Xiao Du has something many Chinese can only hope for: a home. One should be careful what they wish for, however, since the 17-year-old girl's home for the past 2 years has been a public bathroom in the city of Xian.
Chinese public bathrooms are not places one wants to spend any more time than is absolutely necessary, but Xiao Du has little choice in the matter. The bathroom is owned by her family and her job, as it were, is to guard, maintain and collect fees from those who use the facilities. As the bathroom is open 24-7, Xiao Du is stuck with the worst work-from-home occupation EVER. One might say she works for pee nuts – sorry, couldn't resist.
The bathroom is divided into Men's and Women's sections by a flimsy plastic curtain, and Xiao Du lives in the 70 cm (28”) wide anteroom. She's filled the roughly 2 square meters (21.5 sq ft) of living space with a bed, two small wooden cabinets, a 17” TV and an electric fan. Her bed has an electric blanket since the bathroom only has a plastic curtain for a front door and winters in Xian can be quite chilly.
Xiao Du makes the best of her situation, contributing to the family finances while enjoying the Korean drama programs broadcast on Chinese TV. She reads books given to her by her cousin, who is a book-seller, and her mother occasionally takes her shopping to buy new clothes.
Pundits in the Chinese media have made much out of Xiao Du's living situation, making her in some respects the poster child for China's chronic lack of housing. “Such a herd mentality on sensitive issues is a very dangerous signal,” counters Professor Wang Chunquan, vice president of Northwestern University, in a recent interview with local reporters. “All problems can not be attributed to social problems,” stated Wang, alluding to the fact that Xiao Du has never tried to find other accommodation and is only living in the bathroom as it is convenient for her work.
If you should find yourself out on the town in Xian and happen to hear nature's call, don't be surprised if the bathroom attendant is a teenaged girl... and if so, be sure to leave her a good tip. (via Dazhong News Group and Chinese Business View)