The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

What Is a Recovery Without Public Toilets?

May 10, 2021

Public bathrooms were always hard to find in Chicago, but during the pandemic it’s gone to another level.

In downtown Chicago, you can count the number of public bathrooms on one hand. In other parts of the city and suburbs, many fast food restaurants, gas stations, and stores that previously allowed the public to use their bathrooms have now closed them.

Even if they have a public restroom, most Chicago businesses only allow paying customers to use them, and they are stricter enforcing it than ever before. If you don’t have the cash to buy something, they send you packing, regardless of how desperate you may be.

And if you’re out of options, and are caught relieving yourself behind a trash can or in an alley, you face the indignity of being charged with a crime. Your fine is up to $500 and 10 days in jail. Then police are given “latitude” to tack on public indecency and indecent exposure charges if they so choose.

This problem falls on drivers, on pregnant women, on older people, on anyone who gets a cup of coffee while running errands. It limits a person’s normal shopping or errand day by requiring a trip back to the house before finishing. And forget hanging out for the day without a go-home deadline!

Buildings in the Indus Valley civilization had working toilets more than 4,000 years ago. Chicago itself built an efficient sewage system by about the year 1900—and the city’s boosters still brag about reversing the Chicago River so our waste won’t mix with the drinking water coming from Lake Michigan.

Like so much else, we have long had the necessary technology, but the short-sighted capitalists, who say they want economic recovery, see no profit in letting us shop unfettered by personal accidents!