Some Questions for Vancouver’s Serial Porta-potty Arsonist

Police are asking for help investigating seven flaming poo crimes.

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Jan 25 2018, 2:24pm

Images via Wikipedia Commons / Vancouver Arts and Leisure Facebook Account. 

There are poo crimes, and there are fire crimes, but rarely do police have to warn the public about both at once. Somehow it makes sense that 2018 would bring us this extremely on-the-nose metaphor with news of a serial porta-potty arsonist.

Vancouver police have asked the public for help investigating seven arsons over the span of about five weeks. According to Sergeant Jason Robillard, all of the incidents involve “portable washrooms” that were “deliberately lit on fire.”

The cops have advised anyone with an outdoor toilet in their care to take some overnight precautions. In case you’re not familiar with safe porta-potty practices, this includes moving them away from buildings or structures, removing any toilet paper or hand sanitizer, and locking your (literal) shit up at the end of the day.

Unfortunately for this writer, these crimes against poop stir up some complicated feelings. Sergeant Robillard has noted that adjacent buildings have also caught on fire, resulting in “significant exterior and interior damage” to a beloved after-hours party spot. This city is already awful to its artists and venues, so we don’t have the emotional bandwidth to mourn another murdered hangout. (And, you know, someone could have been hurt obviously.)

On the other hand, a blazing turd bucket is such a potent symbol, I can’t help but speculate about the arsonist and their motives. Part of me suspects rogue teens with too much privilege and free time on their hands are behind it. But the brazen and serial nature of the fires suggests a yearning to be noticed—an attempt to make some twisted point.

Having considered all the possibilities for entirely too long, it’s with a heavy heart I must raise some questions for Vancouver’s serial porta-potty arsonist:

IS IT… REVENGE?

I can relate to feeling wronged by porta-potties. I have encountered ones so rancid—in such urgent situations—that I basically had to disassociate just to finish the deed. They are the worst part of any music festival—simultaneously both a reason to drink and to never drink again.

Though I can understand pure and simple toilet revenge, I imagine such an act being in-the-moment, perhaps spurred by an overactive gag reflex—not a calculated crime spree spread out over several weeks. Which brings me to my next question...

IS IT… ART?

If a 100-year-old urinal can be named most influential in the 20th century, it would be foolish to rule out someone trying to monetize this very 2018 performance piece. You could at least squeeze out a fake Banksy Twitter meme, right?

IS IT... A PROTEST?

A simple theory with dark implications. It is notoriously hard to drain one’s bladder in Vancouver, particularly if you don’t have the means to buy your local cafe’s overpriced avocado toast beforehand. There are virtually no public bathrooms in transit stations, and the ones in parks are usually locked at night.

Taken in the context of an unusually cold winter, a long-simmering housing crisis, and a growing wealth divide now reaching medieval proportions, this could be the first rumblings of an actual class war. Stay tuned, comrades.

IS IT… FOR SNAPCHAT?

This is where the unruly teens come in. In a world where Logan Paul is gawking at dead people for YouTube clicks and teens are giving cats MDMA for Snapchat reactions, there’s a good chance all of these poo-fires are well documented (albeit obscured by emojis).

I have to say, this would be an uncomfortable evolution of the classic shit-fire prank. Growing up, these were simple. Motives were clear. If an authority figure did something inexcusably bad, teen justice would require a burning bag of dogshit appeared on that person’s doorstep to remind us all of that fact. Serial toilet arson seems like a weird direction to take this wholesome high school activity. But so is eating Tide Pods.

IS IT… ALL OF THE ABOVE?

I think it goes without saying that none of these theories justify porta-potty arson. Whether you’re a dumb teen or someone who genuinely doesn’t have a place to sleep or poop, starting a fire is not going to solve your problems.

I hope that one day the world learns the real answers behind this confusing yet relatable crime spree. If you have actual information about the poo-fires you should probably take Sergeant Robillard’s advice and contact police. But if you have the Snapchat receipts, please send them my way first.

Follow Sarah on Twitter.

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