Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Saying "no" is Easier Than Hearing It

Did you ever own or run a retail business in Berkeley, CA? One with a bathroom? Well, lemme tellya -- it's a lot easier to say, "Sorry, we don't have a public bathroom," than to get people to hear the message you have just sent. But let me get to your real question, which is, "Why do you refuse your bathroom to the ladies and gentlemen of Berkeley who express the all too common human need to use it?"
Here's why! CASE 1: A pretty young 20-something came in, asked to use the bathroom, and left it with fecal matter spread over half the room, including all over the toilet. A suicide bomber using a laxative instead of plastique? We saw her leave, so bomb, yes, suicide, no. A sorority prank? Maybe, if she was pledging Pi Crappa Delta. Not even Rod Serling's ghost, imported straight from Binghamton, NY, could nail down this one.
CASE 2: A young man who any mother would be proud to own went in for about five minutes. When he came out, he was happy as a clam on heroin. We saw the little trail of blood spatter on the wall from his hypo prick, and had to scrub the whole place down with bleach before we would let another person in. We tossed him out and told him not to come back.
CASE 3: A guy went into the bathroom and filled the toilet with so much paper that the plumber who took the bowl out said he couldn't clear the S-bend of paper. We had to buy and install a new toilet. That was the first of two. The cases go on, but they have led to an inevitable conclusion: nobody uses the bathroom but people who come in as customers (as opposed to those who say, "Hey, if I buy something can I use the bathroom?").
Now, when people come in and ask to use the bathroom before they come to the counter to order food, and I say to them that we have no public toilet, but there's one in the park, they respond in one of several ways. R1 is a look of resignation, a thank-you, and an exit. R2 is a "what-if-I-buy-something" plea, to which I say that I am sorry, but no. The exit is a little more abrupt than in R1. R3 is a look of shock and awe -- like I imagine many troops saw in Iraq in the early days of the current war. This one is a simple failure to believe one's ears. "What? I can't use the bathroom!" I'm sorry, but that's right. The exit is a "I was going to eat here, but now I'll never eat here!" My follow-on comment is usually something like, "We don't need any more customers like you, anyway." R4 is a vituperative swear-fest. R5 is a lecture. I once got the "don't you have any daughters" routine, and I said to the woman, "yeah I have a daughter and she can come over and tell you the same thing if you want." As a rule, I only exempt obviously pregnant women and women with small children from the bathroom rule. I figure anyone else can use the public toilet in the park.
Don't get me started about people who park in my parking space and glower at me when I ask them to move.


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