The NAACP likes to remind us that “a mind is a terrible thing to waste,” and others tell us simply “a mind is a terrible thing”. Today’s blog is all about what happens when you allow your mind to wander a little too aimlessly …
For the last three days, I’ve been in a workshop at a Boeing facility in Long Beach. As you might imagine, there’s a lot of coffee consumed in these kind of all-day meetings, and that means you spend some quality time using the facilities. One of the first things I noticed was the massive size of the urinals in the bathrooms. At first, I assumed it was just a really old bathroom with outdated plumbing, but these are all relatively new. And when I say huge, I’m not kidding – these things stretch nearly two feet from the wall, and are larger than a standard toilet. They were so large that they were intimidating to use, as you practically needed to straddle the unit to remain between the privacy barriers.
After using the mega urinals for a couple of days, I started wondering what on earth the designers were thinking in designing them. The only thing I could think of was … unisex urinal? Unable to resist the temptation, I Googled it …
The first thing I found was that it’s not unisex – just really, really big. And discontinued – which I guess makes sense, considering what a water hog it must be. The next thing I learned was that Kohler makes some really cool urinals (note to self: add “really cool urinals” to list of phrases I never thought I’d utter). They have artistic models and waterless models and touchless models – they have everything short of one that shakes it for you and tucks it back in your pants … and I’m sure they’re working on that one.
I also learned that in certain circles, the idea of a unisex urinal is a really big deal, because it goes back to the idea of … dum-DUM-dum … women peeing while standing up. Now, anyone who’s ever been to a concert with crowded bathrooms already knows that women can pee just fine without having to take a seat. It might be ungainly, unladylike or inaccurate, but it’d definitely doable. There are tools to let women pee standing up, wikis to teach you how, and even a survey on their results (for the record, in a survey of 600 women who tried techniques to stand and urinate 70% were successful in their first attempt, 30% failed initially but were able to master the concept, and only 9% totally failed).
The real issue, though, has nothing to do with plumbing and everything to do with gender equity. Seems those same folks see the way we’re taught to pee as some kind of enslavement of women – a way to force them to not be able to use the same facilities as men, and, therefore, be seen as somehow … inferior. My first thought was that some people have way too much time on their hands, until I learned that someone actually did a master’s thesis in 1992 on the subject of women’s ability to stand while urinating and the social implications!
Some things that caught my attention as I surfed: one study showed that in families with mixed gender offspring, the younger sister of an older brother will tend to naturally learn to pee standing up – just like big brother – until forced to change by their parents. As is often pointed out in the research, from a sanitary perspective, society would be much better off if everyone sat to pee – men and women alike – since men have notoriously bad aim. And there’s a legal ramification to this as well, because men’s bathrooms give men a choice of facilities to use, whereas the ladies’ room does not (I’m not counting the sink … *smile*).
Probably the most interesting fact might not even be news to anyone who grew up with sisters. One theory on why men stand and women sit dates back to the days of the neanderthals. This theory goes that everyone initially stood to pee, until the males began to use their strength advantage to force women to squat instead. The reason? Women can pee further than men, and it was bothering their caveman egos!
Like I said, when you let the mind wander, it’s amazing where it goes … :D