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Not All Urinals Are Created Equal

It’s National Toilet Day.  What are you doing to celebrate?  To mark the occasion I’m writing about a fixture similar to the toilet—the urinal.  Since reading about a study last week by Brigham Young University, I’ve been thinking much more about urinals lately.  It’s actually an interesting article, with terms like satellite droplets, which has a nice science fiction ring to it.  There’s even a video.  The results of the urinal splash-back study will be presented Nov. 24 at the American Physical Society Division of FluidDynamics meeting in Pittsburgh.

Ladies, you may think this article has nothing to do with you, but if you have a husband, boyfriend, brother, or son in your home, this newly discovered information might just create a little more peace and harmony in your life.

Of course, it would be helpful if you just installed a urinal in the house.  It’s been done.  I know someone who bought a house from a family with five boys and the bathroom had a toilet and a white porcelain urinal next to it.  I attended a New Year’s Eve party there a while back and I’m sure that urinal got quite a workout and made the post-party cleanup less disgusting.

I’ve often heard women comment on how filthy public Men’s Rooms are. I’m not sure why they were ever in one in the first place.  I’ll assume it was by mistake.  That’s happened to me, but I have an excuse—I’m legally blind.

Gargoyle urinals.

I’ll let you seated pissers in on a couple of secrets about the mess around urinals.  The first one isn’t a big secret.  If men don’t have to clean the bathroom, we really don’t care that much about aim.  This is especially true if the one having to clean it is a stranger who will be doing that long after we’re gone.  Don’t get all self-righteous, girls, I’ve had a job cleaning restrooms and you leave some really gross things behind.  They just don’t smell like wee-wee.

The second reason is more of a progressive process.  Let’s say the first guy to step up to the porcelain pee-catcher after the restroom has been cleaned shakes the dew off his lily and a drop barely misses it and lands on the floor a fraction of an inch in front of it.  There it sits, glistening under the fluorescent lights all by its lonesome.

Until the next guy comes along.

It may be conscious or subconscious, but he stands back just a bit more than he normally would, not wanting to step on the last guy’s whiz.  So, he ends up leaving a drop half an inch in front of the first one.  The next dude follows suit until the end of the day, when guys are standing about three feet back and just hoping for the best.

Of course, some urinals are designed in ways that reduce the odds of this trend even getting started.  Some of them, instead of the standard rectangle, are sort of round and have a part in front that protrudes an extra couple of inches.  One could sit on it and rest, if one were so inclined.  This type is comforting to use.  It reaches out to meet you halfway, as if to say, “Don’t worry, I’m here to support you and catch it all.”

In the last twenty years, there has been an increase in urinals made of stainless steel.  I’ve never tested this theory, but my guess is they are more indestructible than porcelain and less likely to retain odor.  This urinal says, “This isn’t your father’s urinal.  This is the 21st century.  Now you’re pissing in style.”  The shiny stainless steel looks more like it belongs in the kitchen of an upscale restaurant than a bus station men’s room.  That up-to-date engineering just makes any man want to respond with a little more . . . um . . . precision.

Speaking of your father’s—more like your grandfather’s—urinal.  There is something to be said for the classic elegance of the roomy pissoir of the early-to-mid twentieth century.  I’m talking about the early models that start at the floor and come up to chest-level.  You stand in it as much as in front of it.  Many of them have a flat top so you can set a drink on them.  Back before smoking was banned in most public places it was common to see a built-in ashtray.  A guy could drink, smoke, and take a leak all at the same time.  Now that’s multitasking.

Ask any male what his least favorite type of urinal is and he’ll tell you it’s the trough.  These are common in bars, where drunks have terrible aim.  If you’re lucky, one or both end positions will be unoccupied when you walk in.  Then you get a tiny bit of privacy, or at least the illusion of it.  This is no place for the pee shy—or the insecure.  There will be comparisons taking place.  Everyone accepts this, especially the . . . um . . . gifted.  If it’s crowded and you can’t wait another minute, you’ll have to squeeze in, shoulder to shoulder.  The piss trough is The Great Equalizer.  You might see everyone from a little boy standing on tip-toes to reach it to an old man who looks like he might topple into it.  You can expect to leave with a little of your piss-mate’s spray on your pants.  Everyone accepts this, too, as long as it wasn’t intentional.    

Now that this exciting discovery about splash back has come to light, we can sit—make that stand—back in anticipation of how it will impact the brave new world of urinal design.