Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Private Acts in Public Places
Checking out DCBlogs.com recently, I read a rant from someone who witnessed an intoxicated man bathing in a trash can of water in an alley. She found it disgusting and thought the bather should have found a more private spot. Well yeah, but. . . Have the decency to look away when you spot someone who doesn't have the luxury of a bathroom, much less a home. Then make a donation to a human services charity. Think how fortunate you are to be able to take a hot or cold shower whenever you wish and in private. Others are not so lucky. Allow me to illustrate. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) headquarters is at the corner of 18th and N Streets, NW. In the front courtyard is a funky fountain that I believe is part of the building's cooling system. During the 70s I walked by there daily on my way to work on N Street. Frequently a man would be bathing and washing his clothing on the rough surface of the fountain. People stopped and stared but he seemed oblivious to his audience. As I kept walking, I realized that he was psychologically impaired as well as homeless. He DID, however care about his appearance and used what was available. I also suspected that he might have been one of hundreds of patients released from St. Elizabeth's Hospital during that period of heightened awareness of civil liberties. The ACLU had a huge role in psychiatric hospitals freeing their occupants to live as they wished. Many former patients failed horribly. Without their meds and a supportive, controlled environment, they could not function well enough to be responsible for themselves. Many ended up on the streets, psychotic and miserable. Shelters were opened, but avoided because they didn't feel safe there. Vietnam vets soon started pouring into D.C. to seek recourse from the government. Unfortunately, it's not simply a matter of showing up. Complicated paperwork and delays may have contributed further damages to their already fragile psyches. Many of them also ended up on the streets. To that young blogger: try to make allowances for those less fortunate than yourself. Bathing and urinating in public are unpleasant to witness but, apparently, essential for those who do it. Perhaps if we had more public toilets they, cabbies and bus drivers and many others would not have to relieve themselves against walls or behind bushes. Everyone could be spared the public display of bodily functions.