This Vancouver urinal has zero privacy and 100 years of history
September 25, 2019 12:44 PM   Subscribe

In the summer of 2013, Matt Straw attended a wedding at Heritage Hall, a brownstone building in East Vancouver known for its elegant ballroom, stained glass chandeliers and historic clock tower. But all anybody could talk about was that urinal.
posted by Etrigan (75 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
Never peed in Amsterdam before then, eh?
posted by humboldt32 at 12:46 PM on September 25 [4 favorites]


I find it amusing that Europeans are often freaked out by American toilet stalls having half-inch cracks between the doors and the walls, when the urinals in Europe are sometimes out of the closed area and in the shared, adjacent room with the sink.

I'm standing there peeing and two ladies are washing up and conversing right behind me. Didn't bother me much, but I felt embarrassed for them. Though they didn't seem to mind.
posted by SoberHighland at 12:50 PM on September 25 [8 favorites]


"It's the abominable snowman of toilets," said Graeme Menzies, who featured the urinal in his 2019 book 111 Places in Vancouver That You Must Not Miss.

The urinal at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, CA (Google Streetview panorama) is also listed among local features: Madonna Inn – Eclectic Rooms, Amazing Food & Fountain Urinals (California Through My Lens)
posted by filthy light thief at 12:50 PM on September 25 [7 favorites]


Eh. I’ve peed in worse.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 12:52 PM on September 25 [1 favorite]


111 Places in Vancouver That You Must Not Miss.

yeah because if you miss you end up peeing on the other dude
posted by GuyZero at 12:54 PM on September 25 [79 favorites]


"It's the abominable snowman of toilets"

Wouldn't that be one of these?
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 12:57 PM on September 25 [7 favorites]


Meh. The Washington State Ferries have a big trough. Shoulder to shoulder gents!
posted by mrbarky at 12:59 PM on September 25 [12 favorites]


For decades, the twin urinal has befuddled thousands of men who have streamed through Heritage Hall's basement bathroom.


Ahem.
posted by jaruwaan at 12:59 PM on September 25 [21 favorites]


We had the shower version in one of my uni's locker rooms. Stainless steel post sticking up in the middle of the room, four shower heads sprouting from it, everyone trying to avoid eye contact.
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:00 PM on September 25 [3 favorites]


There was one long, huge, communal metal trough in the men's rooms in Wrigley Field, complete with pee-sodden refuse and spittle soaked cigarette butts. If you could squeeze in shoulder-to-shoulder, you'd do your business in it. I haven't been there since the early '90s though. I avoid Wrigleyville in general.
posted by SoberHighland at 1:06 PM on September 25 [2 favorites]


Charming, but they've got nothing on the Bernabéu's chest-high double-sided wall with urinals on either side.
posted by Kreiger at 1:06 PM on September 25


How you like this one for zero privacy?
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:12 PM on September 25 [2 favorites]


Urinal Architect Stories:

1: Worked on a house once where the client asked to install a custom urinal they had purchased, and provided dimensions. When it showed up on site we uncrated and unwrapped and... it was shaped like a giant pair of red lips. Can’t unsee.

2: a colleague worked on a house for Jim Belushi, and one of his requests was for a closet off of his bedroom with just a urinal behind the door. No sink. Carpet on the floor.
posted by q*ben at 1:13 PM on September 25 [23 favorites]


I always appreciate it when a pub has the front (news) and back (sports) pages of the local newspaper mounted in frames above the urinal, so there's something to read while you're otherwise occupied.
posted by zamboni at 1:17 PM on September 25 [1 favorite]


Enh, this has nothing on those communal floor trough urinals.
posted by fimbulvetr at 1:18 PM on September 25 [6 favorites]


it's exposure therapy for the pee-shy
posted by roger ackroyd at 1:21 PM on September 25 [1 favorite]


Who among us can say that they haven't had the urge to belly up to the urinal, throw a comradely arm around his neighbor, and say "Isn't it a lovely day for it, friend?"
posted by kawelch at 1:22 PM on September 25 [7 favorites]


Everyone who's comparing this to troughs, the next time you're at one of those, turn 45 degrees either direction and see how comparable it is.
posted by Etrigan at 1:24 PM on September 25 [19 favorites]


The Virginia Theater in Urbana, Il has a wide window facing the street at eye level right over the row of three urinals in the mens' room so you're staring out the window at people on N. Randolph Street while you pee.
posted by octothorpe at 1:25 PM on September 25 [8 favorites]


I am sure that this was built by someone who knows the secret to marshalling a recalcitrant bladder to produce, who used it to establish dominance over his contemporaries. If you can maintain unwavering eye contact, a serious conversation, and a steady flow all a the same time, men will vie for the chance to follow you into the bowels of Hell itself.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:29 PM on September 25 [14 favorites]


The Virginia Theater in Urbana, Il has a wide window facing the street at eye level right over the row of three urinals in the mens' room so you're staring out the window at people on N. Randolph Street while you pee.

