Serial Flushers of the North American Continent: A Case Study

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The Serial Flusher, relaxing in his natural habitat.

Snuck a shot of the notorious Serial Flusher when he wasn’t looking. He’s a big guy, brawny and barrel-chested. This is one of his favorite hang-out spots on the Berkeley campus. He’ll sit there for hours, staring off into space. Often squints his eyes and makes contorted facial expressions, while silently moving his lips and gesturing with his arms, like he’s talking to some invisible person standing in front of him.

I call him the Serial Flusher, because for years he’s been sneaking into the restrooms on the Berkeley campus when nobody is in there, and he’ll flush the toilets and urinals over and over and over. For some weird reason he gets his jollies from doing that. And he’ll be giggling this manic, high-pitched giggle as he rushes from toilet to toilet, wasting endless gallons of water. A peculiar fellow.

He’s been hanging out on the campus for at least two decades. Always sits by himself and I’ve never seen him talking to another person in all those years. I’m not sure if he’s even capable of communicating to others in words. He’s pretty nutty. Probably around 50. Fairly blandly-normal looking (nice silvery head of hair) usually neatly-groomed and dressed. Probably almost nobody notices that he’s homeless. Or even notices him at all. Quietly blends into the crowd.

He’s usually fairly mild-mannered and deferential in his mannerism. Even after I got in his face several times and angrily threated him if he didn’t knock off his toilet-flushing routine, he’s never directed any overt hostility towards me. Though every now and then it’s like he starts to crack up from some enormous pressure he’s under. He’ll walk around with this crazed raging look on his face and he’ll make these high-pitched anguished animal sounds, and he’ll do this thing where he’ll walk directly AT the people who are walking towards him, and they’ll have to step out of his way to avoid bumping into him. But usually he snaps out of it pretty quickly.

Aside from his toilet-flushing fetish he has a couple of other odd mannerisms. Like every time he passes an elevator he has to press the buttons bringing the elevators down, even though he never actually rides on the elevator. Go figure.

Recycles cans and bottles. Keeps his recycling stashed in the bushes on the campus along with some of his other possessions. Every evening he heads across the campus in the direction of northside. Has some kind of secret homeless crash spot somewhere off in that direction.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Serial Flusher.

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One of the things that fascinates me about a lot of homeless street people. Many of them have severe limitations, mentally, physically, psychologically. And they all make unique adjustments to how they handle the, uhum, homeless lifestyle. Depending on their unique situations and personalities. Like the Serial Flusher. For all of his weirdness — and possible border-line insanities — he’s managed to carve out this little niche where he can function and exist in the world. I’m somewhat of a student of human nature. And I often study the people I meet like a scientist — like a psychologist or anthropologist. One thing you can say about people: Many of us are a peculiar and interesting bunch.

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