Public toilets matter! Woe unto him that leaks on a wall

Friday, August 24, 2018

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The dearth of public toilets should concern us as a tourism nation with many poor people. It is the grace of sunshine that we don't have more diseases. Western society does not evacuate body waste in public, but in Jamaica men urinate and more at will.

Taxis decant men to pee on light-poles, walls or bush; tug zipper, a “move over baby” and take seat with soiled hands, cash. Male vs female plumbing is unequal as we can't match them for bladder fortitude. In my field we use algorithms to find the ratio of male to female stalls in toilets of large public buildings or complexes as airports overseas. Here, we guess.

Here, human waste is disposed of in bush, bag, community or public toilets. Ghetto modules may have a shower and wash tub. The one on Barbican Road may be a hybrid as Gully Ride and Standpipe rub shoulders with Sovereign. Tourist site Lonely Planet says of Jamaica. “There are few public toilets, and those that do exist are best avoided”; broken, dingy; pungent chemicals mask the stench of ripe urine, faecal matter.

Posts on Trip Advisor are also harsh as Airbnb visitors seek food, public toilets, fun or transport. We have no accessible toilets, not for pregnant women or nappy change. A public toilet is a marker of Cabinet's respect for citizens — we don't count.

New York has smart businesses and good toilets off the sales floor as they know John Public morphs into a customer; few state privies but in the theatre district Toto ware, cotton hand towels, cologne swabs exist. Europe has sleek pissoirs and Paris 400 (for 2.3 m; Kingston?) modular, accessible toilets and new red eco-friendly urinals. London councils' toilets are on the Internet so visitors can plan comfort breaks and sightseeing. Here we sniff them out!

The Jamaica Observer (February 1, 2015; Kimmo Matthews reporting) found plazas at Constant Spring Road, Matilda's Corner, New Kingston lacked toilets and businessmen resist retrofit costs as the error was by State planners. Men urinate at random so the silhouette of a male penis in hand is cultural cliché.

There are also set piss-points. In the Bible David used this evocative phrase as he went to kill Nabal and “all that pertain to him by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall”.(1 Samuel 25, KJV) Abigail, his wife, took wine, bread, meat, raisins and bowed down to David. He relented so “the Lord smote Nabal” he died and David took Abigail as wife. Nice, God! Here we piss on walls daily.

The Irvine Hall boundary wall on Golding Avenue is a piss-point for taxi men — UWI via Papine to town: a pungent stench of urine with a whiff of methane from an incontinent colon. A wide crack in the wall says “nuh linga” and passengers avert eyes as drivers lean in. Hand-washing is out, but Arizona, Red Bull are plenty. A wise man said “we only rent beer!” Brown liquid in, clear liquid out!

If Papine Market toilets get a makeover this wall may be saved. UWI has miles of prime boundary, so a creative developer may create business or incubator space in a “Town and Gown” concept; and student entrepreneurs may place “pissoirs” at Irvine Hall, August Town and Mona Aqueduct taxi piss-points to make money. Local government neglect means property and environment damage so taxi-men get a bad rap.

The West manages human waste well; not Arabia, Africa or Asia. We used to make souvenirs of toilet tissue monogrammed “Piccadilly Circus” from loos. Cabinets buy costly SUVs with huge seats for self but cheap, small-seat ware for our toilets though our ample derrières need better. What next?

Town planners must ensure quality public toilets in plazas; accessible municipal toilets, say 50 nationally, 10 in Kingston and outsource the management. What do the handicapped do now? Sir, launch a design competition to elicit chic, water and energy-smart toilet designs. Then, commission an App so we can find them online; include gas stations and others that meet specs. Next, get the private sector to adopt and brand toilets.

A brand on tissue is the focus of 2.8 million-plus tourists for three minutes daily — priceless! Finally, create a tourist board award for best municipal and commercial privy to change the Trip Advisors message by 2020 and boost tourism.

Mr Holness, this may not solve crime or create growth, but we the 92.1 per cent also need good public toilets. We are worth it. Stay conscious!


— Franklin Johnston, D Phil (Oxon) is a strategist and project manager; fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (UK) and lectures in Logistics and Supply Chain Management at the Mona School of Business and Management at The University of the West Indies.

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