Over the past three weeks we’ve twice taken Mister B to a local animal hospital, once to be admitted for treatment, once for a follow-on checkup. We didn’t get to go inside: the hospital, at least for the duration of the pandemic, has a curbside drop-off and pick-up policy.
The way it works is you call when you get there and they send someone out to take in or return your sick pet, or to bring out prescription medicines. When you drop a pet off, you wait out front for them to call back after they’ve done an intake exam, prepared a cost estimate, and take a deposit via credit card.
The waiting adds up. We’ve spent at least four hours sitting in the car in the hospital’s parking lot, which during the pandemic does double duty as the waiting area. We couldn’t help noticing what a busy place it is: a constant stream of cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks arriving and departing, each with worried pet owners and often entire families inside, dropping off sick and injured animals, picking up discharged pets, waiting for meds. I suspect all such facilities are as busy as ours; people love their pets and nowhere is it more obvious than vet clinics and animal hospitals.
During those hours of waiting, intermittently starting the engine to run the air conditioner in triple-digit temperatures, I noticed an interesting detail: the vet techs were letting themselves back in with keys they wore around their necks. I already mentioned that pet owners couldn’t go inside; neither could delivery drivers or mailmen … the doors were locked and anyone who was not an employee had to call for someone to meet them out front.
What, I began to wonder, is a person to do if he or she has to pee while waiting? As we pulled up to the animal hospital to drop Mister B off for his follow-on check a few days ago, a middle aged-woman was helping an elderly man get back in a car parked at the curb. My first thought was that they’d called with an urgent request to use the restroom and been let in. I don’t know, but that’s what it looked like. The hospital must get dozens of such calls every day from waiting pet owners. Do they normally say no? Do they let some in and not others? Would they let me in if I called and said I had to go? What do people do if the need is great?
Since we began sheltering in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, I’ve operated on the assumption most public restrooms will be locked up and unavailable. When I know I’m going out I plan ahead, not drinking a lot of coffee, making a last-minute pit stop before getting in the car, not going very far from home if I can help it, and so on.
In March, when statewide stay-at-home orders had just gone into effect, I broke my own rule and went for a long motorcycle ride to Lake Roosevelt near Phoenix. The visitor center at the lake was open, but only a few people at a time could go inside to use the restrooms. The line out front was a long one. When I stopped at a different place for gas on the way home, the restroom was locked with an “out of order” placard on the door. I don’t know for certain, but my guess is public restrooms in parks and maybe even freeway rest areas are also locked up for the duration.
Anxiety over being able to find restrooms … and reluctance to use one if we do find one open during the pandemic … is probably keeping as many of us home as fear of contracting the coronavirus.
As a teetotaler, one thing I don’t have to worry about is finding a place to pee when I’m out drinking; I imagine public urination is getting to be a huge problem now that so many have decided to blow off staying home and taking precautions. It’s got to be especially hard for women who go out partying and clubbing, but even for men, there are a lot of places where if they catch you pissing in an alley you can wind up branded for life as a sex offender.
Well, hey, at least these 4th of July partiers at Lake of the Ozarks found a handy public pot to pee in!
Being the hermit I am, I don’t know how people outside Missouri are adapting. I bet they are, though, and in interesting ways, and that a new generation of public health and sociology PhDs are already writing dissertations on it.
© 2020, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.