Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Our Eight-Month Battle for a Bathroom

Finally! Acueducto workers dig up the street to connect up our bathroom.
After nearly eight months of waiting, countless visits to various city offices and meeting with a seemingly endless series of bureaucrats, Bogotá Bike Tours finally has a BATHROOM.
Our bathroom as bookstore.

In case there's anybody left in Colombia who does not closely follow this blog, this drama started in September of last year, when our landladies' sewage system failed, and their old house flooded with wastewater every time it rained hard. Preferring not to live with sewage up to their knees, they hired workmen to repair the house's old pipes. The men did their job - but then came the turn of the city's aqueducto department, which had to hook our pipes up to the main line in the street.

That began endless appointments, mostly pointless, for the landladies, with the city's transit department, public space, Urban Development, and even the historical center's Public Patrimony office - each of which was supposed to sign off before acueducto could come and provide us with the great privilege of bathroom service. Meanwhile, these older women, who suffer health problems, lived with sewer service in only half of their house.

During all of these long months, the broken sidewalk where the men had worked on the house's pipes threatened the ankles, knees and hip bones of unwary pedestrians.

During this ordeal, the broken sidewalk in front of our landladies's door was a threat to passers-by.

Our bathroom as
bicycle storage room.
Meanwhile, we invented all sorts of conspiracy theories: Did the city have something against us or our landladies, two older women with health problems? Was it the mayor's goal to recapture the spirit and aromas of past centuries, when residents tossed their waste out of upper floor windows into the middle of the street? Was all this the result of lobbying by the owners of public restrooms, which wanted to monopolize the industry?

Still, we never forgot about our bathroom: We used it as a handy storeroom for books and bicycles.

The big hang-up was Patrimony, which took some six months to decide that us having a bathroom was not a threat to the neighborhood's historical patrimony. I appealed to local government offices, which just ignored our problem.

Finally, in March, they decided that our having a bathroom was no threat to the neighborhood's historical quality, and Acueducto scheduled the work for mid-April.

The finishing touches:
repairing the sidewalk.
But April came and went, and with no sign of Acueducto. It turned out that Patrimony had issued a permit to do the INDOOR work WHICH OUR LANDLADIES HAD ALREADY HAD DONE LAST YEAR.

As a last resort, we filed a tutela, which is a sort of mini lawsuit, citing constitutional reasons why we had a right to a working bathroom.A judge, thankfully, swept aside all the bureacrats' paper shuffling and box ticking and applied common sense: 'These people eat and drink and experience normal human bodily functions. So, give them a bathroom!' Finally, Acueducto showed up late one night last week and did the work.

Needless to say, in a nation with a sane, functional bureacracy, our bathroom would have been hooked up in a few days. Anything longer would have been a scandal.

So, we have a bathroom. But I'll never forget this episode, as a wonderful example of government apathy, incompetence and irresponsibility.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

1 comment:

Stuart Oswald said...

Gotta love a constitution, right?