Friday, June 02, 2006

Friday Flashback: Male Restroom Etiquette

May be doing a short road trip this weekend. An overnight trip, or maybe just a long drive. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this week's Friday Flashback.

Of all the posts I've written, this is one of my three or four favorites. Not that I have them all ranked or anything. It's the quintessential Bone. Me in my element. The restroom. If there are two things I know about, it's Seinfeld and restrooms. And it really didn't take that long to write, either. I hope you enjoy it.

This was originally posted October 21, 2005.

Picture the following... You find yourself at the airport, with an impending renal requirement. After walking past several gates, you finally see the restrooms. The urinator's oasis. You rush inside. Fortunately, it's not crowded. There are maybe 15 wall stalls, and only a couple are taken. You position yourself at the second stall from the left, four urinals down from your nearest fellow leaker, unzip, and let it go. Ahhhh.

Suddenly, without warning, midway through your discharge, your personal space is invaded. Without any thought for common sense and everything that is good and homophobic, someone sets up camp at the far left urinal, right next to you! What the freak?!

This situation happened to me recently. Twice! I had to fight my natural instinct to yell out "What the crap?!" to the offending parties. As a friend of mine said to me when I relayed this story to him, "You can't pee with someone right next to you!" Indeed!

Of course, it's much too painful to try and cut off the flow and move. But it was all I could do not to switch stalls midstream. These events have prompted me to compose this entry.

There are unspoken rules of men's room etiquette. I don't know how we know them, we just do. Well, most of us anyway. Some are common sense. Some, otherwise. I will now attempt to acquaint you with some of the more important rules and procedures for the very natural process of urinating in a public forum.

Rule #1. Always, ALWAYS leave a buffer zone of at least one urinal between you and the nearest peer. Always. Simple enough? Apparently not for the dysfunctional pee people I encountered. I will allow some leeway on this rule if and only if there is some sort of partition between urinals. But even then, skip a space if at all possible.

Rule #2. If it is impossible to skip at least one urinal, then check for an open stall. Yes, that's right the good old traditional sit-down toilet. Most of these are fully-enclosed, except for perhaps a foot or two of space at the bottom.

If no stall is available, then I recommend leaving and coming back at a later time. Although waiting is acceptable, as long as you wait over by the sink. Don't wait directly behind someone who is doing his business. I mean, really, most of us have been in prison at one time or another, and it's just a little uncomfortable, that's all.

Rule #3. Once you're at your station, employ the three 'S' method of public urination. Snuggle, Straight, Silent. Get in close, look straight ahead, and don't speak.

No one likes a loosey-goosey-necked urinator. Don't look around. No one likes a long-distance bomber either. Get as close as possible to the porcelain without touching it. And don't make small talk. It's not a social event. It's a bodily function.

Besides, you should be more worried about what you would do if someone were to steal your wallet right at this very moment. Because really, this would be the opportune time to do so, don't you think? That's what I always think about when I am peeing anyway.

Addendum A. (The Stall Clause). If you're using the toilet... defacating... and you get done, please wait until the restroom is completely clear before exiting and washing up. You've just done that. And we don't want to put a face with the odor, Stinky. Really.

I guess that will do for now.

Next, let's look at a couple of examples. These are situations that you might very well encounter, and how best to handle them.

Situation 1: There are five urinals and three stalls. Urinals #2 and #5 are occupado. What do you do?

Answer: Since it would be impossible to skip a urinal on each side, check the stalls. If you can't find an open stall, you may pretend to wash your hands until a urinal comes open, or just leave and come back in a little while. If urinals 1 and 5 would have been occupied, you could have safely and properly squeezed in at urinal 3.

Also, as a side note here, let me say this. Beware of the stinky stall surprise. For some reason, people either don't like to flush public toilets, or don't know how. If you encounter this unpleasant stink bomb, exit the stall immediately and find another appropriate location.

Situation 2: There are three urinals. The far left one is occupied. The other two are open.

Answer: This one is easy. Use the far right urinal. For added protection, you might also employ a 30 degree turn, what I like to call the privacy turn, away from the other urinals. This works especially well on an end urinal.

Now for some reader questions. Or questions that I made up and attributed to readers. Whichever.

One readers asks, "Bone, what if I enter an empty restroom? Is there a best choice of urinals?"

I'm glad you asked. You're only going to be in there for a short time, hopefully, unless you have some sort of problem. So it doesn't matter so much. Still, to be safe, choose an end urinal. Then, if someone were to violate the one-urinal buffer zone rule, you could still do the 30 degree turn and get a small measure of privacy.

Also, sometimes the sinks are next to the urinals. If this is the case, choose a urinal away from the sink. That way no one who might come in to wash his hands will be tempted to sneak a peek, if you know what I mean.

Another reader wants to know, "What about the restrooms that have large tub-like basins to pee into, Bone? What's proper etiquette there?"

I know exactly what you're talking about. And this is pretty much a judgment call. First, I would try to find an unoccupied basin. If there are none, look for a stall. Still no luck? It might be possible to urinate in the same basin as somone else. It really all depends on the basin size.

