WHAT A RELIEF. It took nearly two years—helped by a mess of design issues and hand wringing—but Portland's second "loo" finally opened for business last Wednesday, August 11.
And what a sight it was, gun-metal gray like a new MacBook Pro, branded with a red rose, and sporting a solar battery in back that's ready to handle years' worth of enormous dumps.
Moreover, when the first flush issued forth in an ersatz ceremony at SW Naito and Taylor, it marked the most momentous step yet on Portland's road to realizing a golden age of clean, easy public urination.
But while the air was jubilant, a few questions lingered amid the festivities, not unlike the aroma after a good asparagus piss: What took so goddamned long? And will we have to wait this long for the next one?
Randy Leonard, the commissioner most responsible for the vision of a shit-can on every corner, was on hand for the unveiling. And he understands that when it comes to bathrooms, no one likes a long wait. He suggested that two more loos could be open by the end of the year, with work under way to find homes for another handful next year.
One of the next two, planned for SW Ash and Naito, has hardly been controversial. But the other one, planned for Jamison Square in the Pearl District, has some neighbors in an uproar. Expect more of the same if 24-hour loos head for places like the Rose Quarter and Pioneer Courthouse Square.
The fear, at least for some, is that the toilets will attract drug addicts and other ne'er-do-wells in the wee(-wee?) hours. If they had their way, the toilets would go dark once everyone respectable was dead-bolted safely inside their snazzy lofts for the night.
One resident of Tanner Place Condominiums, Sandra Ammerman, flat out told the Mercury this summer that only people "up to no good" would ever be out late, presumably looking to paint every nearby surface golden yellow.
If anything, the city's first toilet, over on NW Glisan in Old Town, has helped ease pubic urination problems in a place Leonard called "Ground Zero" for the issue. Because, it turns out, even homeless Portlanders prefer to relieve themselves with a little privacy—and dignity—when given the chance.
Not that neighbors who want the toilets shut down after dark are listening. Leonard is. "It's an option not to have one," he said. "But it's not an option once we have one to have it locked."