I discovered that one of the bathrooms in an old building at my university (I can't remember which one, but it might have been Giannini Hall) was positioned so that the windows were exactly at street level. I noticed this because it was a hot day and someone had propped open the window. I noticed this after I'd peed. I think people on the street might have seen my Johnston.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:32 PM on September 25


There are lots of trough urinals in Vancouver bars (or at least there were a few years ago). This ain't that.
posted by bonehead at 1:36 PM on September 25


that, is a wicked pissah
posted by pilot pirx at 1:36 PM on September 25 [15 favorites]


There was one long, huge, communal metal trough

A trough down the center of the room was common in public facilities for all genders when I was living in China many years ago. Drop trou, straddle and let 'er rip.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:39 PM on September 25 [3 favorites]


O' Zapft is!
posted by Nelson at 1:43 PM on September 25


This is why I prefer to pee outdoors.
posted by AugustWest at 1:43 PM on September 25


Clicked for a pic of a urinal. Was not disappointed.
posted by slogger at 1:48 PM on September 25 [2 favorites]


Less of a urinal and more of an our-inal.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:50 PM on September 25 [63 favorites]


I think the difference with this particular pair of urinals is that the orientation of two people would be not just forward-facing side-by-side, but kind of angled towards each-other.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:50 PM on September 25 [2 favorites]


Everyone who's comparing this to troughs, the next time you're at one of those, turn 45 degrees either direction and see how comparable it is.

No way, man. Face the wall as per usual and then set the angle of your dangle at 45 degrees. No uncomfortable eye contact required.

;-)
posted by Big Al 8000 at 1:50 PM on September 25 [2 favorites]


There were, apparently, pubs in Scotland that had the urinal trough at the bar. No privacy at all
posted by scruss at 1:51 PM on September 25


communal metal trough
I’ve seen these in bars around San Francisco too. Imo the bar version is worse than the stadium version, because it’s a tiny room and the damnable thing often has a corner (or two!)

But somehow the twin urinal is worse yet. Peeing as part of a drunken crowd is not nearly so bad as peeing right up next to exactly one pee buddy.
posted by SaltySalticid at 1:55 PM on September 25 [3 favorites]


A coworker was on a service call at a wire-drawing plant and had to pee. When he entered the restroom, he saw one of these handwashing sinks and proceeded to do his business, much to the amusement of the plant employees in the room with him.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:56 PM on September 25 [5 favorites]


I'm amused that some people think that this is "zero privacy." Mostly, it would just be pretty uncomfortable to be within direct-eye-contact field of vision, without even the possibility of a comradely crossing of swords.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:59 PM on September 25 [3 favorites]


When he entered the restroom, he saw one of these handwashing sinks and proceeded to do his business, much to the amusement of the plant employees in the room with him.

Could have been worse - he could have confused an eyewash station with a bidet.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:03 PM on September 25 [4 favorites]


a comradely crossing of swords.

Don't cross the streams!
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:13 PM on September 25 [5 favorites]


"There's nothing like that in the women's washroom," she mused.

Again, we see the patriarchy holding women back. (However, I recall seeing pictures of face-to-face sit-down toilets with no partition on a site of dubious veracity, so maybe this declarant simply hasn't had the good fortune to experience such a friendly shitter.)
posted by spacewrench at 2:24 PM on September 25 [1 favorite]


he could have confused an eyewash station with a bidet

Or the other way around.
posted by hanov3r at 2:30 PM on September 25 [5 favorites]


An essential visit when pissing passing through Centralia, Washington, is the set of mammoth porcelain urinals at McMenamins Olympic Club; respectfully referred to by artist Jim Woodring as "sarcophagus-sized pissoirs." In the dining room, you'll find this fantastic mural depicting the urinals in, I assume, their natural state; unbound by the uncomfortably narrow confines of the Olympic Club's restroom (not shown: the person standing at the urinal on the right can spin in place to wash up, which makes for fun banter as everyone shuffles to accommodate the need at hand).
posted by prinado at 2:32 PM on September 25 [4 favorites]


As someone who is incredibly pee-shy (I have trouble peeing in a closed stall if there are other people in the bathroom, or peeing in a single-person port-a-potty if there are people talking outside), this is going to give me anxiety nightmares for weeks. Thanks, I hate it.
posted by hanov3r at 2:32 PM on September 25 [11 favorites]


Sometime 30 yrs ago the McMenamins family must have cornered the market on massive vintage urinals, they've got them all over the place
posted by kevin is... at 2:38 PM on September 25 [2 favorites]


