This is the cardinal sin of urinal etiquette: Never pee beside someone.
November 23, 2003 10:51 PM   Subscribe

The International Center for Bathroom Etiquette makes me really glad that I'm a girl. I had no idea there were such complex decisions to be made about where to stand and which sink to use.
posted by anastasiav (41 comments total)
Don't forget the Urinal Game.
posted by password at 10:58 PM on November 23, 2003

double post (sorry)
posted by reality at 10:59 PM on November 23, 2003

Well this thing doesn't mention the quite awkward situation you can have when a bathroom has only two urinals and no divider between them.

1. If you choose to stand next to the person already there, you'll feel weird peeing so close to someone. And of course you would have to be very cautious for them not to see any of your parts cause there's no divider.

2. But if you choose to not use the urinal but the stall instead, the other person will think you are scared of using the urinal next to them... and that'll make you feel like you are either a very shy or whimpy person.
posted by gregb1007 at 11:00 PM on November 23, 2003

reality: It is? Link?? (I searched, honest....)
posted by anastasiav at 11:05 PM on November 23, 2003

The thing about these rules is most of them (for most US born males) don't need to be written down. We follow them instinctively.
posted by spartacusroosevelt at 11:16 PM on November 23, 2003

spartacus, your emphasis on US born males is interesting. I actually would like to know whether people from other countries have a different attitude to the "urinal game" or whether it's a pretty universal thing worldwide.
posted by gregb1007 at 11:25 PM on November 23, 2003

The process, when analyzed, is complex, but it occurs naturally. Just like you don't think of muscle groups and Newtonian physics to catch a baseball, and instead just reach out and catch it, you don't think of rules when choosing a urinal, you just go up to the right one.
posted by Nothing at 11:25 PM on November 23, 2003

It's simple instinct, all these rules boil down to a good Joe Rogan quote, "I'm not homophobic, I'm just afraid of cock."
posted by Space Coyote at 12:12 AM on November 24, 2003

it's truly a zen thing. i quiet myself upon arrival, and soon enough the urinal which most needs my piss will make itself known. the universe is a magical, wonderous place.
posted by quonsar at 12:13 AM on November 24, 2003

I follow a strict sense of urinal etiquette as well, however, contrary to this guy's strategy I will never stall or wait to use a urinal. When I gotta piss, I'm going to piss.

Yes, sometimes this means I will be standing right next to someone else. Whenever in this situation though, I always stare straight at the wall once the goods are flowing, leaving my bystander in awe. The fact that I'm 6'6" helps too.
posted by futureproof at 12:25 AM on November 24, 2003

Even as a gay man I have an instinctive understanding of urinal etiquette. American men's rooms are solemn, frightening places, ruled by the spectre of rogue penis sightings.

However, as some have pointed out, there are exceptions to the general rules. Someone who is physically imposing can pee as he wishes, as his great height and/or muscle mass free him from the mundane fears of his lessers. Additionally, it is becoming more and more acceptable to use a stall without any pretense towards pinching a loaf. Indeed, I foresee any and all stall-peeing related stigma lapsing into obsolescence within five years.
posted by kavasa at 1:42 AM on November 24, 2003

huh? Who uses sinks?
posted by delmoi at 2:31 AM on November 24, 2003

delmoi: They're usually closer to the entrance than the urinals, at a more convenient height, and you can admire yourself in the mirror while you do your thing. Sinks are great.
posted by Space Coyote at 2:41 AM on November 24, 2003

Just add a <favorite public enemy of the moment> target in the urinal, turn that so called "problem" into a game and the kid in every man will take over the fear.
posted by elpapacito at 2:49 AM on November 24, 2003

gregb: Based on my travels in the orient, these rules are loosely applicable in Japan, and not applicable at all anywhere else. Especially in western mainland China, where just peeing in the bathroom is considered the height of etiquette. However, Futureproof's 'wall stare' technique transcends the boundaries of culture.

delmoi: my ex-girlfriend uses sinks (WHAT was I thinking???)
posted by datadawg at 3:00 AM on November 24, 2003

Based on my travels in the orient, you get bathroom attendants which give you a kidney massage while you pee. The bastards try to catch foreigners off guard: once it's flowing, there's no turning back and explaining that the massage is actually freaking you out. And, yes, the first thing that comes to mind is "wow, big time breach of etiquette: such a large bathroom for only the two of us - thereshouldbenoneedforyounottostandintheoppositecornerthanyouverymuch."
posted by magullo at 3:35 AM on November 24, 2003

Even in teenage male locker rooms (normally places very lacking of etiquette) these instinctive rules are followed.
posted by thebabelfish at 5:44 AM on November 24, 2003

You know what I do if I need to pee and one of the two urinals is in use? I use the other one! Why is that so strange?
posted by kozad at 6:46 AM on November 24, 2003

heh. you should come to chile. when we were working in the client's offices, two blocks away from our own, my chilean co-workers would walk back to our own building to use the bathroom. and where i work now there's a bathroom with one cubicle and urinal - it finally dawned on me that no chilean will use the urinal is someone is in the cubicle, or vice-versa. if you buy a new house it has a bathroom for each bedroom - even in very small flats, where a significant fraction of the available space ends up as bathrooms...
posted by andrew cooke at 6:49 AM on November 24, 2003

At work last week a co-worker actually gave me a shoulder punch and a "hey" while I was peeing.

I see no option but to find a way to get this guy fired. He is dangerously subversive of the proper social order.
posted by obfusciatrist at 6:56 AM on November 24, 2003

I never knew this sort of thing bothered people.

After college, I have become blind.
posted by the fire you left me at 7:01 AM on November 24, 2003

On a related note, I'd like to point out that I was in my late 20s before I heard from a reliable source that guys (I'm a guy) who go to see movies together are supposed to sit with empty seats between them.

