Monday, February 8, 2010

The Inherent Misogyny of Urinals

I took Addie to the shoe store this afternoon to get new ballet slippers for her school musical. Since I'd been in the car for over an hour, I really had to pee. The friendly shoe story lady directed me to the public restroom, which is where the genesis for this post was born.

Now, I realize that sounds sort of disgusting, but it also kind of reminded me of something important. Back before my life blew up and I became a cliche, this blog was supposed to be about everyday events in life that made me ponder and of sharing those thoughts with others and having scintillating conversation. Between the abusive alcoholic ex-husband and the pressures of trying to raise two children and work full-time, my ponderer has been on the fritz. I was pumped (heh heh heh) that what I saw in that bathroom today got me thinking in that philosophical way I love.

The public toilet was a one-room job, and it contained both a toilet and a urinal. Why, I thought to myself, do urinals exist? I mean, can't a guy take a leak in a toilet just as easily as in a urinal? It got me curious enough to do some research. Yes, I did in fact Google "urinals". I am truly pathetic.

Most interestingly, the urinal was patented in 1866 (!!!!) by a dude named Andrew Rankin (who is probably rolling over in his grave right now). By the way, I lied--the most interesting part was that Ernest Hemingway bought a cast-off urinal and used it as a drinking bowl for his cats. Anyway, according to that impeccable source Wikipedia, "Urinals are installed for efficiency: compared with urination in a general toilet, usage is faster because within the room there are no additional doors, no locks, and no seat to turn up; also a urinal takes less space, is simpler, and consumes less water per flush than a toilet. Urinals also come in different heights, which helps for those who might be very tall. Often times, there are barriers dividing the urinals, which adds to privacy".

To be fair, that little blurb from Wikipedia does bring up some valid points. When Belle and I were at the Verizon Center last weekend to see Disney Princesses on Ice, she had a sudden emergency urge to pee. The problem, of course, was that so did every other little girl at the show. We waited in a line going around corners for half an hour ... with a clear view of the wide open in-an-out men's room.

I don't know, though, I still can't wrap my mind around the idea that it is that much more trouble for a guy to use a freaking toilet. It surely can't be all that much cheaper to install and maintain a urinal over a latrine. And it just seems a bit ... dare I say sexist that a male can use a women's bathroom if push comes to shove but the same isn't true because of that big bulky thing patented by Andrew Rankin in the 1860s?