From the ubiquitous “Do not make nuisance here” to the rare but equally strident “Passing urine strictly prohibited”, the unintended humour in messages dissuading Bangaloreans from relieving their bladders in public is enough to tickle them into wanting to go then and there.
These messages assume that the offenders are literate and erudite enough to see the point. Visual signs forbidding us from smoking, littering or spitting are common in public spaces but I am yet to encounter one that prohibits us from urinating where we shouldn’t. Without a standard mnemonic to guide him (let’s dispense with the gender-neutral language, shall we?), the offender might be baffled when presented with creatively worded variants, especially in an emergency.
I’m curious about how a wall becomes a magnet for micturition. Back when Sulabh complexes and Nirmala Bengaluru toilets were figments of fantasy, public toilets were fortresses of glazed tiles guarded by cows and dogs and hidden behind foothills of garbage and other fragrant surprises. Forget about pay-and-use, most people wouldn’t accept payment to use them. They preferred to commit the deed at a safe distance. In time, the toilet’s circle of influence extended a good fifty feet from the inner sanctum. These communal relief zones also performed another important function – olfactory landmarking.
Before multiplexes stole their thunder, cinema halls had a peculiar way of attracting movie-goers. To catch a movie in an unfamiliar part of town, you just had to let your nose be your GPS. A total newbie to St John’s Road could locate Naga Theatre by the aromatic aura of its environs. Continued patronage over time made the whiff stronger and a connoisseur could easily tell where Annavaru’s latest had completed 100 house-full days.
Clever advertisers have long been clued into this fact and the Bangalorean who has been there and done that knows that he has often been an unwitting captive audience for unsolicited solutions to intensely personal medical problems. The unpretentious advertisements posted on the walls have white lettering on dark backgrounds for easy visibility in poor light, a godsend for second-show addicts.
Some years ago the BBMP deputed special squads to catch civic offenders in the act of littering, dumping garbage and urinating in public places. Noble intent, indeed, but one that sidelines the travails of women, who are assured of neither privacy nor safety as they attend to their needs. There are no clean toilets within miles of a public place, so catching offenders in the act can prove embarrassing for the authorities. That said, how many people care to pay for the privilege of exercising an inevitable bodily function?
Talk is afoot about using hidden cameras to trap the culprits, but we must remember the plight of that poor shop-owner in Alaska. Sick of enduring patrons of the bar next door easing themselves on his shutters after happy hours, he set up a camera and posted the footage on YouTube in the hope that public exposure would shame the culprits. Sadly, his plan backfired when people started doing it for the publicity.
A slippery problem, indeed!
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