Am I alone in expecting a certain amount of cleanliness in public areas? Are people really insensitive to the needs of others, or is selfishness so ingrained in our nature that it no longer matters whether or not we leave a place clean as a matter of courtesy to others? Why is it that cleanliness can be a priority at home but disregarded in public?
From throwing things in the street, to leaving a mess on coffee tables, to littering after a picnic in the park or desert, the list is long. Perhaps the worst of these “criminalities” is the use of the infamous public toilet, whether in a mall, restaurant or cafe.
In the Kingdom, many of these places have an advantage over their counterparts abroad: Usually someone is hired to make sure they are clean after every use. Some places cannot provide someone to clean them so regularly, and will have them cleaned every few hours.
Yet sometimes, through no fault of the cleaner, the state of some of these bathrooms is despicable. Needing to use this facility at a high-end cafe last week, I opened the door to a sight I would rather not describe. Moving to the other cubicle, I found the situation not much better. So what does one do? A two-cubicle bathroom, both dirty, both unusable and no cleaner in sight. Do you clean what you can to make it usable, or wait until you go home? My heart goes out to all those cleaners who have to deal with people’s inconsiderate behavior on a daily basis.
Flushing the toilet is the very least one can do. Where is the difficulty in that? And why all that water on the floor, on the seat and the cover? What about the toilet paper that seems to be more on the tiles than in the trash can? This scene is repeated over and over again. It appears in schools, universities, restaurants, malls, office buildings — any place in which people gather.
What is wrong with being clean and considerate so that the next person — who has as much right to use a functional and unsoiled facility — can go about their business without wanting to retch? And let us not even start on hygiene, bacteria and all kinds of nasty germs.
Are the bathrooms in their homes in a similar state, or is it because they do not belong to them that they can be misused? It can really reflect badly on a society. I can see why some places abroad charge for the use of the toilet.
I apologize for today’s subject and for the generalizations, but it is basic decency, respect and consideration to want for others what you would want for yourself. Keeping the bathroom clean truly is not all that difficult.
• Hoda Al-Helaissi has been a member of the Shoura Council since 2013. She is also a member of the council’s Foreign Affairs Committee.