Today’s Thoughts on Complicated Urinal Positioning

I have got this damn thing down to a science.

For women, this will obviously not be familiar but may be an eye opening look at just how social interaction occurs in a men’s bathroom. For men, this will obviously be a familiar look at the inner-workings of our secret societies, behind the ceramic wall.

For everyone else (which includes chimps who are currently being taught by the government to search the Internet for terrorists), this will all appear insignificant and incoherent. To you, I apologize.

Math and the men’s bathroom have a lot in common.

When I enter a bathroom, my first concern if I am planning on “going number one” is that I can do so at a urinal where I am nowhere near any other person “going number one.” Urinals are setup in a row of 3 to 9 (always odd numbered) and against a wall. Which one I choose is dependent on many factors.

1. In a perfect world I can choose a urinal that is only next to one other urinal and a wall. This allows me to look at the wall on my left or right which helps me concentrate and not focus on any other people or sounds going on around me. Sometimes if I just stare at the wall side of this perfect scenario I can imagine I am somewhere else, like out in an abandoned alley in the bad part of town. Still, it’s comforting to be guarded by such a wall.

2. In a semi-perfect world, I can choose a urinal that is between two other urinals that are not occupied. This is always my second choice if there’s no wall to be comforted by. Even if there is some guy two urinals away, as long as I look down I will never see him in my peripheral vision. Therefore, I am pretty much alone. This will help me to concentrate.

3. In a not so-perfect world, I will find that the only urinals available are next to someone else doing their business. In a nightmare world, the only open urinal has someone on either side. This is more uncomfortable than a flight in coach on American Airlines…and I will most often opt out for an actual stall in the bathroom.

4. In the worst case scenario, I will go into a stall but pretend that I am not going in there for “number one” because then everyone else in the bathroom will know that I am just plainly uncomfortable going “number one” between two men in a urinal sandwich. Why I care, I’m not sure. But if I am forced to go into a stall as a result of my avoiding the “urinal sandwich”, I will wait until everyone has vacated the outer area to continue. For if they hear that I am only going “number one” in a stall, I will be forever looked at as a “urinal avoider” and this is a label I will never be able to live with.

5. In the worst-ever, nightmare scenario, there are no stalls available or there are available stalls with no seat protectors and dirty floors. In this scenario I must force myself into the “urinal sandwich” which most often puts me in a scenario where I am unable to perform (so-to-speak). This is where the math comes in.

6. Although some treat it as an urban legend — indeed, by doing multiplication in your head, you will find that you will eventually be able to perform. For me, multiplying odd-numbered 4 digit numbers helps extremely well. Long division isn’t half-bad either.

And when all else fails, and none of the above scenarios can be met with certain success — there is another halfway decent solution… Fasting.

In other news — let no human say that I don’t tackle the tough issues.

9 comments on “Today’s Thoughts on Complicated Urinal Positioning

  1. Anne - April 14, 2004 at 7:26 am -

    A fascinating and informative study. The women of the world who’ve always wondered, thank you. Good show!

  2. Kathleen - April 14, 2004 at 8:51 am -

    Good grief, don’t I understand—from a woman’s standpoint that is. Unfortunately, some women need an education course on the ladies’ restroom:
    The restroom that I frequent at work has five stalls. What I don’t get—are the women on the same floor as myself. I don’t know who they are because all the offices share the main restroom on the floor.
    SO, most of the time there is no one in the restroom when I enter, but usually a woman will walk in just after me, and most undoubtedly she will go the stall RIGHT NEXT TO ME! Hello! Let’s say I’m in Stall Number 1, she can choose Stall Numbers 3, 4, & 5 for a nice buffer zone, the further the better I say, but no, she chooses Stall Number 2.

    Then one day, I was in Stall Number 3—all by myself, and wouldn’t you know TWO women walk in and go to Stalls 2 & 4. This is still mind boggling to me, so much that I made a point to ask other women what their thoughts were about my encounters—every woman I spoke with has presumed that I share a restroom with women with no “buffer zone knowledge.”

