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Op-Ed: Hey Los Angeles: More public restrooms, please!

By Stephen Cooper

I have to pee.

But I can hold it; thank you, God! I can hold it until I get there, and everything will be fine.

It’s not like I urgently need to urinate at this very moment; in fact, it was only while exiting the freeway, navigating a rather large intestine-shaped loop, that I sensed I needed a restroom — and soon.

But, there’s no need to worry, much less panic, because I’m parking now and because — in a major city in the United States of America — I’ll undoubtedly, quickly, and easily, find a place to pee.

Moreover, while I abhor the societal implications, I am nevertheless conscious that with my white privilege and black Brooks Brothers suit, it shouldn’t be hard to find a public bathroom I can use; it’s not likely to be as arduous, humiliating, and unfair as it is for many Americans not constantly benefitting from their whiteness, and, inextricably related,
financial wherewithal.

Now that I’ve parked and am barreling up the boulevard like an engorged bull, am I bothered I’ve never been to this part of town before? That bustling by slick office fronts, restaurants (closed at this hour), massive parking structures, and leering skyscrapers (their sleek, dark glass windows glinting gleefully — it seems — at my growing discomfort), that there doesn’t seem to be anywhere, not anywhere at all, in this corner of the metropolis, for a desperate, yet well meaning civilized man, a man like me, to pee?

No, I’m not bothered, I’m not bothered at all. But I am starting to get hot what with all this squirming and squinting, and visually scouring the scene. But I’m not “bothered.” I can still find a men’s room; there’s still time.

I’m not even angry, really — perhaps piqued — by the three signs I’ve already seen, out of the corner of my eye, proclaiming in what strikes me to be an unnecessarily cruel capitalization: “NO PUBLIC RESTROOM.”

Yes I know there’s an old Seinfeld episode about this very type of situation occurring in a mall parking lot. But I’m not a comedian named Jerry acting in a sitcom on TV; this is real, unscripted, unfunny life, and, real pee!

But again, this is the land of the brave and the home of the free, a place where any man, woman, and child can pee — or otherwise relieve themselves. One thing I’ve learned growing up in America, within every single city block there’s a coffee shop, a fast food joint, or at least a gas station that will fulfill this most basic, human expectation (and need). Once I turn the corner, certainly, I’ll see somewhere I can go.

I won’t succumb to self-defeating thoughts: Like what are the chances I’ll be arrested if I just duck into the reed-like shade of that palm tree, pull my pants down (just enough), and pee? I won’t think about the fact that I could be put on a sex offender registry if I did; not because that prospect isn’t terrifying, but because I really can’t think about anything but the nagging, incessant pressure building in my nether regions — wanting, needing, demanding to be unleashed.

And so maybe I am now concerned my bladder feels like an over-inflated bulbous ballon — getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger — one that will, if not soon deflated, inevitably, biologically, and organically, burst.

If only people in positions of authority in Los Angeles cared, too, we could be two peas in a pod about this.

Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015. He has contributed to numerous magazines and newspapers in the United States and overseas. He writes full-time and lives in Woodland Hills, California. Follow him on Twitter @SteveCooperEsq