A Most Horrifying Lifetime at the Urinal

Please heed me, Ladies –

– the divine gift of standing urination does not come without grave consequences – that is to say: urinals.

Few may acknowledge this, but many men suffer from a terrible psychological affliction, which I will call here urinal anxiety, to which I am no stranger (and to lend credibility to this term, Urban Dictionary has an entry for it).

Do not get me wrong – I love urinals.  I would rather relieve myself in an environmentally-friendly standing receptacle than in the water-goblin we so affectionately call “Johns.”  No, it’s not the urinal itself that frightens me – rather, it is the adjacent-urinal row that is so terrifying.

Allow me to walk you through a session in a men’s public restroom… you just began clutching your privates when, no further than a foot away, another man begins to clutch his own privates.  This is what you are thinking…

Oh goodness… if I don’t start peeing now, he’s gonna notice…
…Come on, bladder, why so shy? …you can do it…
…Dammit!  His stream just started!  How long will it be before he awkwardly realizes I’m not peeing?
…Don’t let me down, bladder.  C’mon, don’t let me down.
…Okay, now I’m just some guy standing here holding his dick in the company of others.  Great, just great.
…I believe in you, bladder.  Don’t be afraid.  I said DON’T BE AFRAID!
…He’s almost done.  What if I’m still just standing here silently after he finishes?  What am I, some kind of sicko pervert who enjoys touching himself at urinals all day?
…DAMMIT, Bladder!  What the f*ck is wrong with you right now?!  You’re making me look bad!
…Oh good, he left.  I can pee now. 

It starts out as simple bladder-shy.  But before you know it, the downward spiral careens into the infinitely deep septic of unreconcilable anxiety.

But no previous experience of mine has ever been as horrifying as today’s.  I entitle it as a “lifetime” –  surely it was mere minutes, but it might as well have been a lifetime.  This is what happened:

Scene: an empty restroom.  Two adjacent urinals (with a small barrier) crammed into the corner between a stall and a wall.  A young man walks in just before I do.  He takes one urinal.  I approach the second urinal, and then stop myself.

Wait.  If I take the adjacent urinal, I’m violating a major rule of urinal etiquette.  …but if I don’t take the urinal, I’m exploiting a foolish luxury that does nothing but perpetuate the pretensions of American Dignity – pretensions that perhaps eat away at our willingness to socially collaborate for a better future.  I have to take the second urinal.  It is my duty.  For my friends and family.  For my children’s children.  For America.

So then I saddled up next to the poor guy, and like clockwork, I started to get anxious.  As usual, I waited desperately for his stream to start so I could hope to sneak mine into the collective aural ambiance.

Just one problem: his stream didn’t start.  He was as bladder-blocked as I was.  I didn’t count on that.

The situation quickly spun out of control.  The longer it was, the worse it got.  Surely he noticed I wasn’t peeing, and I definitely noticed he wasn’t peeing, and the longer we both didn’t pee, the more freakishly dysfunctional we assumed we appeared, judging ourselves through the eyes of our adjacent prosecutor.  I could feel his growing disapproval just as much as he could feel mine, and ultimately, what began as just two guys standing next to each other with the intent of peeing (a normal situation) turned into the horrifying scene of two guys standing next to each other silently clutching their penises (a situation of utmost perversion).

I briefly considered fleeing.  But no, that would be impossible.  As it was, the situation was so fragile – had he or I made any sudden movement, either of us might never pee again.  And yet… the stall… it was so close… so… close… surely he would forgive me if I admitted defeat.  And yet… admitting defeat would be admitting error.  Admitting error is admitting dysfunction.  Admitting dysfunction is… is…

Oh Thank God, the first couple hesitant drops ushered in a flush of relief.  The audio chamber of the bathroom filled with the glorious sound of urine, and the Cold War was behind us!  Thank you, Bladder.  Thank you.

We both finished at the same time, awkwardly washed our hands in the one sink one-after-the-other, and, avoiding eye-contact at all costs, quickly parted ways.

My goodness!  What an absurd thing to get anxious about!  Honestly, are we so proud as to fear admitting the less glorious aspects of our animalhood?  Why the shame?  Do I not pee eight or nine times per day?  Why is it a source of such psychological discomfort?  I should be celebrating it!  Every time I pee, it should be worthy of public notice, and every passerby upon hearing my exclamations of joy should vicariously relish in the memories of when they, too, happily relieved themselves.

