Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Law of Urinals


Bear with me; this is something that came to mind while I was walking around the malls this afternoon. I freely admit that I was relieving myself in an empty bathroom at the time, if only because it's relevant to my process of reasoning.

It was a little before four in the afternoon in this case, and the place was empty. Beside the rows of sinks and across from the toilet cubicles, there was a line of exactly four urinals set against the granite-tiled walls. I had all the time in the world (or about five to ten minutes, at least) to choose one of those four urinals.

It suddenly struck me that there was supposed to be some method to this choice.

When faced with this kind of situation, I normally relieve myself in the second-to-last urinal. I'm not quite sure why, really. Elementary logic dictates that I don't want to do it in the first urinal (or else I'd be the first thing that people see whenever they wash themselves up by the bathroom sinks), and I don't want to do it in the last urinal (because the presence of the bathroom wall would give me less space to do my business). But to me, that raises the question: Why not just use the second urinal? Or, in the case of more than four urinals in a single bathroom, why not use use any of the urinals in between?

I can only imagine that masculine comparison plays a role here. (And if you have no idea what "masculine comparison" is, take a good guess.) This is less perverted than one may think — while I'm not in the habit of checking out other guys at the urinals, I do live in mortal fear that someone, somewhere, is going to be checking me out at the urinals one day. I'd personally like to minimize those chances, regardless of how amused you might feel at such a predicament. Guys — it ain't cool to do this sort of thing. The thought alone just gives me nightmares.

This, I think, is probably the reason why two guys standing at the urinals will almost always stand exactly one urinal apart — that is to say, they position themselves so that there's exactly one urinal between them at all times. It's a physical manifestation, I think of a certain statement: "You don't check out my package, I don't check out yours, and maybe some neurotic writer out there will sleep well tonight."

Masculine comparison, then, implies that I relieve myself in the second-to-last urinal for a sense of security: It puts me far enough down the bathroom corridor that I won't be bothered by unnecessary interlopers, yet also places me in a position where I still hold valuable non-claustrophobic space.

This, I figure, is not a shared opinion. Some guys will probably take on the plain second urinal in the same situation — perhaps this implies a more overt personality. Others will prefer either the one that's closest to the wall or the one that's closest to the sinks; I leave the reasoning to them in this case. And there is always that small sub-group of people who simply don't care as to which urinal to choose if they had such a choice; I've always wondered if this means that they don't use their heads as often as they should, or if people like me are overthinking situations like these.

Being on the well-traveled end, I've been in restrooms where the designers apparently chose to do away with urinals altogether — possibly because they didn't want me to wrestle with any more stupid questions. In those places, all you get is a stainless steel "gutter" where you're presumably supposed to stand and do your business alongside your fellow man. In such cases, however, I still gravitate towards a point near the end of the gutter, not quite at the wall but fairly close to it — proving once and for all that the logic has somehow been ingrained into my pointy little head.

That, or I enter the nearest toilet stall. I'd still like to avoid the masculine comparison issue if possible, after all.


* The wonderful bathroom fixtures graphic is from http://www.scelera.be, a web site that provides educational pictograms for open use. I've attempted to follow all the conditions of their Creative Commons licensing agreement. Don't sue me, please... or at least allow me the courtesy of zipping up first.

1 comment:

Roy said...

Lol, this might interest you:
http://blag.xkcd.com/2009/09/02/urinal-protocol-vulnerability/

Warning, math!