    But on a lighter note, there is a nifty restaurant that has cleverly labeled their restroom signs to make it confusing as to which door to go in for the gender you are—I actually choose the wrong door, but my friend pointed me to the right one just before I entered, so I didn’t end up in the boys’ restroom.

    On my visit to this restroom, I learned more about men and their restroom tendencies. Because….as I was finishing up business, a GUY entered, having chose the wrong door. I embraced the awkward situation b/c I knew he didn’t know. It took some mighty lip biting not burst out laughing as I came out of the stall to discover a trend about menthey don’t close the stall door when they are going “number one.” With a big smile on my face I washed my hands, and when he saw me, his face turned red. “Is this the girls’ restroom?” “Yes, it is.”

  3. Kristi - April 14, 2004 at 9:26 am -

    Bravo, Paul! That was a wonderful look into the warped psyche of your average man- I think I’m beginning to have a glimmer of an understanding into why you guys do the things you do! Thank god us women only have to deal with minor issues such as “stall talkers” and waiting till the bathroom is empty or for a flush to let out our more noisy “number twos” (as you like to call them).

    However, I still have never heard an acceptable explanation to the phenomenon of the “I’m-not-gay” seat that guys need to have between them when they go to the movies. Seriously, why do guys think other people are going to think they’re gay if they sit next to each other? They look ridiculous, and we all know why they’re doing it- because they’re not comfortable with their own sexuality. If you can explain this, I’d be most appreciative.

  4. Pauly D - April 14, 2004 at 9:40 am -

    The “I’m Not Gay” seat in the movies is something I have never understood. I have had friends who sit one seat away and I tell them that they’d better not do that or else I’m moving to another row. It screams insecurity to everyone around you.

    Unless I go to the movies with Fabio. I always ask him to sit one seat away.

  5. liz - April 14, 2004 at 10:49 am -

    some women do obey the buffer stall. what I don’t get is people who talk on their cell phones while they’re doing their business in public restrooms. yuk!

  6. chase - April 14, 2004 at 12:30 pm -

    all true. don’t forget the mass urinal “troughs” found at sporting events bathrooms. you want to talk about something that freaks a guy out?

  7. enigma - April 14, 2004 at 3:13 pm -

    i like one seat away in movies unless its a packed theatre or a date. i like to place my coat, handbag, etc in the seat. if the arm rest can be raised my feet may wind up in the seat too. i like being comfy.

    i hate public restrooms. i try to avoid them all costs. i don’t understand why they don’t have little partitions between urinals. hmm maybe i should get n2 public restroom design. just be lucky its not a trough instead of urinals. in madrid the guys went to go to the restroom in a bullring and it was a trough w/water constantly flowing. they said the native men, being use to it, had no respect for personal space. imaginge standing there hip to hip w/guys pee’n like a urinating circle jerk. now that’s just not right.

    i tried to sneak in and get a picture but the security caught me. i pretended i didn’t understand and that i was looking for the ladies’ room. ah me and spanish security & police. i wouldn’t be surprised if my photo was up someplace.

  8. Lengfoo - April 19, 2004 at 10:08 pm -

    Y’know, it’s important to pay attention to point 1 — especially to the “concentrat[ing] and not focus[ing] on any other people or sounds …” bit. To the sounds, in particular. And more specifically, my own sounds. At one point, six or seven years ago, I started to pay attention to the amount of drip, drip, dripping, splish-splashing noises that men made. I shouldn’t have done this. Upon consideration, I’ve determined that you could determine if the guy, several urinals down, was *ahem* longer or shorter than you. If they made more noise, than they were longer …

    I’m silent. Quiet. Not a peep …

  9. emma wei] - December 14, 2006 at 1:34 pm -

    this is sooooooooo true about the urinal avoider and the urinal sandwich

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