I didn’t notice that his fly was down at first. I thought maybe he was a bit out of it as he leaned on the front window to support himself. I peered at his face from the other side of the glass. He looked serene, beatific even, with a soft, gentle grin on his face. Then I saw the puddle forming beneath him.
‘Oh fuck, he’s having a piss on our front door!’ my manager Freddie said.
My eyes went straight to the man’s unshackled pants. Once my mind fully processed the fact that I was now peering at a member of the public’s member, my eyes guiltily snapped up to his face. He was still smiling but not like an angel. More like a full-grown man ready to give us a piece of his mind.
‘Oi cunts, that’s for shutting the public toilets!’ he yelled, before stalking off to a group of locals sitting on the wooden benches on the far side of the building.
Freddie’s attention immediately returned to the live CCTV footage on his computer screen. One of eight brand-new security cameras installed with a government grant to ‘create safer community places in our outer suburbs’ captured images of a small group at the back of the building. One guy who looked to be in his early thirties was passing around a bottle in
a brown paper bag.
‘Shit, take a look at these two, it’s only 11am and they’re already maggot,’ Freddie said, after cycling through to the next camera on his screen.
I stared at the live recording of a striking teen couple in matching sportswear splayed out on an adjoining bench. They were half kissing, half fighting; their gestures clumsy and overstated. Without sound, it was hard to assess whether the two were about to make up or tear each other apart.
While the drinkers were thoroughly preoccupied on the far side of the building, Freddie and I took our chance to investigate the pee stain. I grabbed my orange 1L Nalgene bottle, while Freddie pressed the green exit button to open the glass door which had been locked to everyone except for preregistered visitors for months.
‘God, it’s huge. It’s flowed all the way down to the oval,’ I said as I poured water from my bottle onto the pavement to dilute the yellow, snaking trail.
‘Disgusting,’ said Freddie, shaking his head.
We went back inside.
‘Do you think we’re meant to report this?’ I asked.
‘Yes, every incident has to be reported on Safety Champ,’ Freddie replied as he returned to his desk to monitor footage.
I searched the departmental intranet until I found the red safety helmet icon and began responding to a series of automated questions:
Where and when did the safety
Northledge Arts Centre. 10.15am, Tuesday 15 January
Who was involved?
Two staff and a member of the public
Did anyone sustain an injury requiring
Did any property damage occur?
Have you reported the incident to the Police?
I stopped typing.
‘Freddie, are we supposed to call the police about
this?’ I asked.
‘Already on hold to them,’ he replied, as he continued to watch the footage, desk phone now pressed to his neck.
My eyes returned to Freddie’s screen. The couple had evidently made up and were making out while leaning against a mural that we’d commissioned last year to celebrate NAIDOC week. On the adjacent screen, the main group were laughing and bopping along to hip-hop that I could distantly hear blasting from a portable speaker.
I returned to Safety Champ and typed ‘Yes.’ The final box asked me to enter a full incident account.
My hands lingered over my keyboard as I considered my answer. Was I meant to confine myself to who/what/where/ when, or was I also being invited to offer my thoughts on why this happened?
Just as I opened my mouth to ask Freddie, the hold muzak emanating from his phone finally stopped and he began speaking with an officer. I took my chance to quickly type up my account unchecked:
This morning, a man pissed on the arts centre to protest the decision to lock the public toilets near where his group congregate to drink, dance and spend time with friends. The damage to council property was $0 and no harm was done. To prevent more people from pissing on the arts centre in future we could either
unlock the public toilets at the back of the centre so that people can piss there again or just let them in every now and then so they
can use the facilities indoors. As it stands, I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t decide to burn this whole place down.
I clicked send before I could reconsider finessing my account into one more palatable to management, and turned back to Freddie.
‘What did the police say?’ I asked, hoping the answer
would be ‘very little.’
‘They’ll be here in five minutes,’ Freddie said.
True to their word, four police cars screeched to a halt in the arts centre car park minutes later. Eight police officers marched to the back of the building. Within seconds, the man in the Aboriginal rights shirt had his head roughly pinned against the brick wall by an officer while another officer shackled him in handcuffs. The man struggled to free his cheek from the rough-textured wall and when he finally did, the skin on his face was torn open. One officer poured the alcohol onto the green oval grass, while another directed the teenage couple to turn off the music.
The peeing man was frog-marched off to a divvy van, while the police handed out fines for public drunkenness to the remainder of the group. The teenager was crying and shouting obscenities while her boyfriend struggled to hold her back.
After banishing the group to the other side of the oval, the police then left as soon as they had come. Within an hour, the music had started back up and a newcomer brought down a fresh bottle from the adjacent Thirsty Camel.
Freddie and I returned to our desks to preside over the
arts centre, now wholly devoid of life.
When I returned to work on Monday, some new additions had
been made to the arts centre. Next to the CCTV cameras there
were now mounted ‘screechers’ which set off a horrifying sound
every time anyone walked past the centre.
‘How is this going to help us encourage members of the public to come inside to use our facilities?’ I asked Freddie.
Our 200-seat theatre, dance studio and band rehearsal room were already woefully underutilised. Just then, a school kid almost dropped his thick shake in fright as the warbling, tinny alarm activated as he took a shortcut past our building. In horror, he looked around, perhaps wondering what he had done wrong.
‘The community will feel safer this way,’ said Freddie,
as he locked the front door behind me.
I smiled and pretended to giggle at his quip, until I
realised he wasn’t joking.