Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Repeat Tuesday: Off to See the Whizzer

A urinal, for those who don't know, is a big bowl stuck to a wall and attached via pipes to plumbing. Usually they're mounted at the average man's groin level, but in the spirit of equal opportunity, most bathrooms also have one that's lower down, for boys or dwarves or whoever has genitalia that isn't too far off the ground.

Now, I've got no problem with tiny humans, but these things piss me off. Look at it from my point of view: if all the urinals are taken except for this one, what the hell am I supposed to do? I can either pee in something that's located just south of my ankles, or I can stand on the sidelines and wait.

There are a thousand reasons why I won't use the thing. First, I'm not a child. I don't ride on the motorized elephant that's outside the local supermarket, I don't splash about in kiddy pools, I don't order off the kid's menu at Denny's. And I'm not about to pee in a kiddy urinal either. I'm old enough to be a daddy, so I'll use the daddy facilities, thanks.

Second, hitting this thing is more challenging than I like my bodily functions to be. If you've ever been in a men's restroom, you know the problems we have with aim. A urinal is a good-sized target, but when it's three feet away from your equipment you'd might as well be aiming at passing blimps. It's like that carnival game where you fire a water pistol at a clown's mouth, and a balloon blows up out of its hat. When the clown is level with the pistol, you've got yourself a contest. Balloons blow up, one pops. Lower it a couple feet, though, and everybody on the midway goes home with wet shoes.

Unfortunately, waiting for a normal urinal isn't as easy as it sounds. Picture this: I'm in a bathroom with three urinals, two at average height. There's a cop at one, a longshoreman at the other, and nobody at the third. And then there's me. Standing behind these guys and whistling.

Any rocket scientist observing this scene will piece it all together, but these guys won't. There are usually dividers separating the urinals, so these two guys know there's a urinal that's available but they can't see that it's lower than the rest. As they stand there busy with the task at hand, they're getting increasingly leery of the guy who apparently doesn't have to urinate but just dropped by to window-shop.

Now, I have to say, I don't mind watching. I like bathrooms. There's attractive men, no women, partial nudity. It's like a cocktail party without hors d'oeuvres or music. Being tall is an an asset for once, since my eyes are well above the dividers. I don't exactly make it a habit to check out the neighbors, but a guy's got to look somewhere, right?

If urinals are heaven, the stalls are hell on earth, because tall dudes have the opposite problem there. We've got a clear, unobstructed view of something nobody in their right mind wants to see. It's like driving by a car crash: we don't wanna look we don't wanna look we don't wanna look -- oh, what the hell. A split-second's weakness and a lifetime with a snapshot of a squatting midwesterner burned into my brain.

Even if we manage to control ourselves, we still get into trouble. Our seated neighbors see our shadows fall over them, see the head that's suspiciously high off the ground and suspect the worst. One careless moment and we end up on "America's Most Wanted," making ninety percent of the country feel sick.

What's a simple task for average-sized people, then, becomes Mission Impossible for us. We bend our knees, scrunch our heads down, and inch down the center of the stall, fingers crossed. We pry a paper cover from the dispenser, position it on the seat, pull down our pants and maneuver onto the toilet, all in a room that's maybe half the size of a closet while keeping our heads less than five feet off the ground.

Chinese acrobats would cry uncle.

Regardless of what kind of an athlete you are, you're doomed to fail. Since you're bent at eight joints, you're taking up four times the room. You turn around now and your ass rubs the door. You spear your shoulder on the coat hook, and bang your knees on the toilet paper holder. You watch in horror as your pants rub against the toilet seat, and you leave feeling like you slow-danced with Paris Hilton.

It's that dirty kind of feeling that requires pointy surgical tools to erase.

Last week I had lunch with my sister at the Waldorf, and after she left I stopped by the bathroom to freshen up. My head momentarily popped up over the divider, and I was startled to see a similar one right next door. The face was chiseled, bronzed and handsome, and even higher up than mine. "I'm not looking!" the man assured me, hiding his eyes behind a hand.

"Buddy," I said, chuckling, "I have so been there."

He glanced over at me warily. "Yeah," he confirmed, "I should have guessed."

"Shoot, at least once a week somebody wants to punch my lights out because they see me up here. I'm minding my own business, but because my face happens to be higher than the divider everybody thinks I'm a Peeping Tom."

A wave of relief splashed across his face. "Hell, I've had guns pulled on me," he confessed. "How crazy is that? Like I want to see these guys. Like they're dancing Swan Lake on the toilet or something."

Despite my apprehension I started to laugh, and with a lusty chuckle he joined in. When our eyes met again our embarrassment had turned into something else. "Hey," he said, in a voice so low it rattled the stalls, "would you like to get a cup of coffee?"

What the hell, I thought. At least if it worked out I could tell friends we met at the Waldorf. "Sure," I said. "I'll meet you outside."

I left my stall, heard him zip up, and then the door to his stall swung open. When he jumped down he couldn't have been five feet six.

I'd like to say I ran screaming from the place, but I decided to give the guy a chance. I mean, I've always said men needed balance in their lives, and he'd demonstrated his beyond the shadow of a doubt.

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