Saturday, April 25, 2009

Urinal Etiquette

Among men-folk, there's an unwritten code for proper bathroom etiquette: an implied standard specifically set in place for the fair use and enjoyment of public urinals. The bathroom is a bastion of relief where people can engage in the necessary, natural, yet slightly awkward process of personal passing. In order to alleviate as much awkwardness as possible, we follow the universally understood protocol for both our own sakes and for the general good of the world. Maybe many of us need to be more comfortable with ourselves and the bodies of other males, but that's besides the point - not everyone is going to feel the same level comfort and the consideration of such is near the pinnacle of gentlemanly attitude and behavior in almost any situation. However, as not all people are gentlemen, some will inevitably fail as this fellow did on friday night:

Like many a young Baltimorean, I found myself at $6 Student Night at Camden Yards for the Oriole's game. Although I'm not really that into baseball, I came just to hang out, have a beer or two before heading inside, and relax. Alcohol lead to urination which lead me to a urinal in the Stadium Bathroom. There was enough space for every-other urinal to be in use until:

(Drunk Guy stumbles into the bathroom and sets up camp between the Other Guy to my right and myself)

Drunk Guy: (speaking to Other Guy) Hey! Hey man I recognize you!

Other Guy: Oh. Oh yeah?

Drunk Guy: Yeah, man. I see you out there. I see you out there. Hey, are you Jewish?

(Internal Monologue: Oh. God.)

Drunk Guy: Hey, man. I bet... I betchu have a little Jewish penis.

Other Guy: (half-laughing) Uh. What?

Drunk Guy: Yeah, I bet you have a little Jewish penis. And, you know what? I don't care. I don't care, man.

Other Guy: (awkward laughter) What? Why-

Drunk Guy: (turns to me) Hey, man. I don't care. This guy has a little Jewish penis.

Me: Oh yeah? Is that so?

Drunk Guy: Yeah, man. Hey, man I don't care.

Me: Uh-huh.

Drunk Guy: Yeah man. 'Cause I'm wasted. Like really wasted.

Me: I see that.

Drunk Guy: (turns to the other guy) Like, I don't care, man. Nah man. We're cool. 

Other Guy: (laughing) Dude, you need to stop. I can't pee if you keep making me laugh.

Drunk Guy: (back to me) I don't care man. I don't, like, care about his penis. I'm wasted.

Me: Fair enough, sir.

I washed my hands and left Other Guy to the ensuing, drunken madness. Now, this kinda thing? Actually, happens to me a lot. I don't know what it is, but alcohol-induced racism or not, complete strangers will generally attempt to hold a conversation with me while I'm trying to do my private business. And, I know I'm not the only one. So, for the sake of gentlemanhood, I'll attempt to archive some of the unspoken rules here as a future reference to those who haven't quite caught on yet. (Feel free to make amendments in the comments section)

1. Pick a Toilet Expecting Others to Follow
It's simple - count the number and types of urinals and choose accordingly. There are three types - small (child), large (adult), and wall-length. The ideal is to leave every other stall available, however they may be filled in when necessary. It's o.k. to leave the small size for the very last if you want - it is intended for children, after all, and they generally have trouble using the taller urinals. Of course, if where you are is particularly not busy this rule is fairly lax. Just be sure to do your best in leaving other users a reasonable amount of personal space to pee in peace.

2. Silence is Golden
That isn't to say you can't speak. In fact, no talking at all would be cruel and unusual. This rule specifically applies when talking to strangers who are presently urinating. It's a rule more akin to the standard of "taking the temperature of a room before opening one's mouth" - which is just a general all purpose principle to be applied in most social situations. When one enters the public bathroom, it's very much like a zen garden meant for contemplation and meditation. Except, you're peeing. And, if you're howling around the bathroom, acting like you're the life of the party, many people may feel that achieving supreme nirvana might be more likely than attaining their original goal - to relieve one's bladder. This standard loosens up, however, if you've run into someone you know. In that case, a "Hey, what's up?" or a small conversation is allowed. If you've run into a good friend, you may speak with mutual assent and discretion. However, the moment one party says something along the lines up, "Hold on. Let me pee first," it's time to stop. Otherwise, it's generally okay to hum, whistle, and even sing softly to yourself - as these are methods some people use to make themselves more comfortable with peeing in public restrooms. Sighs of relief are generally allowed, but doing so gratuitously is generally frowned upon.

