Urban Hakuna Matata? No Problem — Really?

The Pish Posh of Peeing

Etiquette and Actions for Pissing or taking the Piss

We guys have a thing about behaviour in urinals. Do we even call them this? Or perhaps toilets, restrooms, washrooms, bathrooms, choo, bog, loo and on and on. Maybe the most appropriate vernacular is piss house.

An incident I had in a Gentlemen’s toilet in South London brought on this stream of consciousness on bogs.

Having travelled down to London, then across London and out into the suburbs to the south and west, I needed a little bit of relief and took advantage of buying a bottle of water from a supermarket to use their facilities. As I stood at the urinals, single receptacles, not the trough common still in some places.

The trough — ah, standing next to the person who sees it as fun to chase flies zooming around in toilets. No, not chase around with a fly swot but with his stream of piss. Usually the act of a person on his third or fourth beer; or simply someone who has lost the will to be anything other than an ass playing games with his stream of urine. Often they get carried away — Alpha male behaviour kicks in and the fly must not escape. At this point, with a little bit of loss of control, the fly chaser is pissing everywhere but into the trough. How many fist fights started after such people have pissed on someone else who happens to be there relieving themselves at the same time.

These troughs are often aluminium. And can produce a drumming sound. Yes, musicians have to pee and people with gay abandon like to think they can pee a rhythm. The consequences are:- either a collective pissing to rival the Burundian Drummers or an idiot trying to get extra volume and beat building splash back and spraying himself and unlucky others with his piss.

I digress, not as much as some pissing seem to change courses and flows, but I digress; back to South London.

At the single receptacle gently relieving the pressure on my bladder, a gentleman comes to the receptacle next to me. Gentlemen’s toilet protocols, studied by academics, has it men do not come to the next spot when others are available. The laws of behaviour uphold the etiquettes of pissing? The gentleman, 6 feet tall and so definitely bigger than me (at least in height, I certainly do not go in for other bigger than competitions in any male setting), was carrying a rucksack; a common thing in urban settings now as people scoot and commute swiftly through public transport with lunchbox and all electrical goodies carried safely and easily across the back.

This gentleman had a boom box in his rucksack, the newest form of sound system built on those previous decades of people carrying one of those enormous ‘ghetto blasters’ on their shoulder. The thumping beat was ticking along nicely; better than any aluminium trough pissing competition for sure, and I kept myself to my job in hand, excuse the inference, and my eyes fixed to the graffiti on the wall in front. Always some interesting things written on toilet walls — would you spend time doodling and putting works of decent street art on to a wall where the smell is far from pleasant?

Then the gentleman started speaking. Not sure whether just to himself or to me or the other couple of gents in the bathroom. Gently murmuring — ‘Not in the toilet, not in the toilet. No, not again, not in the toilet.’ Very off-putting who ever the words were for. And the tonality of the spoken word as well.

Takes all sorts to make for the diversity of street life; I prefer my psychological moments to happen in places where I do not feel closed in and there is space to look at the person who may just be struggling with the pressures of life and urban angst.

The gentleman repeated his mantra — ‘Not in the toilet, not in the toilet. No, not again, not in the toilet.’

Then a violent physical movement as he swung toward me and faced me! I avoided to be physically reacting to this swift move invading my personal space allotted to me in the confines of this public toilet. But my heart rate leapt and I felt my demure status was to be tested. Zipped and on the move well within ten seconds, a cursory wash of the hands; what I was catching here would not come from a lack of personal hygiene in an enclosed space with a person who may well be an example of how care-in-the-community needs some further thinking and positive action as our social and community systems become ever more stressed.

Lesson? I am no longer street, or urban small toilet, aware. Been a very, very, long time since my first ever encounter with a person who had nefarious intentions in a toilet. Waterloo Station circa forty plus years ago and my first encounter with a voyeur. I was with someone who was street cred and sorted the bastard out. London Gents scenes, years past and just a few years later I defended a friend who was about to be accosted in a pub in Soho. We were not so aware of things, learned quickly, and my friend was seen as ‘game’ by some strong arm guys asserting their right to be gay; my friend was not gay and so asserted the right to drink and not have this type of behaviour. Had to step in. Now, this Summer, I am not stepping in but rather wondering about all those previous pissing incidents.

Had I messed my trousers? No, I headed on to my appointment, my heart rate came down and I enjoyed the walk to the offices in the afternoon sun.

Save the best until last; or at least the piece of cunning worth telling now. Twenty years ago, flying in and out of Somalia in the days before electronic money, we often broke Kenyan regulations in terms of carrying hard currency in and out of the country; maximum, without all the extra paraphernalia of central bank, was US$4,999. I arrived with my monthly expenses tucked away safely — US$20,000, does not take up (too) much room. Then had a driver arrive from another organisation — I would be carrying US$20,000 for them — too. The driver wanted to have me count the money in public. Hey, hey, breaking a regulation is one thing, advertising I want to be mugged another. I went to the bathroom, aluminium trough, and put myself in a cubicle and tucked away the wad inside my trousers.

Feeling I would get by any pat down searches, went to wait for my flight into Mogadishu’s northern airstrip where I definitely would not walk too far — maybe just to the side of the strip to use the bush relief toilet. As we waited for the flight to Mogadishu, a colleague from another NGO came up. He was worried, carrying, yep, you are with me, US$20,000. I said give it here, in for a penny in for a pound, already packing 4,000,000 cents may as well go for broke. Now I was concerned. Went back to the bathroom made my wad sit comfortably then did a little trick offered to me by someone who knows how to embarrass others by being embarrassing and embarassed. I splashed water down the leg of my nice beige trousers as if I had just pissed myself.

Went to the gate, policemen stood there, took a look at me and quietly said ‘You can go through’ No search, $60K safely tucked away and now bound for Belet Weyn Somalia.

My trousers dried long before landing and the story faded from mind. Having a person with a boom box making exaggerated movements has made me remember not to judge people too readily, but to be prepared certainly. People have been attacked for far less than US$60K for sure. I would have been in big trouble in South London the other week if this gentleman had gone from anti-social poseur to aggressor and turned his behaviour into real piss-your-pants assailant.

Aaah, the joys of relieving oneself

Take a look at this http://www.urinal.net/schiphol/ as the Dutch take urinal design and fly chasing to new levels; maybe they will have annotated storyboards for all us guys to tell pissing stories and get over some of our angst?