Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Of Urinals and Men

To Pee or not to Pee

I am a man. And being such a creature I am set to suffer indignities. Life places burdens upon a man, his strength wanes and, over time, his body crumbles. But this isn’t a tale of life and death. This isn’t a story about great loss or of great joy. This is a story of indignity. To some it may appear trivial. To the women who may stumble across this blog, I hope you sympathize with me as you do not have to suffer through this particular ignominy. What I speak of today is the urinal. Now before you go saying, “another potty blog? Really?” Let me say to you, this is an account, a story, a tale which, unfortunately, is non-fiction. It’s the truth. Every word of it is the truth.

When I say urinal, what is the first thing that comes to mind? A long wall of men nestled against the wall relieving their respective bladders. For those of you who have never seen this, (mostly women I suspect. Though I know some of you sneak into the men’s room when the line is too long in the women’s), picture a backward facing police line-up where everybody has their hands on their naughty bits and their heads tilted up as if the restroom ceiling  is that of the Sistine Chapel. Every so often the heads look down. I guess to make sure things are flowing properly. I don’t know why we do this. Maybe it’s because we might lose focus and go wandering off with our tackle hanging out, thereby creating slipping hazards for those around us. So I think the downward glance is to remind us of why we are there. I mean thirty seconds or up to three minutes is a very long time to remain in a stationary position, especially considering the un-comfortableness of the task at hand, or in hand.

The aforementioned un-comfortableness is the reason why I’m writing this blog. Who decided that it was okay to stand shoulder to shoulder with your fellow man and relieve one’s self? I’m sorry, but that is just unnatural and I’m sure that’s why alien races haven’t made contact with us yet. They look at our bathroom habits and think why would they have a communal bathroom? There’s a reason why bathrooms have doors. Most civilized people would rather not listen to the sound of tinkle on porcelain. It’s not only the sound which is disturbing during this undertaking; there is also the risk of splash. Backsplash is a real and embarrassing problem. Ask any man who has used a urinal while wearing khakis and he’ll have a story or two to tell you about how he tried to cover up the speckled patterns the ill designed toilets leave on his pants. Thank God we are no longer in the 1980s. The Don Johnson white pants were an excellent canvas for a splatter painting that would make Jackson Pollock jealous. *note to self—could I make money if I invented trouser bibs?

The design of these restroom devices is one of the reasons why I hate them. They come in various forms and none of them are designed to allow any human dignity. The first and most common design is the half-urinal which is mounted on the wall. They always have one that is mounted a little lower for children or short people. I grew up in a time before the junior stalls and trust me, being forced into public urination by your father while standing on your tip toes is not a memory I recall with great fondness. The half wall mount is the one that causes the most khaki damage, and it does nothing to combat the ill-ease of standing next to a stranger while taking care of business. Oh on occasion certain places will have a partition dividing them, but they are usually about waist high and that doesn’t stop the creepers. The creeper is the guy who steals a glance when he looks down to check his progress. It’s a very nonchalant glance but a glance nonetheless. You think to yourself, did that guy just take a gander at my bits and pieces? You can’t confront him because you wonder if you are being paranoid and if you do say something it could lead to a brawl and starting a brawl while your vulnerabilities are exposed is not something you want to do. We’ll get to etiquette a little later.

The next version of urinal is the wall mount that goes all the way to the floor. It solves the problem of splash at the top of your pants, but does nothing for your shoes, or worse, feet if you’re wearing flippy-floppies.

The next one is the trough. Yes it is exactly what it says it is: a long basin which covers the length of a wall; has a constant stream of water flowing through and can accommodate up to fifty urinaters or urinators (spell check is telling me both aren’t words) at a time. This design can usually be found at sports venues and quite often will have hot dog wrappers and nachos scattered inside which impedes the flow of the trickling water. I understand the idea of economy and fitting as many patrons as possible at once, but come on, the last thing I want to do is stand side-by-side with a guy who has spent his entire paycheck on coliseum beer and have him stumble against me while I try to take care of my work. There are several variations of the trough. There’s the floor trough, the big metal pan trough and the grotto, which is made of concrete and, I believe, was designed by the Romans.

All of these pale when compared to the worst of the worst. I have experienced this one only once in my life and it was when I was a small boy and in the care of my grandpa while at the park on a family picnic. I call it the dish. I believe this is why I have what’s known as a shy bladder. *A shy bladder is when you can’t PP when others are around. This horrific design is, again, aptly described. It is a circular basin with a water spigot type thing in the middle and all of the men stand in a circle to wee-wee. It is the stuff of nightmares. Imagine for a moment being four years old, having to use the restroom and standing at eye level with the groins of seven or eight grown men simultaneously emptying their bladders. It was like being caught in some sort of terrifying medusa-like fountain. I don’t remember how long I was in there, but I do remember the torrential cascade of urine splashing into the basin and seeing cigarette butts caught up in the eddies of  foamy wizz. It was at that point I fled and eventually soiled my Sears Toughskins jeans. I mention Toughskins by name only because they were made out of tent canvas and didn’t absorb the moisture and instead diverted the flow toward my shoes, which were strangely absorbent. Thankfully, I haven’t seen a ‘dish’ in forty years. However, I’m sure they still exist in places like Nebraska.

To this day I will only use the urinal under dire circumstances. And that brings me to urinal etiquette. If there are three or more open urinals, don’t take the empty one right next to me. That’s an infringement on my personal space. If you do have to take the one next to me, don’t try to strike up a conversation. I have no desire whatsoever to speak with another man while I’m piddling. This mainly applies to old guys. I don’t know why they feel the need to talk to a total stranger while their hands are shaking their intimate parts. It’s just creepy. Tell me your stories about Korea while you’re waiting to be seated at Denny’s, not while I’m taking a leak. *Note on the preceding statement—I don’t eat at Denny’s. I’ve covered that in a previous blog. Finally, and I shouldn’t even have to say this, eyes forward! Nobody enjoys being leered at, especially while using the restroom. Creeper.

Tune in next time as I try to enlighten people that those of us who live in California don’t eat only tofu and fruit. I will explore this topic because my wife spoke to a customer from, would you believe, Nebraska, who asked her if she was going to eat tofu and fruit for lunch.
If you’ve made it this far make sure you buy my book Rise of the Penguins. It’s available on the links to the side and here: