Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A rare experience with racism

Let me begin by saying that my New Year's Resolution was to drink more water. For my health, for my skin and to curb my appetite. Downside, peeing in the middle of the night (Do you know how cold hardwood floors are at 3:22am? You don't want to) and peeing every hour during the day. Upside, you get to know every toilet between your place and everywhere you need to be.

Okay. Back to the racism. Let me just make it clear that the racism was a good thing in my case. Allow me explain.  For all intents and purposes, I was trapped on public transit on my way to work. I was trying my hardest to concentrate on other things but my bladder just wasn't having it. I was literally bursting. I knew for sure there was a bathroom at a mall on the way but it was about 10 minutes away and my bladder had about 25 seconds before critical mass. Luckily I was at the Lincoln Fields transitway station, a pretty big transfer stop where I knew that there was a little store and a place to take photos for passes. Employees + 8 hour shifts = Bathrooms. Union rules. I sprint off the bus knowing is relief close at hand. I think I pushed a man with a cane, but I can't be sure.

I went to a ticket window and through the little hole, asked the woman where the bathroom was. Let me state here that she was Black.

Ticket Woman: There is none.
Me: There is none? Are you serious?
TW: Sorry, Ma'am.
Me (Not even caring that I got called "ma'am" and torn between the indignities of begging, arriving at work with pee down my leg and urinating in the nearby bushes at rush hour. The begging wins out): Please! I'm dying here! I'm sorry but I notice that there are at least 5 people that work here. You can't tell me that you don't have a toilet in here. I'm not going to poo and stink it up (see what I mean about dignity?) but I'm desperate. PLEASE.
TW (she looks me up and down and stands up, picking up some keys and looking furtively both ways): My manager better not see me but you're a sister. Come on.
Me: Oh my God, thankyou!

She locked her booth, walked across the hall to a small grey door and unlocked a tiny windowless toilet that was so small my purse and I barely fit inside. I peed like a happy racehorse, not even caring that in my hurry to take off my pants I'd thrown my hat and purse on top of the plunger in the corner.

It wasn't until I got back on the bus that I'd realized that I'd been the victim of racism. She'd only told me about the toilet because I was "a sister". If I was white would I have been forced to pee outside in front of hundreds of rush hour commuters? To be honest, I didn't really care. I got to "go" and I learned a valuable lesson. Never have nearly 2L of water before you get on any form of transit.


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