The doors on the stalls in the 1st floor bathrooms of the Main library are oddly short so that you are exposed up to the collarbones when standing up. They do this to keep people from doing what they want to do. There are a lot of things that serve this purpose in life (stop-lights, walls, cops generally, and moms specifically). There are also a lot of things that serve this purpose in the public library in San Francisco, as it seems to be a popular place to chill for homeless people, which of course makes sense since they really have no other place to go during the day that is free, warm, and has internet access not to mention the books. But it does necessitate signs all over the bathroom that say things like, “Showering and other inappropriate uses of the bathroom are forbidden.” I’m not sure how one would “shower” as there are no showers and only those short fauceted sinks that take like 3 hands to operate. They also utilize the hard wooden chairs to keep people from sleeping, although this doesn’t work.
I’ve started to think that these things meant to keep people from doing what they want to do are hidden in plain sight all over the city. For example I was going down the stairs to the subway and was thinking to myself why do the stairs have these silvery metal horizontal bars all over them that practically send you into seizures when the sun is shining on them. They probably serve as a grate to absorb rain water, but then I started thinking that maybe they were designed to be uncomfortable to look at so people wouldn’t even consider sitting on those stairs. Sitting downtown is a problem since there are NO BENCHES, none. I’m sure this is to keep people from sleeping on them or taking overly long, comfortable lunch breaks. Basically, the only sitting place, the stairs at One Post, have been claimed by bike messengers on the sunny side, and crazy people who feed pigeons on the other.
Yesterday, I was waiting for my dad and his eighth graders at the Academy of Sciences, where there happen to be an inordinate number of benches, and I’m sitting on one and reading some Donald Barthelme, and it’s sunny, and I’m getting really sleepy so I want to lay down, because you know if you give a moose a muffin, or a human a bench in the sun they will want to stretch out. At this point I realized that lo and behold the hard metal armrests are positioned at just the right intervals on the long benches that you can’t lay down. Oh San Francisco you win again.
So the next time you see a nice long railing going up the steps in front of some municipal building with these pretty little dividers about every two feet, realize that those are not there for your benefit, but to keep skateboarders at bay.