■ BY MARCY SHORTUSE
I’m I’m wrapping up my second season as the Boca Grande Chamber of Commerce president, and let me tell you something, it isn’t an easy volunteer position to have … unless ceaseless flagellation is your thing, and then you’d love it.
So let’s talk about bathrooms, because … why not? My days have been plagued with thoughts of quaint Port-o-lets and where to put them. My nightmares consist of one-ply paper rolls chasing me through the streets of Boca Grande, asking me the same questions, over and over.
“WHERE WILL WE PUT THEM?”
“WHY HAVEN’T YOU DONE ANYTHING?”
If you haven’t heard yet, there’s some scuttlebutt going around about public restrooms on the island … mainly about the fact there aren’t any. As it stands right now, we have the Boca Grande Community Center, we have some Port-o-potties at the State Park beach accesses, and we have some public restrooms down by the tennis courts on Wheeler Road. There are also bathrooms at the south end of the island, on State Park property. But if you don’t pay to park, you may be, well, S.O.L. Downtown, though, the majority of shopkeepers don’t have public facilities. The restaurants do, but you have to be a patron to use their bathrooms.
The public restrooms in the public safety building, where the sheriff’s office and fire department are located, had to be shut down for security reasons (yes, that’s a Lee County thing, not a Boca Grande thing).
According to one reliable source, we had approximately 490,000 unique visitors come to this island last season. That’s a lot of extra waste, even if many of them are here for only a few hours.
One of the chamber directors did some research into what it would take to build a bathroom facility downtown. He found it could be built for about $250,000 or less. He even spoke with island organizations and businesses whose representatives said they would help maintain the facilities, and who would open them in the mornings and lock them up at dusk.
It’s a great idea, until NIMBY pops up its head. But you do have to admit, of all the things to ask of property owners on Gasparilla Island, asking them to put public restrooms on their property is not the most well-received suggestion. You might as well ask for room to build a prison. And, as sure as many forms of matter roll downhill, guess who’s at the bottom of the hill?
Sometimes it’s the Chamber of Commerce, sometimes it’s the GICIA, and sometimes it’s both. We do let people use our restroom facility at the Chamber when they stop by, but our finances only allow us to be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each workday. Many people don’t even know where we are yet and many times during those hours our office administrator has to go out and visit businesses and run errands.
So I’m putting it out there to any of you who think you have a solution. If you have any ideas about how to solve this problem, I guarantee I will make you a hero, and we will have a day named in your honor.
On a lighter note, we’ve had an interesting social experiment going on here at the Beacon office. Our off-island salesperson, Caroline, brought us each a little container of bubbles with a wand. These bubbles are unreal in their abundance and texture; it’s just some really good bubble juice. You can get more than 20 little bubbles out of one good blow, and in the world I live in with five kids, good bubble juice is important. Sometimes the street is filled with bubbles when we really get going.
So here at the Beacon office we take turns going out on our balcony and blowing bubbles on the people down below. If the wind is right it’s quite a spectacle, with people looking all around to see where they are emanating from. On Tuesday we had two little girls standing below us for a good 15 minutes, running after and popping bubbles while their dad waited patiently.
Because we are a floor above everyone else, many people don’t even look up and realize we’re there. That makes it more fun. Would you believe, though, that when some people spotted the source they gave us dirty looks? I mean, they’re bubbles: They’re not made of ricin gas.
We’ve decided that the few who give dirty looks can just go pound sand. We’re going to do this as often as we can, especially when the streets are busy. It makes a lot of people smile, kids love it, and we like messing with people. So if you see bubbles floating around downtown, think of us.
Marcy Shortuse is also the editor of the Boca Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.