posted in Miscellaneous on Oct 6, 2007

At some point in time in human history, someone was given the task of figuring out the best way to build a male restroom. It wasn’t a glorious task; no kings or chancellors ever wracked their brains trying to figure it out. But someone, somewhere, sometime was given a memo whose contents detailed the need for a facility that allowed for male excretion. While that’s all fine and dandy, whoever it was that set the precedent we still live by today was not a good architect of personal design. What I mean by this is simple: I don’t like using the restroom next to someone when there are no walls for separation.

There’s a certain amount of privacy that I like to enjoy during such times when my body says, “Sir, please get rid of this vile liquid inside of me.” Unfortunately, if I’m not in the comfort of my own home, where two to three locks – depending on my mood – keep me safe from the outside world during such “business,” I have a to resign myself to the fact that there is a 70 percent chance that whatever restroom, loo, crapper, or porcelain pony I may find will have urinals separated not by opaque walls, but by thin air. Such a concept has me baffled as to why I, in a civilized world, need to stand approximately one foot away from another man while I do the thing that I do. If the gods fated it so, a cough, a twist, a turn could spell disaster for the right or left side of my body during the two minute period of awkwardness that is standing next to another urinating man. There’s no stopping a powerful, golden stream coming your way, especially when there are no walls for protection. Splash damage is a horrible thing at close quarters.

Let’s think back to the aforementioned original architect, the forefather to our modern male lavatory. At some point it time, he had to say to himself, “Self, I think that men are ok with standing shoulder to shoulder while using the restroom. Now, I sure do like the privacy of my own restroom, but let’s see if I can’t devoid every man everywhere in the United States the luxury of two square feet of space during his ‘me’ time.” And lo, what we have received since then have been cookie cutter facsimiles of this original plan.

What’s worse than the “open air” system of male bathrooms, is the “pig trough.” During my highschool years (when my opinions of worldly things were still malleable), our football stadium’s bathroom employed one of these devices. Here you could actually see the de-evolution of human beings. At least with the “open air” urinal system you could observe some sort of order; there can only be so many people using the facilities as they have units. With a trough, however, a person doesn’t really know what to do, and gathering a bunch of males together in a tiny room with but one, giant collection tub can only spell disaster. Like puppies trying to suckle at the distended teats of their mother, this system only encourages people to squeeze in at every possible opening, hoping to find the sweet spot. What is a minor annoyance in “open air” systems becomes a thing of great distress. If only Egon was correct in assuming that crossing the streams would destroy the world, we may not have had to put up with such a misappropriated use of an ungulate feeding device past its first iteration. The many sounds of trickles, streams, and jiggling is enough to turn your hair white.

I had the unpleasant experience not too long ago in a diminutive restroom at a bar in Alabama. This ramshackle hovel boasted one toilet, one urinal, and a sink, all of which in close proximity with no barriers. What was once white and shiny had become coarse and spotted due to many years of frequent misses that had never been cleaned, forming what I can only describe as flat, yellow barnacles. I knew such a room was going to be classy when I spotted the doorknob was made of glass, the kind you find in homes from the early 20th century in which you can look through the keyhole. As I was washing my hands – thoroughly and totally washing my hands – there happened to be a portly fellow (whose name could have and should have been Ignatius) using the urinal to my left. As there was but little to no room for one person, two people made it feel downright claustrophobic; a non-moving elevator from hell stuck between two floors. The man, while I hastily rubbed whatever diseases and filth that I contacted in that place off of my hands, began to imitate my movements with his mouth. When I pulled down a paper towel, he made with his mouth a “Shhwiit!” sound. As I tapped my hand on the soap dispenser: “Purkit-purkit-purkit!” I can’t help but think that had there been a nice, solid wall between myself and this man, such a thing would not have occurred. Of course, I wouldn’t have such an amazing story to impart to the world, but I think I would have lived. I must say, though, that even as I stood there mortified by this man’s imitations, it was impressive that he was urinating the entire time, not unlike Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own.

Is it too much to ask for a wall between urinals? Maybe. But I can hope that one day in the future such a complaint will be no more, as one intrepid architect will finally figure out that guys don’t like to stand communally while they pee.