The Book of Men is a cryptic text. It's everywhere you look, written in between football statistics and inside user manuals for gas grills. On the curved and bumpy shrink wrap around every package of bratwurst, and along the waistband of every pair of boxers. It speaks of many things that are essential for men to survive in this world. It tells of the correct positioning of the hand inside the upper rim of the jeans for the best possible relaxation on the couch. It elucidates the dangers of revealing your emotions, and why it's bad to ask for directions when lost. But there is one thing that it does not explain, because there is not a man alive that needs it explained to them. Every man knows it from birth, and there is never any question in the matter. The Book of Men does not explain how to act inside of a Men's Public Restroom.
Those of you who do not possess the equipment necessary to enter the men's room may be interested in it, however, because it offers a slight amount of insight into the mind of the fouler sex.
First, understand the setting. There is only privacy in the men's room if you are sitting down. In other words, there are only stalls for toilets. Fortunately, the makers of men's rooms have gone far enough to allow us to not have to sit elbow to elbow with the next man along who's dropping the kids off at the pool. With urinals, however, it's a different story. Most of the time, there are no dividers between urinals. Each urinal is generally separated by 4 to 6 inches of empty wall space. On occasion, someone has been kind enough to erect a small divider, maybe 6 to 8 inches in length, between the urinals. Unfortunately, they usually are so low that they afford absolutely no privacy, and one must assume that they are there for Some Other Purpose.
It might be noted that, unlike women's bathrooms, there are few rules inside the stalls. In fact, there's actually only three real reasons to use the them at all. Reason #1: You actually have to drop a load. This reason is, perhaps, the sketchiest. Even the bravest of men are afraid to park their pillows on the dank, black U of a public restroom seat, because, as was mentioned before, there are very few rules there. God only knows what has gone on before you decided you had to leave a log in the lurch. Reason #2: You are urinal shy. Otherwise known as constapiss or pisstapation. Some men just can't perform at urinals. It's nothing to be ashamed of, and has nothing to do with regular impotency or erectile dysfunction. Reason #3: Urinal Etiquette demands that you use a stall.
Let us extol, for a moment, the virtues of the urinal. The urinal: the greatest invention of mankind for men. You don't have to drop trough, you don't have to sit down. You just unzip, aim, and shoot. A few shakes after a tinkle and your winkie is finished. They were supposedly invented by a trapper in Kentucky in the 1700's who was too lazy to go outside to drain the lizard. Instead he nailed a hollow log to his wall and did his duty in the den. Urinals. Are they lazy? Yes. Are they fantastic? Yes. Do they have their flaws? Yes, and among them is the introduction of the aforementioned Urinal Etiquette.
Urinal Etiquette is delicate and unspoken. It introduces itself anywhere you find more than 2 urinals side by side. Here's the basic rule: Never use a urinal that is adjacent to a urinal already in use. There are only a few exceptions, and those will come out in time. First, let's cover a few basic situations you'll find in men's restrooms.
Scenario - The Empty Bathroom: You walk into an empty bathroom and find a row of 5 urinals at your disposal. Nobody is using them, and you have your pick as to which to go to. Which do you choose? The one closest to you? The one smack dab in the middle?
The correct answer is the one farthest from the entrance, even more preferable if it's in the corner. Why? Multiple reasons: By choosing the one farthest from the entrance you reduce the risk that someone may walk into the bathroom and see you while you're fishing through your tackle box. It gives you the opportunity to turn away, back toward the entrance, and keep from prying eyes the process of easing your delicate monster out of its cave. The next person entering the bathroom would then take the next available urinal closest to the wall (the 3rd urinal in) for the same reason. As you've turned your back to him, he can safely turn his front to you without fear of you watching him rummage through his toolbox.
Scenario - The Asshole: You walk into a bathroom and find a row of 5 urinals. Some asshole has decided to breach Urinal Etiquette and use the 4th urinal in, rather than the 5th when the bathroom was empty. Which urinal do you choose?
There are actually two correct answers to this scenario. The first correct answer is to choose the 2nd urinal in. However, since assface has already broken Urinal Etiquette once in choosing the 4th urinal, you have no reason to assume that he will not breach Etiquette further and watch you trickle from your trouser snake. Thus, you can either politely wait for him to finish, or use a stall.
Scenario - The Full Row: You walk into a bathroom and find a row of 5 urinals. Urinals 1, 3, and 5 are in use. Which urinal do you choose?