Like about 20 other people, my immediate reaction was: "this has nothing on the old troughs at Fenway Park". I think most are gone now (maybe all?) but they were fucking nightmare inducing when I first encountered them at like age 8. Just like a long old-timey bathtub with no divider and you stand around it staring at another dude taking a piss as he stares at you taking a piss.
posted by tocts at 2:46 PM on September 25


No, no. It was originally meant for diphalliacs.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:54 PM on September 25 [3 favorites]


That's nothing... The urinals in old Winnipeg arena were just a trough. It even made it into Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg.
posted by Ashwagandha at 3:06 PM on September 25


(However, I recall seeing pictures of face-to-face sit-down toilets with no partition on a site of dubious veracity, so maybe this declarant simply hasn't had the good fortune to experience such a friendly shitter.)

I would really appreciate further illumination on this because at about age 14, I was attending a wrestling tournament in Flint, Michigan when I saw a long row of toilets without partitions in a high school boys room. In Canada, I'd never heard of anything like this and have wondered from time to time how common it was.

Maple Leaf Gardens had troughs too.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:10 PM on September 25


have used this urinal, 5/5
posted by smasuch at 3:12 PM on September 25 [6 favorites]


The restaurant Tao in New York City has a stone wall at a slight angle down into a rock garden, water flowing down the wall like a fountain - you pee on the wall and the water washes it away into the rock garden.

There was another restaurant in New York - name of it lost in my memory, that had an interesting feature - the sinks were built as a round bowl, half of which disappeared underneath the bottom of the mirror, and the water came out of an unseen spigot behind the mirror. It was motion activated so you had to reach down into the bowl underneath the mirror to get the water to come out.

The interesting twist was that on the other side of the mirror, women in the ladies room were reaching down into the other half of the same bowl, so you would see other hands from that room but nothing more than the hands. Made for some interesting interactions / conversations back at the table.
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:12 PM on September 25 [3 favorites]


I guess this guy never heard of a pisbak (dutch urinal).
posted by Pendragon at 3:12 PM on September 25 [1 favorite]


The interesting twist was that on the other side of the mirror, women in the ladies room were reaching down into the other half of the same bowl

There's a Living Room Theater in Portland where counter and sinks for the Men's and Women's restrooms are facing each other against what you sort of naively expect is a wall. There's the standard mirrors, and some glass sections. But as you stand there washing your hands (you do wash your hands, don't you?) you see flashes of other people's faces that don't look quite like reflections of the people next to you. It's because you're seeing diagonally through gaps adjacent the mirror in front of you, into the other-gender bathroom as people walk in & out. It's unsettling the first time you figure out what's going on.
posted by spacewrench at 3:24 PM on September 25 [1 favorite]


Since we're talking weird bathroom arrangements, in several offices and facilities that I've been in, the men's and women's restrooms are adjoining and the toilets are mounted to the same wall studs or supports. So, when you're having a sit-down bathroom experience and someone goes into the other bathroom and also sits down, you can feel the flex in the supports or bolts on your toilet. It's like you have a buddy!
posted by Burhanistan at 3:29 PM on September 25 [5 favorites]


Gives new meaning to "need a we".
posted by biogeo at 3:30 PM on September 25 [3 favorites]


They used to have a model like this at House on the Rock, but it was gone when I went back about 6 months later. I really wanted to freak my friend out with it, since he's pee shy.
posted by codacorolla at 3:38 PM on September 25


There was one long, huge, communal metal trough in the men's rooms in Wrigley Field, complete with pee-sodden refuse and spittle soaked cigarette butts. If you could squeeze in shoulder-to-shoulder, you'd do your business in it. I haven't been there since the early '90s though. I avoid Wrigleyville in general.

They expanded the trough to the entire stretch of Clark Street that runs through Wrigleyville.
posted by srboisvert at 3:55 PM on September 25 [1 favorite]


The Walworth (WI) County Fairgrounds have something similar to this dual-urinal, but it's 6 of them in a circle in the middle of the room and you can see over the top, so you're only facing, like, three people at a time, but not the guys directly next to you, which is better I guess? Edit: found an artsy photo of them, I guess you can't lock eyes with the guy directly opposite you
posted by AzraelBrown at 4:22 PM on September 25 [1 favorite]


Hopefully people just take turns to use this thing solo.
posted by Flashman at 4:26 PM on September 25


Speak for yourself! I'm totally ready to be someone's urinal buddy.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 4:39 PM on September 25 [1 favorite]


this has nothing on those communal floor trough urinals.

These things and the conjoined uni-sinks in airports. Smartest shit ever for functionality and cleanliness and, I suspect, innate efficiency (waterless urinals excluded but those were rough to engineer for a long time and still have their overhead I suspect).

