Photo by EV on Unsplash

Public Washrooms are Closed, and it’s not Due to Covid-19.

How the Opioid Epidemic is Affecting Small Business

The manager walked out of the front door of her restaurant in her floral sundress, yelling. Once outside, her body language screamed ‘get out of my restaurant.’ I couldn’t hear what she said because the door slammed shut behind her.

She came back inside, and said to her all-female workforce, “That’s it! We’re closing our public washrooms*.”

At first, I thought she lost it on a customer because of COVID-19 anxieties. Then, through the window, I got a better look at the guy she’d sent away.

The man was carrying two large suitcases and had a suit jacket on. He must have been in his late thirties. His hair was black and slightly disheveled. He turned in my direction and finally, I saw the problem.

A black suit jacket on a shirtless man. His face had a tough expression. I watched him walk into the bushes behind the restaurant parking lot, pitifully dragging his suitcases on the bumpy gravel.

He began pacing back and forth, waving his hand in the air. His addiction was clearly stronger than any mere shame he had. I watched his failed attempt at crossing the threshold from homeless addict to restroom user.

Even in his drug-induced stupor, I think he felt the collective eyes of the healthy, well-fed patrons in the restaurant staring at him from their lunch menus.

“What an irritation and a nuance,” I heard someone say.

I wonder if he knows he’s walking between two worlds. On one side, the living, working world and on the other side, the homeless addict one. The world he’s walking in must feel like “eternal exile.”

In fact, there are more and more people in my community living in this “eternal exile.” They live as if they may never again cross into the threshold of mainstream society.

My friend’s brother just died in his place of “external exile.” Why couldn’t we reach him? Why can’t healthy people attempt to cross the threshold? Are we afraid we’ll lose our hands if we extend them?

I’m writing a separate article about how the choices we make today, impact the future. It starts like this:

“The seeds we sow today, create the future.”

Now, I can’t help but asking: What seeds did we sow 30 to 50 years ago in the men and women of our community, that have positioned them in a place of “external exile.”

From a religious perspective, we are all children of God, even if our lives resemble weeds not flowers, we still have a right to live in the garden, don’t we?

The most dangerous thing we can do right now, is create an “us” and a “them.” Even though it seems like the right thing to do sometimes, it isn’t.

It just, isn’t.

*Closing washrooms to non-paying customers is standard practice in large urban centers; however, in our medium sized town, it’s rare and considered unfriendly.




Public Writer: the Personal made Public

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Caitlin Patricia Johnston

Caitlin Patricia Johnston

Public Writer: the Personal made Public

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