Easy. You don't. Time for a stall. The only reason that you should use one of the remaining urinals is if all of the stalls are full. You are then clear to proceed.
Let us now move onto some different scenarios, some that do not involve just plain ol' numbers.
Scenario - Summer Dress: No, not that you're wearing a summer dress (if you are, the rule is plain -- stay the hell out of the Men's Restroom). This means shorts and/or sandals. These can cause uncomfortable situations when combined with urinals. Imagine you are standing at the urinal, pleasantly draining the main vein when suddenly somebody sidles up next to you and decides to let loose in the levee next to you. You might think nothing of it if Urinal Etiquette has not been breached (indicating all the stalls are full) until you start to feel a light patter of water on your sandal-clad feet and shorts-laden legs. No, he hasn't missed the urinal, you've just become a victim of splashback. There is nothing you can do in this situation short of backing swiftly away from the urinal and rabbit punching your neighbor in the kidney. There is simply no polite way to wash urine off your feet in a public restroom. Therefore, the correct thing to do is to avoid the situation altogether. If you're wearing sandals and/or shorts, go shake the one-eyed gopher in the stall, for sanitary reasons.
Scenario - The Conversationalist: Frequently, in small towns with big urinal farms you'll find this. You'll be letting the lead out when somebody comes into the bathroom, sets up camp at a urinal next to you, and says something like, "Nice weather out there today, eh?" This is a huge faux pas. You do not talk to other people while using the urinal unless there is some very good reason (such as, "Hey, you're stepping on my foot." "Hey, you're pissing on my foot." or "If you don't get the hell away from me I'll rabbit punch you in the kidney."). You don't talk to people about the weather, politics, the fact that you have to fart, or even the hot girl that's standing outside. You keep your mouth shut. If someone starts talking to you, you only have two courses of action. You can pretend you're deaf, or you can chuckle uncomfortably and get the hell out of the men's room.
Scenario - The Looker: It happens. No matter what we like to think, those people are out there. Yep. There are those people that will come into the bathroom and intentionally gaze into their neighbor's urinal. Who knows why they do it? Maybe they're interested in comparing the size of their unit to other people's. Maybe they're hogan hunting. The important thing is that it is inappropriate. There are three correct places to look while you're at the urinal. There's straight down into your own dinghy, straight ahead to study the grout in the tiles, or straight up to check out the light fixtures. Looking to the right or the left while someone is next to you is just plain rude, and may well get you a rabbit punch in the kidney.
There are, perhaps, hundreds of other scenarios that one might encounter in Men's Restrooms. Some are based on location -- a highway rest stop in South Dakota, for instance, will have different etiquette rules than Grand Central Station. Some are based purely on cleanliness -- a very clean restroom has much different rules than a very dirty restroom. Whatever the situation, trust that an unspoken code is being followed by nearly everyone. Those who do not follow Urinal Etiquette are sure to be trouble and, in some communities, are publicly shunned. Ladies, if you're not sure if a man follows Urinal Etiquette, ask. If he knows what you're talking about, smiles, laughs, and wonders how you know about it, then you're on the right track. If he looks at you questioningly, do yourself a favor. Don't shake his hand.
IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
9.17.02 @ 12:02p
I can't believe you sat down and wrote this. Nice job. You're not right in the head.
9.17.02 @ 12:59p
You forgot the rules when at a ball game and presented with the urinal trough.
I'd rather my bladder burst and I hemmorhage internally than use a trough.
9.17.02 @ 1:12p
Oh.. urinal troughs are a matter all their own. I don't think there's etiquette involved at all when using a urinal trough.
I don't touch 'em unless I absolutely positively have to.
9.17.02 @ 3:37p
9.17.02 @ 3:40p
You can't infer?
9.17.02 @ 7:10p
As I am quite likely the only person at IntrepidMedia who actually OWNS a urinal, may I just add these two little notes: it's not a breath mint, and wash your hands.
9.17.02 @ 7:12p
You have a urinal in your house? Or do you just live at the bus station or something?
9.17.02 @ 7:15p
I have a urinal in my house.
Stop looking at me like that. I had nothing to do with it. It came with the house. It may actually be the sole reason my husband agreed to buy this house.
9.17.02 @ 7:30p
Juli! You're my hero! When I build be own house there will be a urinal in every bathroom.
9.17.02 @ 10:31p
This is just a little more information than I was expecting. I don't think I've even seen my husband "rummage through his toolbox" before proceeding, much less learn how y'all do it.
Erik, with this, you have so made an entry into my next column. Thank you.
