Jeff Ackerman: A town without pity is a town without a toilet
It doesn’t take much to get us small town folk worked up over things most big city folk take for granted. Take a public restroom, for example. Saturday morning I jumped out of bed and high-tailed it to Nevada City, where they were planning a big “to-do” over at the new public restroom on Union Street. City fathers and city mothers have been working hard to raise money and labor for the new, state-of-the-art public restrooms (I say state-of-the-art because it will feature bullet-proof toilets and electronic doors), raising maybe $9,000 or so of the maybe $20,000 or so it will cost before the first industrial toilet is flushed. If you haven’t been over there, it’s next-door to the new Robinson building, just a stone’s throw from the Nevada City Chamber office. There’s a cool new city plaza there and you should check it out, even if you don’t need to use the restroom.
I’ve been a big fan of restrooms since my 50th birthday. I can’t look at a water fountain without having to go potty, which makes it difficult to plan an excursion of more than 30 minutes or so. In fact, I recently sent a letter to the makers of Flomax, asking if they’d sponsor our next senior softball team. Laugh now, but let’s see how funny it is when you’re 50. And anyone who has ever been to a street fair in Nevada City knows how badly they needed a public restroom in that town. I paid $5 for a bag of candy once just so I could use the bathroom.
Anyway… I rolled up to the restroom raising party Saturday morning and they’d already had their celebration, which included speeches from local dignitaries (“If elected, I promise to build 100 restrooms!”), lots of cheers from others who are over 50 and also love restrooms, and some ceremonial hammering and sawing. Then most of the dignitaries went home because the new toilets weren’t working yet and they had to go. I grabbed a cup of coffee and walked around a bit, looking to make sure all the walls were lining up properly. When you’re in a public restroom, it’s important to know that everything is nice and square, just in case there’s a tornado. Nevada County District Attorney Cliff Newell walked out of the men’s room with a tool-belt wrapped around his waist. I could tell he knew how to handle a hammer because his leather was worn pretty well and he had some work boots on that actually looked like they’d seen some work. Cliff looked at my flip-flops and shook his head. “I’m just here to make sure the toilets are lined up correctly,” I told him. “I’d stick around, but I have to go home and build a house.”
Nevada City council candidate Reinette Senum was up on a ladder prepping the walls for paint. She used to be a professional painter and has more energy than 10 Energizer bunnies, which is why she’s been working to help our community become more energy efficient. I asked if she wanted me to hold the ladder and she looked down at my flip-flops and said it might be better if I stayed out of the way. I knew I should have worn my work boots, but nobody told me I’d actually have to… you know… work. I thought they just needed another pretty face.
Local builder Gary Tintle, whose wonderful craftsmanship has complimented that storybook town for many years, has been the real muscle and brains behind the restroom project. He was out there giving directions, asking if I’d go to his truck to fetch a nibbler. I didn’t want to disappoint him, so I put my coffee down and went to the truck to see if I could find anything resembling a nibbler. I brought him a tire iron and he looked at my flip-flops, shook his head and went to his truck. “Next time, ask me to get a hammer, or maybe even some pliers!” I shouted after him. “How was I supposed to know what a nibbler looks like?”
Dave Francis from Las Katarinas showed up with a box of sodas. “I thought you guys might be thirsty,” he said. He wasn’t speaking to me, of course. He’d also spotted my flip-flops and determined that I couldn’t be too thirsty.
The restrooms aren’t paid for yet. The Chamber, downtown business district and city have kicked in some money and they’ll need private donors to come up with the rest. But how many of you have ever had your name on a bathroom wall? Scratch that. How many of you have your name on a plaque on a bathroom wall? They say donors will be recognized in a very public way and I can tell you that I’ll also be sending a big “thank you” every time I use the place. In fact, the notion of having a bathroom stall named after me has a certain appeal: “The Jeff Ackerman Memorial Commode – Free Newspaper Inside.”
I do hope the young men and women who populate the park across the street from the new restroom will be gentle on it. There is nothing worse than a public restroom that has been vandalized by a bunch of young people who don’t yet respect the value of one. When they’re 50 and attending a street fair in Nevada City, I’ll bet they’ll wish they’d have taken better care of it.
Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union. His column appears on Tuesdays. Contact him at 477-4299, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley 95945.
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