If people were just open with each other… If we didn’t vilify our grotesque animal necessities… If we didn’t shame the daily rites of our functioning systems, but instead accepted them as symbols of eternally recurring relief or peace  …if it was something we all openly enjoyed instead of privately enjoyed, then perhaps we could begin to chip away at the ills of a repressed and neurotic society.  We could strike down the barriers of fear and maybe even get to the heart of misanthropy.

As it was, that man and I in the bathroom – we were mere strangers passing in feigned ignorance of the other, pretending neither of us existed as we struggle with our own identical deficiencies and shortcomings.  Is this what life has become? – a world of dreadful strangers standing together, but alone, clutching the vestiges of privacy they know but can’t admit no longer exist?

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About Doctor Quack

Just another bonehead with an internet connection.
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33 Responses to A Most Horrifying Lifetime at the Urinal

  1. Erika says:

    Luckily, most women have no fear of this bathroom issue. There are a number of bathroom issues women have. The ability to urinate in a public restroom isn’t one of them, however. I have angrily detailed the women’s bathroom issues in a post a while ago. It’s not a pretty post, but neither are women’s public bathrooms!!!

  2. Christina says:

    Thanks for making me laugh and snort early in the morning. I’m sorry your life is so terribly difficult at the urinal (I was going to say hard, but that would have been inappropriate, I think).

  3. I find what you wrote absolutely hilarious.

    While as women, we obviously don’t use wall urinals… Men are absolutely NOT alone in their bathroom anxieties. You would be surprised. LOL. Love the post!

  4. aver1 says:

    holy cow…i’m glad i’m not a man!!!

  5. shutterbug says:

    Great post! It reminded me a bit of the movie “Waiting”. Maybe if you had a bunch of friends standing behind you cheering you on, it might be easier!

  6. Oh my gosh, this is so funny… I have no idea that this story happens in real life (nor that I should have known anyway), but seriously, I can’t imagine how ‘bad’ the situation is … Suddenly I feel so lucky to be a woman. Thanks for giving me such a good laugh! =D

  7. p0cahontas says:

    This was great, got an audible chuckle out of me! This happens in women’s bathrooms too. It can be an epic stand off. Bravo.

  8. Women are lucky that they have a stall to hide behind, but yet, some find it necessary to leave the sink water running while they attempt to overcome their anxieties. I wonder how that works with the automatic sinks? Perhaps that is why women need to pee in groups, but then are nervous about their girlfriends hearing their stream hit the bowl – women are difficult to understand!

  9. ptigris213 says:

    Dear Dr., I have a suggestion. Now please understand, that I, being a woman, have never used a urinal in my life. BUT I am married to the best man on the planet, and he uses them all the time. Let me tell you how he manages this. He was bladder shy, as a teen. Then he made it into a competition. Can I go faster than the guy two urinals over? Can I make mine louder, make it sound like I’m a stallion in comparison to that guy who will probably sound like My Little Pony?
    Once he made it into a competition, he had no more problems.

  10. That Iyer Girl says:

    I can’t stop laughing. I’m sorry, but I just can’t!

  11. larissa says:

    aahhhaha. Btw, I can’t even remember which comments of yours I have responded to or not, but just know that I have read and appreciated all of them thoroughly. I am still curious though–why do you have an obsession with ducks?

    • Doctor Quack says:

      Okay, story time – When I was growing up, my parents adopted three ducklings (of the Rouen variety – they’re like humongous mallards) and we raised them in our backyard. After the first spring, we only ended up keeping one of them because they were aggressive towards each other, and the other two we donated to a bird sanctuary/ranch.

      The remaining pet duck lived with our family until I was in high school (when it tragically perished), but during that time it had become the king ruler of our yard and garden, and a symbol of our household. During this period of familial duckaphelia, I learned several things about ducks –

      1. They are always smiling.
      2. They are shockingly beautiful.
      3. They sound like an oboe.
      4. They are proud territorial creatures.
      5. They enjoy leisure and relaxation.
      6. They enjoy singing, but suck at it.

      This combination of attributes creates a certain amiable character and expression of quirkiness that I decided was the image of who I wanted to be, so I took ducks as a model of behavior and an inspiration for demeanor.

      That is why I am obsessed with them. (long-winded explanation)

      Also, they’re their own boats AND their own planes. How cool is that?

