Thursday, October 4, 2007

Something REALLY Different - Urinals

I'm not sure what led to this post. Perhaps too much travel in recent months, and too many unfamiliar restrooms all over the country. At any rate, you ladies will now have an opportunity to consider something you probably never thought about - the aesthetics and etiquette of that uniquely mens room item, the urinal.

Above is the all too typical bank of urinals. At least this mens room has a view, and probably fresher air, too. The photo above shows the usual configuration, with one urinal lower than the others, for little guys. There are many shapes, from rectangular ones, to ones that look more like porcelain scoops (see next photo). Sometimes there are little demi-walls between, more often not.

The next photo gives you a closer view of the plumbing. The vast majority of the urinal plumbing in the East, anyway, seems to be manufactured by Sloan, and comes in either Regal or Royal models. I have whiled away moments here and there trying to tell the difference between Royal Sloan and Regal Sloan, to no avail. Is it about the width of the pipes? Quality and sound of the flush? Shine of the chrome? No pattern seems to hold over large samples of mens rooms. See how the mind can keep occupied even in the most boring circumstances? If your mind is never off, it will find things to do all the time.

Personally I sigh and smile if I enter a mens room and encounter what Gee Kay on Flickr calls "old skool urinals." The point is that the drain is at or below floor level. The very best are man-high porcelain affairs, recessed slightly into the wall and surrounded by lovely tile work. My pleasure in seeing this old style of urinal is complex. It includes the aesthetics, but it is mostly made, I think, of relief from the usual claustrophobic feeling I get crowding up against a rim. Maybe it's closer to the natural state to just go against the wall, instead of into a scoop. Definitely.

Finally, here we get into some of the etiquette. There is nothing graphic in this shot, but do observe a few items. Stance varies. Head up or down? Hands engaged, or hands on hips (none of the latter, slightly rare style here)? Most men prefer to hold all conversation until they reach the sink - this is what Emily Post would propose, I feel certain. Most men unzip after they reach the semi-privacy of the urinal, but some don't wait. The finer point this photo illustrates is that someone may not have followed the placement rules. Normally there would be no vacant end urinal - space is what everyone craves here. Some even go so far as to use the stall if there is no urinal with no immediate neighbor, and many prefer new arrivals to honor this, as well. In other words, with a bank of four urinals, with men already at numbers 1 and 3, the best choice for the next guy is a stall, and if that's not available, urinal 4 (because it at least has no neighbor on one side, and leaves at least one guy's space intact).

Betcha never knew there was so much to this... Do men teach their sons this stuff, or is it picked up like tribal wisdom? Am I making all of this up? You guys know - you ladies are welcome to guess.

Photos with permission from the Flickr pages of:
Gee Kay
phil dokas


Some_myrrh said...

Hahaha! Steve, this post approaches Monty Python proportions for surprising twists.

My favorite urinal miscellania is that older urinals have small bees on the porcelain as aiming spots. Latin for bees: apis.

Steve Emery said...

So is that where the slang came from? Wouldn't that be fun. But nope - I just did a little looking up and it appears it's from one of those onomatopoeic verbs so common in Greek and Latin.