I find this ridiculous. I still don't observe this. But I believe it's real. Recently a friend told me that he went to see Velvet Goldmine (think: gay) with another guy. By the end of the movie, his friend was five or six seats away.

What is wrong with men, anyway?
posted by argybarg at 7:03 AM on November 24, 2003

guys (I'm a guy) who go to see movies together are supposed to sit with empty seats between them.

That's a new one to me. It makes sense in an emptyish theater -- then everyone gets the full set of armrests, and it's not like you need to be next to each other for the smooching.

What is wrong with men, anyway?

Hey, at least we can go alone.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:27 AM on November 24, 2003

When I lived in university halls as a first year undergrad, all the blokes confessed to peeing in the sinks in their rooms at night to avoid having to walk down the corridor to the toilet. However, it was still regarded as a breach of etiquette when, one day, three blokes were sitting around chatting in one of their rooms and the guy whose room it was got up and pissed in the sink in front of them.
posted by biffa at 7:31 AM on November 24, 2003

You've peeked. Don't lie. I've caught you. All of you.

Which says more about US men than where they stand to pee, if you ask me.
posted by WolfDaddy at 7:49 AM on November 24, 2003

biffa; it could be worse. some of the guys out here make a point of visiting their friends down the hall to pee in each other's sinks.
posted by whatzit at 8:12 AM on November 24, 2003

There are a few folks here at work who, upon recognizing your footwear in the stall, will happily chat about the issues and workplace goings-on du jour whilst performing their duties at the urinal.

Wigs. Me. Out.

And I must confess to using the spacious handicapped stall when available. I feel guilty, but the increased seat height makes my visit so much more comfortable.
posted by jalexei at 8:21 AM on November 24, 2003


These things are set up every Friday and Saturdaynight in Groningen. Bah.
posted by ginz at 8:24 AM on November 24, 2003

Of course, the rules are largely reversed if you're using the toilet for cottaging rather than the intended purpose. Should you require further advice on this use of public restrooms, try tracking down an archived copy of Lambeth council's popular guide to cottaging, which provided ammunition for those seeking to retain Clause 28 (as discussed in the Lords)

Oh, and the BBC felt that the issue of piss etiquette deserved the best part of a series. Good to see my license fee penny being spent. (Sorry)
posted by jack_mo at 9:19 AM on November 24, 2003

I have no problem using the adjacent urinal without a divider. But in my new office, the urinals on my floor are about 6 inches too close. You can't really use it without touching shoulders with the guy next to you. I've ended up using the stall, which is strange, too, for all the reasons described.
posted by mtstover at 9:35 AM on November 24, 2003

I once saw two (straight) guys I knew sitting in a movie theatre with an empty seat between them.

After too little deliberation I jumped up, strode down to their row and said in a booming voice: "Awww, did you two guys break up?"

I thought it was funny. And so did the five or so peoplw within earshot. My straight, male acquaintances, however, didn't laugh. But they did muster a nearly simultaneous, "Fuck you!"
posted by brittney at 9:40 AM on November 24, 2003

I think the "talking while at urinals" phenomenon is far less amusing than the "no talking or recognizing the existence of your fellow man while in adjacent stalls" phenomenon. Though, a lot of guys do break this tradition, I've found for the most part that there's an understanding that if you're in a stall, you do not exist, and the sounds that are coming from your stall are simply not there.

Unless you're being particularly, um, explosive, in which case some carefully worded, humorous jibbing is occasionally in order.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:07 AM on November 24, 2003

Well I dont see anything wrong about guys having one seat between them in the movie theater. There's nothing homopobic about it. It just gives each guy room to stretch out his feet without discomforting the other person. And also they can put their coats, backpacks, etc... on the seat in between
posted by gregb1007 at 10:32 AM on November 24, 2003

>and no divider between them.

*Cue memories of Maple Leaf Gardens.*
posted by philfromhavelock at 11:02 AM on November 24, 2003

The urinal etiquette rules have just cause: there was a kid, must have been about eight years old, who chose to stand directly beside me out of a line of about six empties. And then proceeded to spray my pantleg! Ewww.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:26 AM on November 24, 2003

The restrooms at the old Pacific Coliseum here just have a "pee wall," and I still remember hitting the can between periods at Canucks' games and awaiting my turn at the trough. It's first-come-first-served, and a big guy can leave room for two boys, which makes the system a bit more efficient I guess, even if somewhat awkward.

On the other hand, it's not nearly as awkward after a few beers. It ain't a party or anything, but guys are a lot less concerned about etiquette, I can tell you that much.
posted by sharpener at 1:55 PM on November 24, 2003

Ever encounter a circular trough? I'm not sure what etiquette those require. Quite possibly giving up and pissing in the corner by the garbage can...
posted by five fresh fish at 3:44 PM on November 24, 2003

Just a week or so ago, I was privy to a conversation where my male co-workers were commenting on the new guy who didn't seem to "know" the rules of the urinal. They then proceeded to impress me with their common knowledge of the more subtle rules of urinal etiquette.

Here's the kicker: the violator is the new CIO. Yep, the head honcho. Gentlemen of Mefi: any suggestions for my intrepid co-workers? How do you handle such a transgression of etiquette by someone who's already higher up in the corporate foodchain?
posted by xena at 5:44 PM on November 24, 2003

You start writing your resume, because the guy is on a power-trip.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:41 PM on November 24, 2003

(Or "accidently" pee on his pantleg.)

(Er, after you have your resume finished, come to think of it.)
posted by five fresh fish at 6:43 PM on November 24, 2003

I don't use urinals as a rule. Not for privacy, but because the water in the bottom of them is so cold.
posted by dg at 6:55 PM on November 24, 2003

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