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Guest Post: Counterpoint – Eyes Forward

Ed: The following was posted as a comment in reply to my blog post about social norms when standing at urinals, and does such a fine job of taking me to task that I felt it worthy of its own post. Enjoy.


From the mind of Louis:

There is a key word in the phrase “public restroom”: public. Public is defined as open to all persons. Yet ever since middle school I have heard the rumors of an unspoken rule of no talking at the men’s bathroom urinals.The excuses are many, but most defend this sacred notion (as Ted does) that once a grip on the tool has occurred silence is customary. While the positions are similar, I hate to burst any man’s bubble but you’re not teeing up a golf shot. You are engaging in an activity every other healthy member of our species has embraced since our genesis. There are no mysteries or questions when approaching another at a urinal. It’s basic. And if you happen to recognize the person who is in mid-stream, a greeting is perfectly fine.

Are you the social type? An outgoing individual who likes to meet and discover new people? Well, there is no time like the present for an introduction. No reason to look, but you already have something in common. Asking a stranger what they think of the game, movie or what department they work in is perfectly acceptable. I would refrain from discussing the subject in hand with too much detail, like “Boy, that’s a flowing stream!” However some icebreakers are pretty clever: “Jeez, you’d think watching Peter O’Toole in the desert for four hours would’ve made me glad I got the large soda.”High fives and handshakes can wait until after hand washing, but there is no reason for silence. The average bladder relief is rarely over a minute. That’s not much time for self-reflection, but a minute can be long with nothing to occupy yourself. What happens when you’re alone? I’ve seen my thing do its thing for a lifetime. Nothing new or sacred there. Maybe you study grout lines, and judge whether or not the tile setter knew what they were doing. At best, you feel confident in your own at-home work; at worst, you’re now planning a trip to Home Depot. But when a visitor or friend joins the ranks, take the golden opportunity to chat. If you don’t hit your stride, it’s only a minute; but the reward of a lasting friendship is timeless.

To address those urophobics who think us “head-turning leaking lookers” are trying to sneak a peek, please don’t flatter yourselves. We’re not interested. If anyone is trying to glimpse or stare their creepy behavior should be pretty obvious, and I wouldn’t oppose a harsh response. But for those who want to be alone in the bathroom, get a stall. Privacy usually requires more than one wall, and if there is only one wall you should be on the other side.

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