Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Kiwi Businesswoman Blasts Toilet Man

A trip to a toilet in Apia has upset one New Zealand-based Samoan businesswoman so much; she wants to tell the world about it.

An angry Misa Emma Kesha said she would never forget the day she had an argument with ‘a toilet man.’
“I don’t want people to think that I’m a stirrer but complaints are good because they can help prompt improvement in services,” she told the Samoa Observer.

“I was in town looking around and buying postcards for friends in New Zealand,” she explained. “I always enjoy telling them about my visit home.”

However, she said she felt the urge to go.
“I forgot about the bathrooms at McDonald’s family restaurant, which I could’ve used because they’re much cooler and hassle-free,” she said.

So she ended up at the public toilets behind the Nelson Memorial Library.

“I went in to the toilet and the man in charge who was standing at the door demanded that I give him my handbag,” she explained.

“My handbag contained my passport, bank and visa cards, license and a lot of money.
“He was growling and continued to demand my handbag. I said to him if he was crazy, or if he had a brain.”

But the man insisted.

“I couldn’t believe,” she said. “The way he demanded the bag from me was rude. So I told him, I don’t know you from a bar of soap so I don’t trust you.”

But Misa said the man’s retort shocked her.
“He said to me, you are lucky to have a toilet to use,” she recalled.

As a matai, she said the man was disrespectful and downright arrogant.

“He told me it was a policy that all handbags or bags of any kind, are kept outside. But why?
“No one has the right to tell me what to do with my handbag. I have never been treated like this in any country, only in Samoa.”

Misa said she has travelled extensively to countries like India, Singapore and New Caledonia, and has never come across such treatment.

“Is this how tourists are treated?” she asked.
“Is this the kind of attitude our people here show to returning Samoans?

“I think of myself as a tourist and as a Samoan visiting my home but if this is how Samoa is being promoted to the tourism industry, then I don’t know.

“My Tongan friend who was here for the South Pacific Games, when she returned home said “Misa your country is beautiful.”

“But this kind of attitude is ruining it.”
Misa said if the man had asked nicely, she would have understood.

“But was growling and he continued demanding that I give him my bag,” she said.

“There was nothing in that toilet to steal and they even give you sheets of toilet paper so I don’t understand the way I was treated.”

Asked for a comment, one of the caretakers, Lauatea Masefou said the policy has been in place for years to minimise damage to the facility. Ms Masefou and her husband are employed to look after the facility.

“The policy stops people from damaging the facility,” said Ms Masefou.
”In the past, when me and my husband first became caretakers of the place, we had a lot of problems in restoring the facilities to a clean condition.

“The bathroom has 12 cubicles but when we came in, only four were usable because people had damaged the facility using in appropriate materials and flushing it down the toilet.

“The walls were badly damaged and there were swear words and inappropriate drawings all over the walls.

“We are always careful about who we allow in the bathroom with their bag and we don’t.

“There have been people who refuse to leave their bags outside, so they are allowed inside with them.”

In Misa’s case, she forcefully took her bag inside, she said.

It’s unfortunate for the poor toilet man behind the Nelson Library to get such bad publicity. I say unfortunate because I have always admired both him and his wife and the work that they do. This has got to be the cleanest public toilet I know in Apia. Maybe not by New Zealand standards, but certainly by our local standards.

I read this article with mixed emotions. On the one hand I understand where Ms Kesha is coming from and on the other, I totally know where my toilet man is coming from. I too would not have let go of my handbag (in the rare event that I had money in it!) but if my job was to mind 8 broken toilets and 4 that are functional, I would not give ANYONE the slightest chance to ruin the very few toilets that work.

In saying this, a small but humble advice to Ms Kesha. No, we don’t usually treat tourists like that - with rudeness and what not. Being Samoan you would know that we are friendly people. My toilet man is only human and must have had a bad day. Minding toilets in Samoa where cleaning products are expensive and plumbers are hard to come by, please give him a break. Visit another public toilet and then you will understand where I am coming from. Mr. Toilet Man behind the Nelson Library is doing a wonderful job. He even lives there because he wants to give our public clean toilets. How is that for commitment?

To my toilet man behind the Nelson Library - malo lava le tauatai. E le faigofie lau galuega. You are appreciated and you can take my handbag any day even if you were a bar of soap and I will not be worried because I know where you live!

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