Phenomenology: The Urinal

This is part of a series on phenomenology – loosely defined for this blog’s purposes as the unbiased study of the world with the intent of best understanding the ontology of existence. My goal is to humorously examine some of the lesser-examined aspects or circumstances of our world in order to keep the mind open and receptive.

Note: this is a repost of a journal entry I made several years ago. It is only meant to kick-start the series, and should not be taken seriously.

Upon entering the men’s room, one is generally faced, depending on the particular layout and size of the restroom, with a row of sinks, a row of urinals, and a row of stalls. It is usually a good idea to abstain from entering these stalls, as there is oft found the fecal matter of a supposed Harley rider, construction worker, or truck driver. When entering the space of the urinal, you will usually find a split horizon of urinal elevations, one for adults and one for children. The former can use both elevations, but the latter is generally confined to the lower-placed urinals unless tactical maneuvering is employed.

A urinal is rectangular shaped – more tall than it is wide. At the bottom of the urinal is a bowl which collects the urine. Sometimes (though not often enough) there is a two inch tall or so cylinder which is a scented “cake” called a “urinal cake” that neutralizes the urine odor. At the top there is a pipe springing forth vertically and attached is either a lever or a motion detector both affecting the same flushing system. Occasionally you will come across a urinal that works. By this I mean that when flushed, the urine will successfully leave the bowl. More often than not, there will be urine awaiting you (whether or not the urinal works).

When you approach the urinal you will find that the bowl is carved to fit your legs; thus, when standing directly in front of the urinal, you are able to position yourself such that your business is actually inside the urinal, and as such you are able to determine your own vulnerability of peeping eyes. Some men stand as much as half a foot away from the urinal, confident that their neighbors will keep their eyes forward, while others will stand as close to the urinal as possible (so close, in fact, that their business might actually scrape the wall of the urinal). Sometimes there will be a mini-wall partition, known affectionately as a “splash guard” that is high enough to block one’s neighbor’s peering eyes, yet low enough to maintain sight of the face of said neighbor. The most rare form of such partition is a full-wall partition, which juts out from the wall from the floor to the ceiling. So far, the only sightings of these have been at Hooters restaurants.

When removing your penis, it is best to do so smoothly, with no strange movements that might be misinterpreted. If wearing boxer shorts or boxer briefs, I recommend simply unzipping, fishing, and revealing, but keep the fishing to a minimum. If not, you will need to unbutton your pants and pull down the undergarment, which amounts to a sometimes devastating amount of extra time.

There is some controversy regarding how to stand while relieving yourself. In my opinion, it is best to stand with feet shoulder width apart, your right hand commanding the stream and your left hand in your pocket, on your waist, or resting on the upper urinal area. While going at it, it is best to remain with your eyes and face forward, either maintaining a constant vigil of your crotch or staring at the wall directly in front of you. Some men are comfortable with and actually encourage talking during the deed, and some of these are equally comfortable with eye contact during these conversations. However, in order to make it a pleasing experience for the widest participating group, it is best to remain silent and static.

Following urination, a follow-up jingle is necessary (though you will likely fall prey to the men’s room mantra: “No matter how you jump and dance, the last two drops go down your pants.”). Then a flush and reintroduction of penis to pants. I do this simultaneously, but the less experienced may need to do one at a time. In this case, I recommend flushing first, because while the water is running, you have a window of opportunity to settle yourself before the next guy in line gets antsy. There are many methods of reintroduction, the simplest of which is a manual relocation of the penis. Some of the more creative may choose to hold the zipper open while maneuvering their hips such that the penis falls naturally back into place. But whatever your style, do it quickly and move with confidence, lest you be perceived as an amateur. You then may choose one of the following three options: leave the restroom without washing your hands; run a little water over your hands and dry them by air, paper towel, or by running them through your hair; or thoroughly wash your hands using the supplied soap and dry them via one of the above methods. When leaving the restroom, try not to focus on the fact that regardless of your hand-washing choice, countless other men chose the first option and used the same door handle you are now using.