Being able to get up and walk into a little room, dump bodily waste, wipe an orifice, and then walk back to friends or a date without any undue scrutiny or guilt is a blessing. In parts of Asia and the Middle East, you can simply walk over to the side of the road, whip it out, and piss away. In the Western world, a combination of modern sanitary practices and the shame of exposing private parts necessitates crappers. In that, it builds in the need to have these rooms everywhere and the need for them to be available.
So it is not a big deal to use the bathroom. Think about it. You have to go. Your body is burning in pain because physically, it is telling you to get rid of something that will slowly poison you. And I am not even talking about taking a shit, I am talking about pissing. There are additional gender and social conventions to scrutinize, but for this post I will focus on public urination to illustrate a point. As I walk out of a bar and make my way home, I will need a bathroom. The amount of beer I would have consumed will certainly make this so.
And there are houses to piss on. Some of the houses have contours in their facades that allow for a body to slip into a shadow, giving privacy to the pisser from eyes on the street. But is public urination wrong, you ask? It can’t be wrong, for we let animals practice in full view of the world, something humans in San Francisco are not socially granted the right to do. We let dogs piss everywhere, and it is somehow ok when a human pissing is not. Is it not wrong for dogs to expose themselves?
Now there are interesting juxtapositions to humans/dogs practicing public urination. And we must examine these angles to see that the argument is not cut and dry. San Franciscans are not granted the right to piss wherever they please. We cannot just piss in the street. While it is not completely illegal, you can still be punished in the City’s finest catch you enjoying a pee. California Penal Code 370 and 372 define public urination as a public nuisance, and California Penal Code 647 define it as disorderly conduct. You can be punished for both actions, albeit misdemeanor tickets. The embarrassment of being caught for this should persuade the public pisser to reserve themselves when peeing on buildings.
The lack of bathrooms in the City makes it difficult. Homeless people and junkies will camp out in park bathrooms given the chance. Anyone with years of city dwelling experience knows this. The Main Library in the Civic Center has problems with sink showering in it’s public restrooms. The coin operated restrooms on Market street simply fail to really work, and I think I have seen them function as de facto hotels/shooting galleries. Without a place for people to piss, the walls and gutters of our home become social, gender-neutral urinals, something this forward-thinking City should maybe boast about.
Dogs, on the other hand, have little in the way of piss problems. I have found it difficult to walk down the street in any neighborhood and not witness a dog enjoying their ‘walkies’ and spraying some plants along the way. I do find it humorous watching dog owners scoop up dog shit with bags wrapped around their hands. For some reason, these people seem like the types that complain about how MUNI is so filthy, but would come into VERY close contact with body temperature dog shit. That’s is beside the point though. Dog owners do not have to spray down areas where their dogs pissed. Some building owners put up signs to warn dog owners to curb their dogs, but there are no laws stating that animals will be ticketed for not following the posted signs. The dog owners don’t even blink when their dogs pee in a public area like a park where children might be playing (in dog piss). That’s a socially acceptable thing.
So if humans are pissing in dark cracks late night after watering hole adventures and dogs are spraying down the playground sand before Jimmy builds his castle, who is in the right? I don’t know what sounds like more of a public nuisance. Dogs should be held to the same standards as humans or humans should be able to piss in public like dogs, without worrying about being scrutinized. And if not, San Francisco should think about equalizing urination for everyone.