Monday, November 8, 2010

The Politics of Urinating

I think it’s common knowledge by now that when a guy—a real guy, at any rate—goes to urinate in a public restroom, he’ll choose a urinal that is the furthest removed from another occupied urinal. It’s basic math, right? I enter the restroom and see three urinals. Joe Schmoe is using the one on the left. Naturally, and without hesitation, Der Viator takes the one on the right, not the middle. If Mr. Schmoe had taken the middle urinal—and there has been precedent for such impudence and reckless abandon—it would be like he’s violating the laws of nature. Hey, look. I don’t make up these rules; they’re just bequeathed to us by our hirsute ancestors. If memory serves, I think I learned in anthropology class that the Australopissicus africanus, or whatever, were the first hominids to engage in this politics of urinating. Back in those days, though, they didn’t yet have urinals, so they would set up rocks side by side in a cave, always being careful to provide an odd number of rocks so as to maximize buffer zone potential. (Until the Renaissance, when Giovanni Urinelli de Medici brought his porcelain invention to a grateful world, males often splashed each other as the golden liquid bounced off the rocks.  Actually, before the discovery of fire it was so frickin' dark in those caves that they usually missed the rocks altogether.)

Now let me complicate the picture a bit. If a restroom had, say, five urinals, as in the picture above, and three gentlemen were using the middle and outer urinals, you would face a moral dilemma. Normally in these situations, you would just walk up to one of the unoccupied urinals and end up peeing cheek by jowl, because it’s generally understood that there’s nothing you can do about it. Nothing? As always, your own Der Viator has a penchant for flouting convention, and, no, I'm not talking about peeing in the sink. Earlier today I had to take a whiz during one of our highly cherished 10-minute breaks from class. I go into the restroom and see that two urinators, Skippy and Snuffy, occupy two of the three urinals. So I make a beeline for one of the toilet stalls. As I was making my way to my private fortress of urination, a burly NCO, who was washing his hands at the sink, looked at me askance as if to say: “You’re actually going to pee in the stall?” I got pissed, emotionally and literally. What business is that of his? I concede, however, that I yanked a piece of toilet paper sufficiently so he could hear and feigned blowing my nose so as to give the illusion that peeing was just an afterthought and that my real and initial intention was to blow my nose.

Suffice to say, public urinating has a science and mathematics behind it.  As Polonius said of Hamlet's strange behavior: "Though this be madness, yet there is method in't."  Perhaps I’ll share with you the calculations I've drawn up and formulas I’ve developed.  Yes, that would be a great topic for Science Friday.  I’ve written them down on a piece of paper and keep it on my person in case I come across one of the aforementioned urinal “situations.” I always have to remind myself to divide by π.