Big-Hearted Mermaid Bathrooms

Yesterday I came out of the bathroom and there’s one of my street-buddies, standing in the middle of the coffee shop.

He was using a Bic lighter and cooking the skin of his arm.

He explained to me that he was trying to “get the bugs out.” I urged him to do this outside instead of in front of a bunch of wide-eyed “indoor people.” Most people are less familiar with meth-headed logic than I am. Arm-cooking makes them uncomfortable. I did manage to coax him outside for a moment on my way to get newspapers to sell, but only a moment.

This morning, a sweet barista let me know that, yes, it took police to physically remove him from the store yesterday. That sucks.

This is a city that thinks it has a “homeless problem.” It doesn’t.

It has a “meth problem” and a “mental illness problem” and weird economic dynamics that lead to visible symptoms like tents and a “man cooking his arm in the coffee shop.”

I can most certainly see why people think “homelessness” is a problem. It’s the external part. The obvious outer symptom of deep inner malady.

It’s like the time I tried putting on my pants and my belt wouldn’t fasten. I thought that what I needed was a new belt.

But it turned out that I was just really fat.

We would all like symptoms to go away immediately.

I’ve got to give big thanks to one of our most iconic corporations for helping human beings during the time it takes to heal and grow. It costs the company money and they don’t get to brag about it directly.

In America we’re told corporations are “people.” I’ve met human beings who are murderers and thieves. But none of them have poisoned thousands of babies to make a profit, like some corporations I can think of.

If I’m going to pay attention to the bad stuff, I will also pay attention when a company does good things.

Starbucks is helping people.

Starbucks cannot brag about this good thing they do. They let individuals like me use a bathroom.

It’s not the type of “virtue” that can be practiced and also “virtue signaled.”

It’s a massively helpful act that is invisible to the general public. It also costs them money.

If Mr. Starbuck wanted to change this policy, he could do so in an instant and put lots of money back in his pocket.

I’ve spent enough time working in corporate environments to know when employees have been ordered to do something. It is clear to me after observing the behavior of employees in multiple locations over the last five months, that a directive came down from the top:

Homeless people buy nothing and they make a mess.

Treat them exactly as you treat customers, anyway.

Let them warm up inside, let them use the bathroom – and most importantly – WELCOME them to do so.

I see employees do this every day.

This is a big, big deal to thousands of people.

(At the moment I typed this sentence into my laptop, the guy who panhandles out front stepped inside the Starbucks I’m sitting in. The employees behind the counter yelled out his first name with a hearty “Good morning!”)

This helps outdoor-people in a big way.

It also helps the city. When human beings can use the bathrooms inside buildings, the streets smell better. In a city where almost NO OTHER BUSINESS provides a bathroom, the Starbucks on every corner is literally the only place to go indoors.

I’m writing this because yesterday I saw how hard a company’s policy of “welcoming everyone” can be on employees and profit margin.

When you let the guy who is dragging a garbage bag around carry it into the bathroom, you’re going to find a boot sticking out of the toilet.

For a business, that boot costs you money two ways:

One – The Half-Caff-Soy-Macchiato sees that boot and hops back in his Tesla, never to return. You lose precisely the customers you’d want to keep – ones with no problem paying $20 for coffee and muffins.

Two – Byy cheerfully handing out the bathroom codes to everyone, Starbucks essentially needs to have a full-time janitor on staff.

That makes things hard on the employees. (They have explained to me that they take turns with the newfound janitor position.)

I want to call out this large and successful company for also being benevolent. “Big company” and “helping people” don’t often go together, and as a corporation Starbucks doesn’t need to be good to anyone. It’s costing them money, and they could easily print an hourly bathroom code on receipts instead of welcoming everyone.

The pic is from the first location at Pike’s Place Market, before she put on a bikini.

Thanks, you topless mermaid you.


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