Open Letter to the Janitor who Called Security

Men's Room

Dear Janitorial Service Provider:

I am sorry to have brought you conflict on an early Sunday morning. I am also sorry to have disturbed you during what is probably a pleasant working period, being all by yourself inside a large mall at 7:30 AM. I can understand how (if my assumption is correct) you may have been a bit peeved that a strange man dressed in running gear appeared in the bathroom you were cleaning. I can also understand that you may have felt threatened when I ignored your demand1 that I use the bathroom that was down two flights of stairs and around three corners and hidden somewhere in the parking garage2. The fact that you called security because I walked across to the women’s bathroom and used one of the toilets there is, of course, your prerogative as an employee of the mall.

I would like to bring to your attention the concept of the False Dilemma, or False Dichotomy. This concept entails the presupposition that there were only two options available: one, that you grant my politely-worded request3 to use the bathroom despite your current cleaning activities; and two, that I go find the other bathroom in a large and confusing building. The False Dilemma supposes that there were no other options. For example: me using the women’s rest room, or, much more likely and apropos to this letter, that I would try to find the other bathroom you sent me to, but not make it before experiencing what is colloquially referred to as a “gastric event.”

You see, I respect the fact that the sign said the bathroom was closed. However, my condition was such that I had no time left to find a suitable establishment to relieve myself. I was in a state that demanded immediate attention or else there would be a mess to clean up. I like to think that I did you a favor by not attempting to follow your directive and instead violated your order and societal norms to use the women’s rest room. The fact I did so meant that neither you nor I would have to deal with the unfortunate likelihood4 of a diarhettic episode in the middle of your mall. I’m sure you didn’t want to clean up my waste, and I also didn’t want to deal with the aftermath of such an event.

That is why I cheerfully nodded to you—after requesting several times and explaining why I wanted to use your bathroom—and proceeded to choose the option I did. You left me with no good options, so I chose what I saw as the least worst.

Next time you are presented with a situation such as this, with someone politely begging you to use the restroom, I urge you to remember and perhaps take pity on that person. Then, there will be no need for a security guard to escort me out of the building.

To the security guard who escorted me from the building: I appreciated your calm and businesslike manner, however after explaining to me why it was unacceptable for me to use the women’s restroom and also to ignore the staff person’s directive, and my acknowledgement that I perfectly understood, it’s rather insulting to tell me twice that “No, I don’t think you do.” For reasons and reference, I point you to the paragraph earlier in this essay regarding the False Dilemma.

Yours very sincerely,
Bill Ruhsam

  1. I choose the word “demand” very carefully. It was not a request. []
  2. At least, that was my perception of your directions for finding this bathroom []
  3. I later begged, if you remember. []
  4. Yes, I thought it was likely that I would not make it to the bathroom downstairs in time []
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