by a Blog Reader
The next time someone says that we need better quality tourists, point out that first we need hygienic public toilets. Do we realize how filthy we look in the eyes of tourists when they can’t even find a soap or toilet paper in a public toilet? We have third world habits. We are also a frightened citizenry in the mind of our political representatives. We are submissive beyond belief.
We don’t protest about the lack of hygiene in public toilets because we all need a favour (i.e., “pjaċir”) from the government at some point or another. In our minds, we can only ask the system for just one or two favours. It’s as if we have a limited number of points at our disposal and every time we ask for a favour, such as a clean public toilet, points are deducted. We hold on to our precious points for the day when we need a big favour instead, such as a public phantom job. Or when we beg for a sick family member to be approved for government funding for an operation in London. This is one reason why we preserve our points, lower our heads, and suffer in silence as the aggravations mount around us.
We also don’t protest because we know that public employees who man our toilets can rarely be found at work. They are the “kings.” They come in, set up the facilities, and disappear. This is why the public restroom in Comino made news about being closed for most of the day even though it was supposed to have over half a dozen attendants. Actually, the more attendants, the less an attendant’s responsibility for keeping it functioning. We reason that there is no way we can change the unofficial working hours of these employees. Labour need their votes. We dare not upset Labour or our points could be swiped away.
As the John Paul Sophia case showed, even if you’re Labour, you need to turn the heat on for the long haul for action to be taken. “A Dear Minister, please keep the toilet stacked with essential supplies” letter won’t cut it. Like Isabelle Bonnici, you have to keep the pressure on and press repeatedly for the cause. This is dangerous and could send you to the morgue instead of London. Mrs. Bonnici, allegedly a Labourite, expended all her remaining points. If the opposition and the NGO’s didn’t pick up her case, she would have stood no chance. Nobody will pick up your toilet case since you’ll come across as a spoilt brat disrespectful of the culture.
To the Labour trolls that ask for a solution instead of “Maltese gerger,” here are some things that could be changed without stepping on anyone’s toes. First, soap should be dispensed as a liquid from a large soap dispenser built inside the wall. This makes it impractical for vandals to steal the soap. A large dispenser will buy more time before the soap liquid disappears. Second, electrical hand dryers should replace hand towels. Electrical hand dryers always work, attendant or no attendant. And they are much less likely to be stolen. Third, we need large toilet paper dispensers encased in metal. Commercial toilet roll holders are cheap to buy and quick to install in cases of vandalism.
Nonetheless, the idea of free toilets is unworkable in modern Malta. Instead, we should introduce a token payment system as an incentive for toilet attendants to stay put. Instead of getting a fixed wage, attendants will get a fixed wage plus commission. It will give them an incentive to collect the fees at the door. The same public who is ready to go the distance to swirl a plastic bottle for a 10-cent refund will be willing to part with 10 cents to relieve itself at a public toilet. Commission payments motivate employees.
Sadly, toilets inside many restaurants and bars are no better. Common sense is in short supply. We embrace a problematic culture even when we don’t need to expend any points in bringing the dire situation to the bar owner’s attention. Perhaps the government and the people are one. The tourists figure this one out right away.