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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

As Second Potrero Hill Outhouse Smolders, Police Insist This Is Not Funny

Posted By on Wed, Feb 18, 2009 at 8:59 AM

An erudite citizen on the 400 block of Kansas Street called 911 at 10 minutes to midnight on Tuesday reporting "the glow of a fire." It turns out it was the immolation of outhouse No. 24. After preying on porta-johns in the Russian Hill and Nob Hill areas for months, the outhouse arsonist -- or arsonists -- had just burned their second toilet on Potrero Hill's Kansas Street in 72 hours.

News of the 23rd outhouse to go up in flames hit the internets with a bang this weekend. In fact, this local camera-wielding denizen put Jimmy Olsen to shame and got the whole thing on film (sadly, no fleeing suspect was caught in the shots or left his ATM card or other such convenience). For the record, immolation No. 23 was at Kansas and 15th at 4:25 p.m. -- broad daylight -- on Sunday. Now, it seems, any john is a potential arson target -- anywhere or any time.

In our discussions with police spokeswoman Sgt. Lyn Tomioka, we've been impressed that she can rattle off the dates, locations, and times-of-day for a series of outhouse torchings heading back into last month. She's the one we're worried about in the Police v. Media bar trivia contest. But in an article appearing in today's Examiner regarding the Sunday immolation, Tomioka saw fit to remind everyone how, whatever this string of arsons is, it is not funny

"Reporters thought it was quite humorous at first, but [the portable

toilets] belong to somebody and this is a company's livelihood, they

rent these things," Tomioka said, adding that multiple companies are

being victimized, along with construction crews. "What started out as

something people thought was quite humorous is actually quite serious."

Reasonable people can differ on what is and is not funny -- but when the New York Times -- the Times! -- pens an article titled "Vandals Create a Pungent Problem in San Francisco" in which a man is quoted as saying "It smelled horrible, horrible, horrible" -- this isn't funny? Even a little?

Let us paraphrase Tomioka a bit: Everyone thought it was quite humorous at first. Looking back, years from now, it probably will be again. But now? It's gotten old, it's gotten unoriginal, and with "Bring back booze and nudity to Bay to Breakers!"-types now clamoring for more outhouses, anti-authority types don't know what to think. So knock it off.  

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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