9.17.02 @ 11:12p
Three thumbs down on the urinal, here. Unless there's simply no alternative, I'd rather wait for a stall or hold it. It's not a performance issue. Erik mentioned it in regard to summer dress: splashback. When you're short like I am, the average urinal hangs too far up the wall to allow gravity to work its magic on the golden arch. Instead it's a fast, high pressure trip from the tip, and the bottom of a urinal is a ricochet chamber. It's like shooting a laser into a well-mirrored room...you don't know where the beam's gonna end up. The addition of a urinal cake only adds another surface to bounce off of.
Nope. I don't want to risk wearing pee pants or sprinkle shoes. So it's into the stall I go, to drop and dangle, grateful for a pot to piss in.
9.17.02 @ 11:47p
Not to mention that having three thumbs probably wreaks all kinds of hell with your coordination, eh, Russ?
9.18.02 @ 1:27a
"A few shakes after you tinkle, and your winkie's finished."
I can't even begin to tell you what kind of noise I made when I read this. You are my urinary hero.
9.18.02 @ 8:44a
"Hogan hunting: a ritual performed by 18th century Navajo families before moving to a new location. (More accurately 'hooghan hunting.')"
The one men's room at my workplace has the two urinals separated in their own stalls, identical to the other stalls, except without doors. If height is a problem, the *other* men's room has the to-the-floor types...but they, sadly, are out in the open.
The bar I frequented at university has a urinal that was so large that it could probably pass *as* a stall on its own.
9.18.02 @ 9:00a
Ah, the uber-urinal at Alex's.
It is God's urinal, but it's probably the dirtiest piece of ceramic on the Eastern Seaboard.
9.18.02 @ 9:31a
Why, God, did I click on that link? No seriously, I'm asking. Was it a punishment for my lack of faith? Couldn't you have just stricken me blind?
9.18.02 @ 9:56a
Don't say that! It's beautiful, in its own way! Think of it as the ugly duckling! Someday, it might turn into a beautiful swan that you can pee on.
9.18.02 @ 10:51a
Only with a lot of contortion on her part.
9.18.02 @ 10:55a
Nah, with a urinal that big you could squat with no problem.
9.18.02 @ 11:04a
Why did you take two pictures of it?
9.18.02 @ 11:05a
Because one has somebody posing in front of it.
9.18.02 @ 11:33a
Never mind. It's the same pic that I was looking at. Just one of 'em's an html page.
9.18.02 @ 11:41a
Oh, but there's another one here.
You just can't really see the urinal -- but it does give a good sense of scale.
9.18.02 @ 5:17p
erik -- i think someone stole your idea. jon carroll -- a columnist for the sf chronicle -- wrote an article about men's restroom habits in today's paper. coincidence? i think not.
thanks to matt for helping me make a normal link:
here's the link
9.18.02 @ 5:29p
Oh my god.. that article is frickin' hilarious!
9.18.02 @ 8:06p
What about when some asshole pushes you WHILE you are still peeing? It is idiotic and childish, but it does happen.
9.19.02 @ 7:54a
[flips through manual]
There's something about a rabbit punch to the kidney in here somewhere.
9.19.02 @ 12:52p
I am appalled, and yet strangely impressed, at how many synonyms you've found for your "one-eyed gopher" and the actual act of urination.
9.19.02 @ 4:07p
Matt* and I laughed at those too - in fact, when he came home from work yesterday, I made him sit down and read it, and he said "I needed something like this to take the edge off today."
9.19.02 @ 4:10p
Speaking of urinals and women squating, one of the travel mags I get has an ad for cones that women can use in, uh, certain compromising situations.
I want to get some and try them out just so I can flippantly say "Yes I can pee standing up, thank you."
9.19.02 @ 4:18p
Cones? Like funnels? I think you need to explain that a little better. I'm intruiged.
9.19.02 @ 4:28p
Basically, it gives them the ability to aim, if I'm imagining this right.
9.19.02 @ 4:40p
You must be speaking from experience. Is this how you're able to pee standing up, too?
5.11.07 @ 1:51p
Found this classic via Right Now and thought I'd add another rule to the Etiquette list:
Flush the damn urinal. Nobody wants to add their liquid gold to yours. You say you're afraid of germs on the handle? Wash your hands. There's soap in the plastic box thingy on the wall by the sink. You say you're conserving water? No you're not - I've gotta flush twice now, before and after I, um... I think Eric used up all the euphemisms.
5.13.07 @ 7:34p
This. Is. HYSTERICAL!