Monday, August 1, 2011

Damn, damn, damned BUREAUCRACY!

I'm going to call this "the bureaucracy of the pisspot":  in which ordinary citizens are deprived of the right to pee by the idiocy of some unholy ordinance that says city employees don't have to get out of bed on a holiday Monday.

It went like this. Today happened to be the first real day of summer we've had: more lovely and more temperate, as the poets say, than anything I've seen in many a month. It was the August long weekend, the Monday, the sweet spot, the lobster tail, the - oh, you get it, the best goddamn day in the whole summer!
So my husband and I were getting together with my son and his wife and their two flaxen-haired daughters, Erica (6) and Lauren (4). We were headed to one of our favorite places, a spray park with a playground and a pool. Nanny was looking forward to running through a solid wall of water that comes from every direction and has the same effect as shock treatment, except on your body.

And all was great as we were unpacking our picnic, and the girls were peeling their clothes off to reveal the little pink matching Hello Kitty swimsuits underneath. They were just getting nicely wet, when we noticed something kind of funny. There were hardly any people in the park.

It was odd.  A gorgeous day. A holiday Monday. A spray park, slides, swings, teeter-totters, the works. But as it turned out, one vital element was missing.

"Nanny, I have to pee." So I dutifully took Lauren's hand and took her to the washroom, grabbed the door handle and:

How do I describe the desolate, unyielding, hopeless feeling of a locked door? And just after that, the sinking realization that we wouldn't be staying at Sun Valley Spray Park for very long.

The children were not allowed to pee. Then I noticed the change rooms were locked, too. And the pool. The web site said the park was "open every day from the end of June 'til Labour Day, seven days a week". Was this the eighth day or something, or did Port Coquitlam Town Council in their infinite wisdom decide that parks should close up facilities tight on a holiday in case anyone is thinking of having a good time?

In any case, we scrambled around to try to make this work. The girls still had a shot at some fun in the spray park, though they couldn't get away with that surreptitious pee-in-the-pool trick. But we also watched a very sad parade of Moms and little kids going around the corner, having the same dreadful experience as we did, then coming around again looking - what? Anxious, angry, or worse?

Little kids (or grandmas and grandpas, for that matter) can't go very long without stopping for a pee, or something else. Boys have it a bit easier (unless it's #2 - sorry if I'm being too graphic, but human beings do have bodies, don't they?), but they still have to expose very tender parts of themselves, and girls just have an awful time of it, pee going everywhere unless they're stripped bare. And a little girl nude in a public park is just not a good idea.

But some fucking bureaucracy decided it was too much work to have someone drive over to the park with a key and save the day for dozens of Moms and Dads and their kids. People were leaving, and I knew why. Kids were wailing, either from having to hold it in too long or to cut their fun short after so much anticipation. There were groups of women standing around talking, not looking happy, and others on cell phones, basically trying to come up with a Plan B to salvage a ruined day. Their children's glorious time at the spray park had been destroyed by a locked door.

But hey, we don't need to pee, do we? How silly! And embarrassing. Or even funny, the subject of coy jokes (pee at the spray park, hee-hee-hee-hee-hee!) So why make such a big deal out of it? (This is people with no kids.) But then there's the little matter of the change rooms, also locked, so kids had to change out of their wet clothes in front of everyone, and even the wading pool which was padlocked. On a holiday Monday! On the finest day of the year.

Silly me: I thought holidays equalled recreation and frolic and good times, as the sappy Port Coquitlam web site claimed (while lying about the hours of operation, or at least not warning us that we had to keep our legs crossed all day on August 1). We made the best of it, we stayed as long as was practical, we made some effort to shield the girls while they tried to go in the bushes, but it wasn't comfortable, wasn't comfortable at all. No one wants to squat in the dirt with some adult standing like a sentry.

We went back to our place and had a lot more fun running around with sticks in the back yard, though admittedly it wasn't as wet. But this experience left a bad taste in my mouth. It was just so - I can't quite find the right words for what it was.

Stupid. Insensitive. Impractical. Unrealistic. Petty. Mean. Oblivious (to the needs of parents and kids). Hypocritical (in view of the glowing, self-congratulatory web site). And just - some sort of power thing, you know? Here I have the power to keep you locked out, to steal your good time, even as I tell you how great this facility is. There should've been a big sign on the bathroom door saying KEEP OUT, or, more appropriately, GO AWAY!