If there's any chance your streams could cross, then you definitely want to avoid that. How awkward would that be. I mean, if you're gonna do that, you might as well hold hands. Even if no one is there, always position yourself near one end of the basin. Similarly with the restrooms that just have streams of water running down the wall into a drain (I hate those), it's a judgment call. A good rule of thumb always is to allow as much distance as possible.

In closing, I hope we can all see from these points I've tried to make that when a man enters a public restroom, the choice of stalls is not some haphazard, random, close-your-eyes-and-hope-for-the-best process. That's OK in the bedroom. But not here. This is much more important.

The renality of it is this. It's a logical process. And it's not that difficult. With apologies to Janet Jackson, we all live in a urine nation. So let's make the best of it. You can't just go anywhere. However, if you apply yourself and follow these simple guidelines, you too can engage in proper public urination. And that means a better, safer, more pees-ful world for all of us.

Also be looking for my future diatribes, including:
Outdoor urination: When? Where? And which bushes are prickly?
High and low urinals: The long and short of it
Proper flushing technique: The kick flush (You can always burn your shoes later)
Proper handwashing: The paper towel first technique
Hand blowers: Patience rewarded
The split-stream: That rarest of all male urination phenomena

"Ain't it funny how a melody can bring back a memory? Take you to another place and time. Completely change your state of mind..."


  1. Urine nation? Love that. Janet Jackson should apologize to you

    Addendum A works well for women also--as does any and all handwashing rules.

    A recent study said that more men wash their hands than women do

    Am for anything that makes this a better safer pees-ful world for all of us

  2. LMAO. OMG!!! Men LOOK at other men peeing? WTF??? That's perverted and rude. And yea, I would have thought that you guys give each other a urinal's worth of space.

    And there are guys that do the long distance urination? Why? Is there a contest with a prize?

    Do you ever come across pee on the floor in front of the urinal? That would be totally gross.

    And I HATE HATE HATE people who don't flush the toilet. Ya leave those little floaters in your toilet at home? I doubt it. Use your frickin' foot to flush the toilet!

  3. "... if you're gonna do that, you might as well hold hands."

    ... made me laugh out loud.

    This is quintessential you at your best... or worst?

    I love this post.

  4. PS- Isn't "streams crossing" called "sword fighting" by guys? You and Kyle have never done that?


  5. This one is still a of my favorites.

    I don't know if what Lilly did was blog worthy, but I'll tell you and all your fans anyway.

    We went for a walk last night and crossed a major intersection to get to the park. About 3/4 of the way across the intersection, Lilly decides that she needs to take a "sit". In the middle of the road with the crossing light changing! We were so shocked. We would have expected this to happen while we were waiting for the light to change...but not in traffic.

    Dh drug her squatting body the rest of the way across the street and she was finished when we got to the other sidewalk.

    The really gross part was that when we went to cross back to get home none of it was it was all stuck to the tires of other cars... ewwwee!

  6. Pia: Would be interested to hear your women's restroom etiquette rules. Just out of curiosity :)

    Chickadee: Um, yes, the majority of time there is pee all over the place in public restrooms. I don't like to think about it. Getting on my shoes. Ewww!

    OCG: Thanks. If only every post came this easy for me.

    And no, we do not sword fight. I've never heard of any guys doing that. Ewww!

    Renee: LOL That's funny. In the middle of a major intersection.

  7. This is funny!

    My lastest thought about the male bathroom is how many of public restrooms are putting advertisements over the urinals. My eyes are getting worse (the over 45 syndrome) and I can no longer read those fliers without glasses, but putting glasses on to pee just doesn't seem proper...

  8. Yo, thanks for coming bowling last night, you kicked all our tails! I'll try and not make so many gutter balls next time. Ha. peace.

  9. Dea: Me too! :)

    Sage: Thanks. I don't really care for the ads. I do kinda like the restrooms which put the sports page on the wall above the urinals. I can see how putting on your glasses at the urinal would be a bit odd :)

    Kyle: Anytime. It was good fun. Although I figured J-Mo would have kicked all our tails. I guess having two balls isn't always all it's cracked up to be.

    Oh, how were the bowling alley restrooms. Anybody go?

  10. Questions:

    1.) How does the above apply during the 'Bama games? I can only guess that the facilities at either of the 'Bama stadiums are like the facilities at Neyland stadium. Which means very, very crowded troths, or nasty, unflushed stalls? Do you just 'hold it'?

    2.) If someone accidently pees/splashes on your shoes, is it OK to:
    a.) kill them with a Seagalesque quickness?
    b.) stare them down until they apologize?
    c.) finish up, wash hands, and exit like nothing happened?
    d.) other (please fill in):___________________________

    A quick, true story. A buddy of mine went to a race at Bristol with his brother. They were next to each other while urinating (clearly a violation), when my friend's brother said "can you hold my bag for me." To which every other guy in the bathroom started laughing. Lesson: Never pee next to my friend's brother anywhere. I repeat anywhere.

  11. Big Man: I like the way you think.

    1) I try to go before the game. It's not so crowded then. And then hold it until the game is over.

    2)a) Yes, but don't tell anyone I told you so.
    b) That could take a little time. You want to minimize your time in what is probably an olfactory nightmare.
    c) This is also a viable option, as you can burn your shoes later.

    I love the story of your friend's brother. Perhaps we should all try that. Maybe that would end restroom buffer zone violations worldwide.