If you're a woman working the ships at the Port of Houston, don't drink a lot of coffee. Otherwise, you're dealing with this:
On the door it says "Women's Room." The lock is broken on the inside, so you walk in to a darkly painted, dimly lit room. The broken toilet seat is up and the bowl is full of urine from the last visitor who obviously was male. Rolls of toilet paper sit on the floor next to it. One wall is smeared with ancient dried feces, again today there is no soap, and the one cold water spigot drips in a grimy sink with old soap scum covering the wall next to it. There are no paper towels in the long-broken holder.
The return vents in the ceiling are covered with years of grime. The ceiling tiles are pushed over and a steady drip from the air conditioning overflow makes the floor wet in front of the commode. The whole room reeks and is a bacterial nightmare.
The description comes from Andrea Gardner, writing on a labor website.
"Many of us try to hold it until our first break, which can mean five hours or more," she says.
But there is good news on the horizon: Mayor Annise Parker took a personal interest in the issue, and changes are being made.
Gardner says she wrote to Parker with her description of conditions, and the mayor forwarded it on to the port.
Pretty soon, a port official was meeting with female dockworkers and showing plans for new facilities.
But that's not all, Gardner writes:
When I showed him recent pictures of the facilities under his current control, he recognized that cleanliness was not something we could wait for any longer.
Almost immediately they started painting walls and floors in many of the bathrooms.
We have soap and hand dryers now. We hear they are going to put locks on the doors.
Locks!! What are these dames gonna want next!!
"Our goal," Gardner says, "is a clean, safe bathroom with antibacterial soap, feminine hygiene products, and hot water, and we're determined that it won't take the mayor's prodding every step of the way to make it happen."