This is very unhygenic.
Isn’t that nice and polite?
There can be no doubt about who the sign is addressed at, or who the actual culprits are that the residents are so pee-ved about.
The entrance way alcove where the sign has been taped up is situated right beside another alcove containing the building’s Dumpster. This Dumpster alcove, in turn, is right beside another alcove containing the building’s recycling blue bins.
The latter two alcoves see a steady, day-and-night traffic of binners and Dumpster divers.
A wee wee problem in a Fairview back alley
I mentioned the sign to a couple of long-time Dumpster divers who can occasionally be seen browsing through the building’s garbage.
One of them immediately chuckled, saying that she had done that. Meaning that she had used one or more of the alley-side alcoves of the building in question, as places to take private whizzes.
It is understood that people generally prefer a degree of privacy when compelled to perform bodily functions that may leave them feeling exposed and vulnerable. Homeless and street-embedded people are no exception in this regard.
I can especially understand how a street-embedded woman would feel legitimately exposed when peeing in public and therefore look for the spot offering the greatest amount of privacy.
But men are not usually so shy where peeing is concerned and almost all of this inappropriate urination is by male Dumpster divers and binners.
The fact is, a great many male binners and Dumpster divers will habitually seek out hidy-holes to do their business in—whatever that business is—even at 3 a.m., when there isn’t another soul in sight.
I chalk this behaviour up to two things.
Some of it I see as due to the constant fear of guilt by association that society ingrains into street-embedded people. The rest I attribute (rightly or wrongly) to the paranoia-inducing effects of the crystal methamphetamine favoured by many night binners and Dumpster divers.
Outside of homeless and street-embedded Dumpster divers and binners (and particularly the subset of substance users within those groups) I have never seen another category of male that is so skittish about being seen doing things—any things.
In my long experience, peeing in public is not otherwise such a privacy concern for men.
And it should be said that there are many better (and less annoyingly disrespectful) places to do the job, which are located in sight of the offended building alcove.
The perfect spot for a pee, in fact, is located not 20 metres away. This is a long patch of dirt hosting an indifferent stand of bamboo. It is out in the open but a person using this waste patch of ground will be mostly screened from alley traffic by a large concrete planter.
When one has to pee in public, I say that one should always look for a patch of dirt (though not a flowered patch of dirt). Thanks to drainage and biological activity in the soil, the urine will not, in my experience, leave an odour.
And while I would not normally recommend peeing near plants (it will kill them), bamboo is a special case.
Nothing, apparently, can kill bamboo.
Peeing on concrete, or asphalt is the worst—guaranteeing that you will leave a bad smell.
But in Vancouver one can almost always find a patch of bare, or weedy soil, if one wants to.
Otherwise, peeing in a container and emptying it down a storm drain is a next-best option.
The fact that I do not need all of my fingers and toes to count the times, in 14 years of homelessness, when—despite the lack of 24-hour bathrooms—I have been forced to pee out of doors in my idea of an inappropriate location is some kind of concrete proof that Vancouver is almost as green a city as the hype would have you believe.