Black people never need to go to the bathroom.

At least that's the conclusion you might draw if you visited Circle K gas stations in various neighborhoods around Greater Akron.

A retired African-American friend told me that Circle K restrooms in predominantly black neighborhoods are always locked, while Circle K restrooms in predominantly white neighborhoods are always wide open.

I was incredulous. “Which ones are you talking about?” I asked.

“Anywhere. Just pick a couple.”

I did, on Thursday morning and afternoon. And here's what I found.

Predominantly black neighborhoods:

• Hawkins and Diagonal roads in West Akron. The restroom door has a sign with black type on white printer paper: “WE DO NOT HAVE A PUBLIC RESTROOM.” The word “not” is underlined.

• 1608 East Ave., south of the Expressway in West Akron: Yellow printer paper taped to the bathroom door: “No public restrooms.”

• Copley Road and Orlando Avenue in West Akron: Sign on the door says, “Please see attendant for key.” OK, that's workable.

• South Maple and Cedar in West Akron. I didn't immediately locate the restroom, so I asked a nearby attendant. “No, not public.”

• Brown Street and Lovers Lane in South Akron. Again, I asked. “No, honey, we don't.”

Predominantly white neighborhoods:

• Copley Circle: unisex bathroom, unlocked.

• Front Street and Hudson Drive in Cuyahoga Falls: unisex, unlocked.

• South Main Street near Munroe Falls Avenue in Munroe Falls: unisex, unlocked.

At that point, I figured there was no need to visit Stow or Hudson.

Joe Rice thinks this situation is outrageous. So do I.

Rice is a disabled Vietnam veteran. Because he is on a medication that causes frequent urination, he has become well-acquainted with the status of public restrooms.

But he's hardly alone. A whole lot of other men who grew up during the Vietnam era find themselves making a lot more pit stops than they used to.

When I asked Rice whether anyone had offered an explanation, he said a clerk at one station told him it was because the Circle K management feared restrooms in black areas would be used for drug abuse.

Which is ridiculous, because drug abuse is not limited to certain demographic groups. As Rice put it, “Drug abuse is not a race issue; it's an American issue.”

Exactly. In fact, this country's horrendous opioid epidemic appears to be more widespread among whites.

But drug abuse is precisely the excuse Circle K offered when I asked for an explanation.

In a written statement, Matt Dolan, vice president of operations for the Great Lakes Region, which includes eight states in addition to Ohio, said this:

“At Circle K we care for the safety of all our customers and employees. In light of the well-known opioid crisis in some of the areas where we do business, and store bathrooms having clearly been identified as a key risk area for unwanted drug-related activity, it has been recommended that we lock the door as a preventive measure. ...

“We are consistently evaluating the situation and working diligently to eliminate any situation that would put our associates and customers at risk.”

So there you have it. The opioid crisis in Summit County is only happening in the inner city. Except ...

Last year, a Beacon Journal/Ohio.com analysis of local and federal data from 2016 showed that the residents of Barberton and Norton suffered the most drug overdoses of any community in Summit County.

Barberton's population: 90.1 percent white.

Norton's population: 96.2 percent white.

Circle K stations in those cities?

• 344 Fifth St. in Barberton: unisex restroom, unlocked.

• 4155 S. Cleveland-Massillon Road in Norton: unisex, unlocked.

Either Circle K knows absolutely nothing about the opioid crisis or something else is going on.

Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or bdyer@thebeaconjournal.com. He also is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31