How not to pee, part 2

Last week I posted an anecdote that inspired in me the desire to codify some regulations for men to observe when urinating. As promised (or threatened), here’s the list. While I haven’t done extensive research, I like to think that these rules are not just an expression of my quirks and peeves.

Some of these are prescriptive, designed for practical or ethical reasons; some are more descriptive of tacit behavioral patterns that are usually not to be tampered with. I have divided the rules into categories, one for each convenience. (I leave the etiquette of sink pissing to those more practiced in it than I.)

(A) Sit-down toilets

(1) Always lift the seat into the upright position before peeing, even in public restrooms where the toilets have no lid and the seats are notched at the front. You’d be surprised at how many guys feel that it’s okay to pee all over the seat in a men’s room. Maybe they think no one ever sits on these seats. Even if that were the case, it’s unpleasant and disgusting to encounter urine on a toilet seat and have to clean it off.

(2) Always wipe down the edge of the bowl with some toilet paper to clean any errant drops of water or pee that may have landed there. Lumbering drunk guys aren’t the only ones whose pee can splish and splash about. If you’ve accidentally missed the bowl entirely (which is a great deal easier to do than most women understand), clean that up too.

(3) Unless in times of drought, flush. Almost everyone’s senses are offended by the smell of longstanding urine. Stephen Dedalus aside (whose reasons were philosophical), no one wants to be exposed to this odor unnecessarily.

(4) Always return the seat and lid back down over the toilet bowl. (This one applies to women, too.) A childhood mishap with the family copy of the Guinness Book of World Records taught me this lesson the hard way. Retrieving sopping wet items from the toilet bowl can be tricky, much more difficult than simply picking them up off the lid or the floor.

(B) Urinals

(1) When approaching a bank of more than two urinals, none of which is occupied, always use one on the end, never one in the middle. This offers any visitors who follow you the opportunity to stand a few feet farther away. Similarly, when approaching a bank of urinals that is in use, try to avoid standing right next to another patron.

Most men are uncomfortable standing adjacent to each other and holding their penises at the same time. While this may be indicative of a deep-seated discomfort with our bodies and/or sexuality, this rule will not be broken down by any individual or set of individuals who take it upon themselves to change it.

Tangential anecdote: Once, when I was making water in a restroom in a university library, a guy entered whom I knew a little bit (but not that well). He approached me, came in a little too close, and laid a hand on my shoulder (yes, while I was still peeing). Having gotten my attention, he leaned in and said, “Hey, how are you doing?” I could barely respond, really, wondering to myself how he could think that this was acceptable urinal behavior. Every male I’ve ever told this story has cringed in horror and disbelief, but many women don’t quite get what is so transgressive about it.

(2) If alone in the restroom, feel free to look about you or down at your own penis. Also, you may aim your pee as you will in the urinal. (Some restaurants dump ice in urinals. It’s fun to watch your pee drill a hole in ice.)

If not alone, look directly at the wall in front of you; do not look at your neighbor’s penis; only look at your own penis when finishing up and zipping your trousers. Staring at your own penis can seem immodest, and staring at someone else’s intrusive. If you want to look at someone else’s genitalia, it’s best to ask permission first.

(3) Keep conversation to a minimum. Men usually feel weird about talking to each other while holding their penises, even if they’re friends. We know that women talk freely to each other all the time from stall to stall. This behavior puzzles and frightens us. The exposure inherent in standing at a urinal makes us feel vulnerable and uncomfortable.

(4) As an addendum to the no talking rule, but deserving of its own space: absolutely no cell phone use. (Thanks to Jeremy for the reminder on this one.)

A friend who writes for this site was peeing in a bar once when the guy next to him started talking. “How’s it going?” he said familiarly. My friend, confused, glanced over to see his urinal mate looking at the wall. The stranger went on, as if speaking to the tile. “So, what did that text message mean?” Suddenly, my friend realized that this guy was talking on a cell phone that he had tucked up into his knit cap so that he could talk hands free and relieve himself simultaneously. This is absolutely intolerable behavior, rude both to fellow patrons and interlocutors alike.