Composting, urine diverting toilets for the win (I've helped build 2 and used even more) but these things are second only to that.
posted by RolandOfEld at 4:58 PM on September 25


A good friend tells a story of using a trough urinal as a boy at a crowded fair, glancing to his right and being eye-level with the business ends of all the gentlemen using the facility. It was, in his telling, traumatic. Neither he (nor I) would go within 10 yards of the perverse design linked here.
posted by hilberseimer at 6:42 PM on September 25


This one in Victoria is the best. The green fence comes up to about my mid-chest. The gaps between the the bars start at my waist.

The "bowl" is shaped such that a tall and enterprising non-penis-having person can back in and make do.
posted by klanawa at 7:03 PM on September 25


Pendragon: I guess this guy never heard of a pisbak (dutch urinal).

In 1944, the First Canadian Army would lead the push into the Scheldt, marking the beginning of the liberation of the Netherlands.

In 2019, an apparently Canadian man would emerge from a port-a-potty in Haarlem, stand before a urinal, and proceed to dutifully wash his hands in it.

*hangs head*
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:08 PM on September 25 [4 favorites]


It looks like that clip is from 2010, but still.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:09 PM on September 25


You're out there next to somebody who you've never met before and have to basically look them in the eyes

Maybe if men spent more time paying attention to their own toileting business instead of gazing longingly into the eyes of their urinal buddy they wouldn't get so much pee all over my fucking bathroom floor, Dan.
posted by phunniemee at 7:18 PM on September 25 [7 favorites]


My kid came home from kindergarten once in his emergency clothes. He said another boy peed on him. How? They tried to make an "X."
That’s one way to learn the alphabet, I guess.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:49 PM on September 25 [6 favorites]


Meh. The Washington State Ferries have a big trough. Shoulder to shoulder gents!

Meh. Those are one-sided troughs, you are all facing the wall, there is at least a veneer of privacy.

Two-sided troughs are the true urinal hell. Shoulder to shoulder and eye to eye, with a strong dose of “please god no splashing “.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:33 PM on September 25


Maybe if men spent more time paying attention to their own toileting business

Pfft, where's the challenge in that??
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:14 PM on September 25


I'd take any of these over what is apparently the standard in French schools: toilets with no seats.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 9:15 PM on September 25 [1 favorite]


If I use a urinal from Shanks I have say "Thanks Shanks. Thanks."
posted by BinaryApe at 12:00 AM on September 26 [4 favorites]


An acquaintance who used to be in the US Navy told me that a ship he was on in the 60’s had a long trough that was the head with seawater flowing through it. Crewmen would sit on seats mounted over the trough shoulder-to-shoulder to ... perform their solid elimination.

He said a popular routine when the room was full was to fold a newspaper into a boat and put it into the trough to “sail” under the exposed nether-parts of your crewmates. Oh yeah, and before you turned it loose, you set it on fire.

‘Sea story?’ I don’t know, i think it falls into that nebulous region of “if it isn’t true, it should be.”
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 4:27 AM on September 26 [4 favorites]


But gentlemen, if you're thinking of checking out this one-of-a-kind john, don't unzip just yet.

It's only open for private events, meaning you'll either have to host a wedding — or be invited to one — to take part in what has become a strange Vancouver tradition.
The writer lacks vision and ambition. If I lived in Vancouver (which I do not any more) and I owned a suit (which I do), I think I would just turn up at a wedding for this very reason.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:34 AM on September 26 [2 favorites]


I have peed in a cubicle with two toilets in it, in the ladies’ room at a club.

The cubicle was an awkward size and position, such that it couldn’t really have been divided into two, but fit the two toilets quite comfortably. I was at the club with my best friend but we declined to visit it together, perhaps revealing the limits of our relationship!
posted by daisyk at 6:16 AM on September 26 [1 favorite]


I've been in this bathroom a few times as it's just down the road from me, but somehow never noticed this! They have craft fairs and christmas markets there too, so there are plenty of non-wedding opportunities to go, though I can see how the increased likelihood of queues at a wedding would bring issues to a head, so to speak.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 6:50 AM on September 26


AugustWest: This is why I prefer to pee outdoors.

No problem. Here you go.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:21 AM on September 26 [1 favorite]


A quick Google search of "men's room urinal test" is all you need to understand the etiquette involved with a fixture like this...
posted by Chuffy at 11:43 AM on September 26


Sea story?’

ISTR the same fire-boat concept being a plot point in the short film about Joseph Pujol, Le Pétomane.
posted by scruss at 12:43 PM on September 26


Just tonight I was at a lovely ramen restaurant in Stockholm with a similar arrangement in the ladies. I thanked my colleagues for letting me discover the interesting fact about the bathroom on my own.
posted by nat at 12:46 PM on September 26 [1 favorite]


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