Pay for a pee

The Christmas-New Year holiday has just passed and we are all back from the road trip down to the coast or back home for the holidays.

Whether it was six hours to Durban, 14 hours to Cape Town or five hours to Polokwane, whether you rode on a crammed bus or taxi, or in a luxury SUV, there is one thing that unites all long-distance road travellers and that is the need to visit the restroom.The need strikes at random intervals and if you’re travelling with children it strikes about 10 minutes after you’ve left home.

On the national highways, the bathrooms are usually open to the public, built to service busloads of people and are kept spotless. What is almost never questioned is the right to use the bathroom at a garage, we just assume that we can get in there and do our business.

Last holiday, I was in a small town and I stopped at a garage to use the bathroom only to find a coin operated gate at the entrance. I’m not sure this is fair, these bathrooms are there for people who use the filling station, who eat at the franchise, who buy food and drink at the shop, and are now expected to pay to use the bathroom on top of it all.

Can you imagine if a big station on the national routes charged for the use of the toilet? The buses would go straight past to the next one.

What exactly is expected by these petrol stations and even some smaller shopping centres that also charge for the use of their toilets? Is it expected that a person who does not have the spare R2 should go round the corner or squat in the veld.

To this day it remains an offence in terms of the Johannesburg bylaws: No person may urinate on or in view of any public road.

It’s a no-win situation, the city council does not provide public restrooms and expects people to find private restrooms to use, but the owner of a garage or shopping centre has the right to turn people away from their privately owned restrooms and risk being arrested for performing normal body functions in the street.

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