Man on the Street: Public Washroom Attendant

By Matthew Bossons, June 21, 2018

0 0

Man on the Street is a regular series where we talk to someone doing an everyday job, in order to gain insight into the lives of normal Chinese people.

Public washrooms in China are by no means known for their ‘loiter-ability.’ Although we presume there are exceptions out there, they tend to smell bad (often a combo of human waste and burn-your-nostrils industrial cleaners) and the sight of a steaming pile of feces resting in an unflushed squatty-potty is not uncommon. 

For most, visiting a roadside public restroom is a trip that is only undertaken when ‘nature calls’ and there are no other options within the immediate area. For others, a day spent at a community toilet is just another day on the job.

Ms. Wang moved from Hunan to Guangzhou five years ago and has spent the past five months working as a sanitation worker at a dingy public washroom on Jianshe Wu Malu.

She arrives at work each morning at 8.30am and the situation inside the lavatories is grim. They’ve been unattended since 11pm the night before, when Wang finished the previous day’s 12-hour shift. (Wang enjoys a two-and-a-half-hour lunch and nap break).

In her absence, human waste and discarded sanitary pads have festered, unchallenged, all night long and the morning stench is horrendous.  

With mop and bucket in hand, she sets to work cleaning. First it’s the men’s toilets, which, she tells us, are always the dirtier of the two gender-segregated washrooms. After that she tackles the women’s side of the facility.

“As a public sector job, I get to enjoy public holidays. This allows time to visit my hometown in Hunan.”

If cleaning up the urine, crap, alcohol-scented vomit and blood of others bothers Wang, it certainly doesn’t show – nor does she complain about it. The soft-spoken Hunanren has only one complaint: the washroom’s water pressure is often subpar, something she attributes to the water consumption habits of the folks in the apartments above the public lavatory. 

She muses aloud that her job would likely be easier with higher water pressure. 

When asked if she works alone, Wang nods and tells us that her job is a solo one. Although she has regular visitors: men from a washroomless warehouse located nearby stop in often to use the facility, as well as boozers at a beer bottle shop across the road. There is also a rat, who emerges from the washroom’s piping in the evenings to scrounge for food. 

Wang tells us that the city sanitation department has provided her with poison to dispatch the rodent, but so far it has failed to work. 

“The poison is supposed to be nontoxic and not dangerous to humans, which is good,” says Wang. “The problem is it appears the poison is not dangerous to rats either.”    

Like the stench and grime, though, the rat doesn’t appear to bother or disgust Wang in the way one might assume. Maybe she has grown used to it, having previously worked on the sanitation team in an office building – a job she ranks lower than her current cleaning gig on Jianshe Wu Malu.

“As a public sector job, I get to enjoy public holidays,” says Wang. “This allows time to visit my hometown in Hunan.”


Monthly income: RMB4,000
Days per week: 6
Hours per day: 12

To read more Man on the Street click here.

more news

Rob Turnbull Talks Coronavirus Impact on Guangzhou's F&B Industry

Rob Turnbull has spent the past 15 years living in Guangzhou, where he has become a well-known figure in the F&B scene.

Big Spending Followed SARS, Stay Optimistic: Guangzhou's Wayne Shen

If you live in Guangzhou and like beer, chances are you are familiar with Bravo Brewpub & Kitchen, which is headed by Wayne Shen.

China, Here Are Your 2020 Public Holidays

It's time to start planning your next adventure, because the General Office of the State Council has just released the 2020 public holiday schedule.

10 Reasons Guangzhou is Better than Shanghai

We make our case for why Canton reigns supreme in comparison with the eastern municipality of Shanghai.

Shanghai and Guangzhou at Risk of Disappearing Under Rising Sea Levels

A study published in Nature Communications​ has revealed that the rise of global sea levels due to climate change means the coastlines are three times more exposed than previously thought.

LISTEN: Guangzhou Underground Retrospective is Key Summer Listening

'Guangzhou Underground Label Sampler Vol​.​4' is here for you this summer.

Online Foreign Teachers’ Personal Info to Be Made Public in China

Online classes will also be restricted to a maximum of 40 minutes for all subjects and students of any age.

Guangzhou Evergrande to Re-Sign Elkeson from Shanghai SIPG

The Brazilian is heading back to Canton.

0 User Comments

In Case You Missed It…

We're on WeChat!

Scan our QR Code at right or follow us at Thats_Shanghai for events, guides, giveaways and much more!

7 Days in Shanghai With

Weekly updates to your email inbox every Wednesday


Download previous issues

Never miss an issue of That's Shanghai!

Visit the archives

Get the App. Your essential China city companion.