In the need to relieve itself, all people are equal. In Berlin, however, when it comes to doing the same, some will be the same in the future. In a six-month pilot project, the Berlin Senate wants to make 50 City toilets from Wall available free of charge from the middle of the month, the other 228 should only be available to credit card holders, Girocard holders, ApplePay customers or users of the “Berliner toilet” App be accessible.
Coin operation is discontinued after City toilets were repeatedly broken into. The authorities were unable to keep up with the repairs – let alone the costs.
Since the plan was announced, the city has been politically at least as divided as it was recently after Raed Saleh’s fearful vision of calming traffic in the city center at the same time promoting its gentrification. Isn’t there a comparable conflict of goals when it comes to toilets? Doesn’t it also follow a clichéd left-right divide?
To put it concretely: in the future, won’t wealthy smartphone owners have a better chance of satisfying their urge to urinate than pensioners who are overwhelmed by an ordinary cell phone? And isn’t the homeless man, who is notorious for peeing wildly, finally risking a stay in prison if, as a repeat offender, he commits one offense after another while urinating and accumulates fine after fine?
The immediate consequences of the pilot test should be manageable. In addition to the 278 city toilets, there are 155 other public toilets in Berlin. Not including department stores, restaurants and cafés – even if these are primarily open to guests and require a fee from everyone else, which rightly corresponds to the so-called toilet penny for tenants of public places.
The fact that the euro key for disabled toilets, which 70 percent of disabled people can obtain for a contribution towards expenses of 25 euros, should also have a mitigating effect on the sliding door. And honestly, when it comes down to it, people plagued by bladder and peristalsis can’t almost always find a way through all layers?
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Concerns about a massive social imbalance, which subjects a human right to the robber baronship of the free market, is exaggerated, at least in our part of the world: an appropriate payment is something different than the greedy exploitation of a need. From a left-wing perspective, one may find it questionable that digital and credit card companies will also earn money in the future. And from a right-wing perspective, one may complain that with at least 50 free toilets, a utilitarian morality has prevailed, which has simply given way to petty criminal coin theft with a far-reaching opening.
Both of these miss the most interesting question: Will the credit card hurdle in the paid toilets improve hygienic standards? And, conversely, will the free toilets go to waste? “Please leave this toilet in the condition in which you wish to find it” is a popular appeal to the individual morale of the guest. In six months we will see how things stand.