A Modest Proposal
Dean Swift used this title quite some time ago, to suggest that starving Irish people should get off their duffs and find what nourishment they could by eating their own plump children during the potato blight and famine of the mid nineteenth century. Well, I have this to say to Mr Swift: Dean, you cannot copyright a title, so whether you like it or not, I plan to issue my own modest proposal. This time, the proposal will be a cogently argued plea for better Men’s restrooms.
Initially I was going to cover simply the problems of the Urinal, but I have since realised that there is a rich subject matter here. This richness demands that I spend some time on the Cubicles, which are available for what the French coyly refer to as La Grosse Commission, and for the convenient and private injection of intravenous drugs. I may have to deal with cubicular problems in a separate article. We’ll see how it goes.
First, I have to apologise. This is a perfectly serious contribution to the exponential growth of Knowledge, but many people are going to conclude, unfairly , that after a promising start to my second career (“Wise Man” or “Old Fart”, take your pick.) I have completely dropped the ball and allowed sleaze and obscenity to cause a dramatic drop in the intellectual tone of my writing.
But I will not be provoked; I am taking the high road.
A warning to women: You are might be puzzled and repugned by my revelations. You really don’t need this and you will learn nothing of value. I suggest you move on and read something else. That way I will have only half as many people to disgust.
Yes, unfortunately this is about urinals. Let’s move past the usual complaints: the odour, the frothy turbid fluid, of an unattractive deep amber shade overflowing onto large puddles around my feet, the cigarette butts blocking the drain and the scarcely coherent graffiti.
But I want to move on, past the not always impeccable hygiene of the Standard Urinal, and concentrate on more philosophical matters.
We have to start with a rather idealised picture of our ancestor of three million or so years ago, Archeopithecus jedensis, as he bestrode the Olduvai, stalking Lucy and lusting after her somewhat hairy bosom. At some point, perhaps after she has given him the bird or copulated with him, (it doesn’t really matter which, by the way.) and she has wandered off in search of berries or small, defenceless mammoths, he is left alone to commune with nature and reflect on the difficulty of pleasing women. He experiences a powerful urge to relieve the tension in his bladder.
Archie (as we may call him) is a simple man, of simple distractions. He needs to urinate. He urinates. Nothing more complex than that. I can (discreetly!) summarise the protocol involved: Archie is not encumbered with the complication of clothes, so he simply has to point his appendage at some handy bush and let go like a veritable fire hose. He fastidiously shakes himself off and resumes his aimless ramblings to see if he can make it again with Lucy.
Now, my modern male readers will probably be experiencing a lively degree of envy. Of course, few Archeopithecines of Archie’s generation got to be older than twenty, so right there he has an advantage over us. His prostate gland is probably the size of a cherry, with a channel the size of his finger, so he can empty the whole bazooka in about two seconds flat. Not so his miserable, remote descendant, whose gland is the size of a grapefruit, with a channel that might allow the introduction of a tiny sapling twig, should one wish to embark on such a disgusting experiment. Anyway, no matter.
The point is that our fire-hose days are long gone. Our bladders have to be cajoled and caressed into doing what they were initially designed to do without such humiliating blandishments: pass urine.
Nowadays the conditions have to be perfect. The ambience, the lighting (soft, mellow) the background music, (Mozart’s later quartets and Enya are OK.) Somebody called Snoop Doggy Something is definitely not recommended. Much too nervy and discordant.
The state of mind is crucial. Think what might be going through the mind of the Dalai Lama in a moment like this and try to emulate that. Meditate on the Buddha and his ineffable wisdom.
And if you think you’re going to be able to piss after a session with your ex-wife’s accountant’s and lawyers, forget it. It’s not going to happen.
The other place where urine is guaranteed not to flow, is in the standard restroom which has small or no dividers between the stalls.
Think about it. Archie and his contemporaries were well aware of the need to find a private place where they could relieve themselves, secure from the threat of sabre-tooth attack or being beaned by a large rock.
I know. You are saying that this is all a crock. There are no longer any sabre-tooths, and we have much more efficient ways of killing each other than hitting each other with rocks.
Yes, but it’s the feeling that is important!
We are all hard-wired to fear the Jabberwock and the Frumious Bandersnatch, however unlikely their appearance in our men’s restrooms.
So here you are, Modern Man. The restroom has soft, mellow light. Mozart is playing delicately from discreet speakers disguised as cupids. You stand there with a preoccupied but confident expression, as if you are solving the problems of the Higgs Boson, or the Unified Field Theory, smiling tolerantly as you list the arguments you might have marshalled against Einstein’s sketchy reasoning. Your bladder feels close to bursting and your pulse is a hundred and twenty. Your opening has clamped down like the Finance Department auditors on your expenses for that last conference in Bali.
So it’s getting embarrassing.
The guy in the next stall is a 200 lb linebacker for a CFL team. He shakes himself off and gazes ironically up the wall, completely aware of your predicament. Then he goes away, whistling triumphally.
Then you think, At last!
There’s an infinitesimal easing of the tension and you think that your problems are over. Then a new guy appears, with possibly even more antisocial and violent designs on you, whistling softly at the stall on the other side. He starts to micturate copiously and loudly. You cannot bear to turn your head to check out his equipment.
Ah, forget it. You can always go home and pee in the shower, or onto one of your wife’s geraniums, which are always grateful for a little extra nitrogen.
I cannot believe that there were men involved in the design of men’s restrooms. At least not men with normal urinary plumbing. Perhaps a few younger men whose systems were still in fire-hose mode, and who have no idea what is in store for them when their flow is reduced to a trickle, as is the experience of normal men over forty.
The other thought that occurs to me is that there may have been women involved in the design phase. This would explain a lot.