3. Eye Level
You are to look at three distinct places while peeing - straight ahead, straight up, or straight down at yourself. This standard is generally strict and is done out of respect for the personal privacy of others. On the opposite side of the same coin, asking others to to look at you is also taboo. However, if the person you're asking is a good friend and may be comfortable (and you have a genuine health concern), this is probably o.k. But, then again, if it's that pertinent you should really be asking a doctor, as they have the requisite expertise to deal with whatever given situation you may be smuggling. Other wise, this is a fairly inflexible standard - even while speaking to a good friend.

4. Flush When Finished
The public bathroom isn't pristine. In fact, it generally smells (and looks) like a water-carnival of stagnate liquid, pee, and industrial cleaner. And failing to flush when done, regardless of the drain, simply adds horribleness to the experience. All it takes is a simple bump which, at this point, should be instinctual for most. Failing to do so subjects the person following to your own personal brand of stench. And, as bad as you think you smell, others are going to think it much, much worse. You'd think this would go without saying, but you'd be surprised how many public bathrooms I've used at "institutions of higher learning" where I've seen people utterly and unreasonably fail to account for their personal made mess. (This standard applies even more strictly to bathroom stalls)

5. No Public Bathroom Sex
I get it. It's exciting. There's a unique brand of fetishism that accompanies it. Call it a life-style choice if you want. But, it's also very inconsiderate. Given, no one's life is going to be ruined should they walk in and find two (or more) people in the throws of hot, passionate sport sex, but that's generally not the standard we should be applying. The bathroom is a place for releasing bodily fluids, not exchanging them, and people need all the comfort in that department as they can afford. This standard is less strict when applied to "single" bathrooms. However, getting caught does have its punishments, so practitioners beware. But, generally speaking, it's neither classy nor appropriate to have sex in a public facility. Find a car or, preferably, a room instead.
(EXCEPTION: I understand that public restroom sex may be acceptable between consenting adults in certain gay clubs, which is perfectly fine. Although I've heard it termed to be "necessary," I fail to understand why. However, where patrons and owners of these establishments have applied their own standard, the rule obviously changes within the scope of those particular communities. In short, "the temperature of the room" may be a little different, and that effectively abjures the above rule within those specific contexts.)

These are the rules passed down from generation to generation. From direct statement to implication. And now they've been passed from silent agreement to internet publication. Do take them with you in to the world


Ozkirbas said...

I was talking with my friend Mike last night about the rules of Urinal Etiquette. He said he dubs Rule #3: The Vertical Plane Rule.

Ellie said...

My guy friends used to complain when the Dean was our professor about how he would use the bathroom, talk to them, and not wash his hands. I don't know how much of it is true, but I was certainly glad to be a girl.

Ozkirbas said...

You take an authority figure a lot less seriously when you realize they do things like forget to wash his hands

Kat said...

I discussed this post with my little brother today at lunch and he asked me what I learned (after he got over having 'bathroom talk' with his older sister). I started spouting off the different "rules" and with each one his grin got wider and wider. He confirmed each one, and especially appreciated the Vertical Plane Rule.

I asked him if our dad had ever had a "talk" with him to go over these rules, or if they were largely unspoken. Apparently our dad didn't discuss it with him (at least not that he remembers), but I wonder if it's something that comes up? What a strange life lesson..

Also: I've never really contemplated before how truly public men's bathrooms are. It goes against everything ingrained into me as a woman about privacy, manners and female etiquette. It kind of annoys me, actually.

Not that I want to start relieving myself where others can see me. But isn't that just part of it? I've already been trained to think so at this point.

Chris Evans said...

I never, never, NEVER use urinals. I just feel too exposed. If there isn't a free stall, I'm holding it or waiting.

I also feel like, physically ill when someone walks out of the bathroom and I didn't hear any water running.

And sex in bathrooms in gay clubs isn't exactly acceptable, people just turn a blind eye to it. I'm not sure why you can't just take your nasty asses home and blow each other there. Ew.