(5) Bylaws dealing with stage fright

Keeping conversation and other distractions at a low level is important because sometimes, even when we really have to go, men can’t quite produce in a noisy, crowded bathroom. If and when this happens to you, you need to have a way to focus on voiding your bladder quickly and efficiently. Bryan has suggested visualizing peeing on the person or persons who are bringing on the anxiety. As for me, I’ve developed a little sing-song poem I run over silently in my secret mind when I encounter this problem. It helps calm me down and almost always works. I won’t tell you this poem. It’s too embarrassing, and also it’s like a personal mantra – not to be shared lest its mojo be undone. When stage fright happens to someone at a urinal near you, try not to call attention to it, but perhaps run some excess water (if you’re at the sink) or flush your urinal just a little extra when you’re finished. The power of suggestion may just help out a brother in need.

(C) Out of doors

In some cases it’s okay to pee outside, but in most it’s not. When camping or hiking far away from modern conveniences, of course, live it up and pee outside (just use a tree or some bushes, not only to hide your manhood, but so that others who come along are less likely to step in your leavings).

Walking down Highland on Sunday night, leaving the Hollywood Bowl after a really great show (sorry Wendy and Bryan), I saw a guy leave the sidewalk, negotiate some undergrowth, make his way to the side of an apartment complex, and pee on the wall right under some windows. This is rude, both to those who live in the structure being used as a toilet and to the other pedestrians passing by. No one else should have to suffer because you forgot to go when you should have. Just hold it and find a restroom as soon as possible.

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Well, I think I’ll wrap it up here. There are probably more issues to address, but I don’t want to try anyone’s patience and I can’t quite think of an elegant way to end this. If you have anything to add, by all means, use that comment box.

5 responses to “How not to pee, part 2”

  1. Pete says:

    I’m sorry if I’m jumping the gun here and delving right into pooping etiquette as well, let’s just file it all under public restroom usage.

    1. If you’re all alone in the restroom, feel free to do whatever. But once the door opens and someone enters, fer Chrissakes, stop the grunting! Nobody wants to hear your dilemmas and internal debates.

    2. Courtesy flushes are always welcome.

    3. I think it’s a rite of passage to pee outside in the middle of a city. I know it’s disgusting, but it’s just pee. Poop: no right, no passage.

  2. Stephanie Wells says:

    Urinals flush????

  3. Tim Wager says:

    Well, most do “flush,” in that there is a lever you can pull to release a flow of water. However, it usually is just sort of a trickle, not terribly efficient as flushes go, but a flush all the same.

  4. capo girl says:

    Wow, thanks for the witty and enlightening post. I’m a new woman having had that insiders glimpse.

    Re: Sit-down toilets: How about just sitting down to pee? Simply push down on penis, aim and fire away. This takes care of hasseling with up and down of toilet seat and wiping spills or dribbles.

    Re: Urinals: Suggestion #2 was my favorite. Also, stage fright happens to guys too?

  5. Lisa T. says:

    Hi Tim,

    Great seeing you and the gang last night. All hail the “hub” of Jeremy. Bienvenidos to Farrell and Brian

    Truthfully, not all women “talk freely from stall to stall” while peeing, though I’ll admit, it’s gotta be easier for us with the stall walls between. In fact, it’s often oddly silent in the women’s room, despite all urban myths and ideas put forth in the Klymaxx song “Meetin’ in the Ladies Room.” If we do chat, it’s only to friends who’re also eliminating, and usually we’ll talk in order to hide the the sounds possibly made by any ugly body function. Here in Hollywood, the mirror seems to be the bathroom’s prime attraction and that’s where etiquette comes in handy. Girls, use your alloted 30 seconds wisely.

    I’m surprised I have so much to say on the subect. Honestly, I think I just want to post a comment. And yet…

    P.S. Women get stage fright too. I can vouch. A trick: turn on the water or ask a friend to run it.