      • larissa says:

        ahaha GOD. Best story ever. Reposting your comment on my blog, if that’s alright with you. Wait, I realized i didn’t ask that as question but made it a statement. Let’s try again: can I repost your comment? is that alright with you? Ducks do sound pretty great, the way you put it! Maybe I have been a duck this whole time and just didn’t know it (sure, I will go ahead and include #2 because I have this idea in my head that in society you are supposed to come off as “self-confident,” which is actually just annoying because I think it’s a lot more fun to make fun of myself. My neighbors are probably very tired from hearing me sing all the time…in fact, I know they aren’t because they called to tell me so. Oh well, you can’t have your cake and eat it too, and apparently you can’t hear a song and sing it too.

      • Doctor Quack says:

        Of course you can repost it.

        Ducks are the ultimate everyman bird. They’re painfully graceless, clumsy, and awkward, and yet they continue to hold their heads high.

        Also, about self-confidence, I feel that while confidence may make someone attractive, it also makes them obnoxious. An easy medium has to exist between self-confidence and self-criticism where one can confidently express their awareness of their shortcomings.

      • Doctor Quack says:

        Oh yeah, and the duck in my avatar is a picture of my pet duck.

  12. larissa says:

    Oops I meant to write “I know they are [tired of hearing me sing]”, not aren’t. Gosh, I shouldn’t write anything when I’m tired! :p

  13. Funny post, I had no idea men had so much drama at the urinal! Thank God I’m a woman. In Kenya, some men have zero “urinal anxiety” and pee at the nearest bush they find (normally near a fence). Every time I see this I flinch and look away. I don’t know why they do it because in Nairobi’s city center, no one dares. So I don’t get why they can’t hold their pee when they’re not in the CBD, Anyway, what you said about ducks made me laugh! Especially #6 and the “utterly graceless” bit. I think ducks are adorable!

  14. Vicky G says:

    wow. of all your posts, this is one that I wouldn’t want to comment on. I’d just like to share with you another blog whose author has a similiar viewpoint to you:
    http://swivelchairsandnoonecares.wordpress.com/

  15. chindor says:

    Absolutely entertaining post. You made me cry from laughing. As a woman I have the priviledge to close the door behind me, however that does not mean I have no issues in there. Other women can hear me! I always try to pee as silent as possible but it’s a though task. It is a little reassuring to read about people who have a difficult time using public restrooms aswell.
    Most of all, thanks for the laughs.

  16. Kat says:

    My turn to tell a story!

    We all know women have a habit of flocking to the restrooms at the same time. This is magnified times a billion at women’s events, mostly because we flat out refuse to leave unless it’s a designated break. We’re sure we’ll miss something if we leave even for a few moments. The result is ten thousand women all rushing to the restrooms at the same time. Because they are smart, most women-centered conferences transform nearly all of the men’s bathrooms into women’s bathrooms to minimize the colossal waiting times. But even still, my mom and I wound up in a sixty-person line. Understandably, we were all desperately crossing our legs by the time we neared the start of the line. Unbeknownst to us, we had chosen a bathroom line that connected to a (former) men’s restroom. That meant it had six urinals and only two bathroom stalls. And of course, almost no one thought about using the urinals, and those of us who thought about the resulting indecency quickly changed our minds.

    …except for this one bold middle aged mom who scandalized the entire front portion of the line by boldly going where no woman had dared to go before. She stamped up to the urinal, declared that she was a very desperate woman, and somehow managed to pee into the urinal while keeping herself decently covered with her skirt.

    I wish I could say that the rest of us followed her lead and brazenly assaulted the urinals. But we didn’t. We continued to suffer in silence and wait for the stalls like the shame-faced sheep we are. But to this day I hold a great deal of admiration for the woman who realized that there were six unconventional solutions to our bathroom woes.

  17. Father says:

    The reason I don’t drink at football games is because I don’t want to have to go to the public trough and try to pee with 6 anxious men standing behind me telling me to hurry up. Insant blockage. That, and knowing I’m going to miss Cal’s touchdown. Women have it tougher. The 60-woman line can be a bother, but at least they get to close the door, if the door works. If it doesn’t, yikes!

  18. I’m bookmarking this for when I need a good laugh.

  19. Pingback: Toilet Neuroses | chindor

  20. chindor says:

    I reblogged on this subject, from a woman’s pespective, thank you for the inspiration.

  21. The Rider says:

    I thought it was just me… 🙂

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