Maybe the port-a-potties wouldn't have to be blue — maybe local artists could be commissioned to paint them.
Once about two years ago, I found myself in the situation where I had to walk home at around three o'clock in the morning. My very full bladder can attest to the fact that there is not a single open bathroom between downtown and my house at that time of night.
In this way, I sympathize with the homeless population who are arguing for a restroom to be open all night. If I had walked past an open bathroom that one summer night two years ago, I might have used it; but not if it was one of those blue port-a-potties.
Some things in life give us an instant, uncontrollable, emotional reaction. I can't help but smile at the sight of a newborn baby, seeing a spider causes me to jump under the covers of my bed and hide until I believe the natural lifespan of the spider has been met (spiders only live about five minutes, right?) and the sight of a portable potty causes instant abdominal cramping and retching.
That night that I walked home in the early morning, considering step after step if it could be true that people can die of an exploded bladder, I would have welcomed the sight of a bright blue, plastic walled potty. I would have squatted right down behind it and relieved my aching kidneys. Nothing short of trying to find a hiding space from a hacksaw-wielding serial killer could induce me through the doors of a port-a-potty.
I loved Russ Silbiger's quote in Wednesday's Daily Tidings story, "It's ugly. It's crap-ifying the downtown." I realized with that comment that he was representing at least a very small population of Ashland when he said that. I know that because it's exactly what I would want to say. Occasionally, a city councilman can lock in my future votes with just one quote, and "crap-ifying the downtown" really did it for me.
The decision to place a port-a-potty downtown, rather than keeping an already existing public restroom open all night, came down to price. Maybe there are those among the homeless population who could step up and take on the responsibility of cleaning the bathrooms and protecting them from vandalism. People are willing to work and take odd jobs, and I'm sure someone is willing to get paid less than the city's estimated $8,000 a year. After all, I write a weekly column for the paper for a lot less than that! Of course, you can't put a price on the crazy emails I now have the pleasure of receiving, that's just a bonus.
Maybe the port-a-potties wouldn't have to be blue. Maybe local artists could be commissioned to paint them. You could enter the "bathroom" by gently pulling on Shakespeare's "… uh "… hand, and then the toilet itself could be ornately decorated like a giant throne.
Or, instead of port-a-potties, and more authentically to the Shakespeare image we try to portray in Ashland, we could simply put out chamber pots. I've seen chamber pots being shown on Antique Roadshow, and some of them are really quite attractive.
There might begin to be a certain odor radiating from Ashland, but that too would only further lend an enhanced aura or authenticity to the Shakespeare Festival plays.
Forget the increased price of keeping a public restroom open all night, some things are worth it. And the crap-ification of the downtown is priceless.
Zoe Abel rarely goes downtown, but would probably drag herself out of bed to attend a port-a-potty ribbon-cutting ceremony. Or maybe they could crack a bottle of champagne over the door. You can contact Zoe at firstname.lastname@example.org.