You call this gentrification?

The chain stores crowding Manhattan make the city folks shutter. New York’s supposed to be unlike any other city in America. Yet lower Broadway is pretty much an open air mall oozing Sephora, Victoria’s Secret and H&M onto the pigeons and hot dog carts. Midtown, too.

But don’t worry, because if you look close enough inside those chain stores, you’ll see New York. You’ll smell it, too. Aside from the charming deli’s, vibrant street life and whatever else people like about this place, one undeniable characteristic of this city is inappropriate urination. Leaked by humans, animals, whomever, New York always smells like piss.

Which is why when I was in Kmart, and a woman peed in the dressing room I thought, “Fucking New York.” It’s not like I was blaming the city, but I don’t really come across that stuff in other towns.

Anyway, I like to go to Kmart sometimes because it reminds me of growing up in the suburbs. It’s comforting. So I’m waiting in line for the dressing room and listening to the conversation between a few young girls working there and an older cleaning man who they called in. Eventually the story emerges that a woman went into the dressing room, peed on the floor then ran out of the store before anyone could catch her. Oh, and she left her underwear behind in the puddle of pee, because, why not?

At this point I’m still waiting in line because the girls aren’t letting anyone in until the janitor is done. I guess I start making a face because one of the girls says to me, “You look surprised.”

First of all, it is totally acceptable to look surprised when you are standing in line at the Kmart listening to stories about customers peeing in the dressing room. I’m sorry that I’m not a jaded, minimum wage employee so used to scrubbing down the dressing room that this is just another day, another golden afternoon.

Secondly, if this type of incident is so common, maybe they should train employees on the proper way to handle it. These are some of the things the current employees were doing that I would suggest future employees not do: laugh so loudly when telling this story that you draw attention to yourself, pointing out other areas in the store where people have defecated, and (especially) saying it’s not that bad considering how often they find guys shitting in the men’s dressing room.

Up until this point, the main action was out of site. I could see the janitor go in and out of the offending dressing room, but I couldn’t see the mess he was cleaning up. Then he comes out gently holding a clear plastic bag containing the left behind underwear. (Another training tip: when something looks gross, don’t cover it in a see-through material.) There’s a quick banter between one of the girls and the janitor.

“You’re gonna drop it.”

“No, I’m not.”

“It’s gonna fall.”

“I’ve got it right here.”

Then right on cue, the soggy underwear falls out of the bag and in front of the line of waiting customers.

The people in line groan, the girls giggle and say “Eww” and the janitor says, “I thought I had it.” But we all still stay there. In a different universe maybe the janitor would have been working alone, efficiently blocking off the chaining rooms, emptying the stalls of customers and alerting the young staff when the clean up was done.

But this is New York. If we can handle the gentrification, we can handle this, too.

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