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urinal bathroom etiquette
January 6, 2012 9:15 AM   Subscribe

I work in an office with one bathroom on the floor. In the bathroom, there are 3 urinals, side-by-side, with short dividers between them. Given that when I use the bathroom, there is about a 50% chance that at least one other person will already be using a urinal as well, which urinal generally gets the least amount of use? My goal is to always use the urinal that has the least amount of use, mostly for OCD-type reasons.

I'm hoping you can use your knowledge of male bathroom etiquette and urinal-use patterns to help me figure this out in a logical manner.

More info: The dividers start at knee-height and end at shoulder-height. Also, I do not have OCD, and it is just being used in a descriptive sense, and I hope it does not sound offensive.
posted by jabberjaw to Society & Culture (45 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
The middle one. Always the middle one.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:17 AM on January 6, 2012 [9 favorites]


Yep. Middle.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:17 AM on January 6, 2012


Are the urinals themselves all at the same height?
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 9:17 AM on January 6, 2012


Traditional male etiquette is to use ones on each side, leaving the middle one open for space.

Given that, I'm sure the middle one is used least.

Don't use it. Don't be that guy.
posted by Oktober at 9:18 AM on January 6, 2012 [10 favorites]


Taking the middle one is a guarantee that the next person walking in will be peeing next to you, which is usually a bigger concern than hygiene for most people.
posted by griphus at 9:18 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


The middle one.

The default pissoir will be the one closest to the door. If that one's in use, then the next best choice will be the one furthest away, with a one-urinal gap between the two pissers.
posted by holgate at 9:18 AM on January 6, 2012


Previously on MeFi.

If there's nobody in the bathroom, everyone should go to one on an end, so that if a second person enters, they can pick the one at the other end, thereby retaining a one-urinal buffer. Then the second person enters and can take the one at the other end.

The least frequently-used should therefore by the one in the middle.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 9:18 AM on January 6, 2012


(And, yeah, taking the middle urinal if the rest are free is definitely a Dick Move, no pun intended.)
posted by griphus at 9:19 AM on January 6, 2012


The middle one.

Here's my reasoning: For the most part, there's no way to say which one will be least used by individuals; minus a small margin of error I'd think that a person walking into an empty bathroom will use whichever one he feels like using, and it could be any of the three.

However! All of the men I know (and with whom this has come up in conversation) have told me that if at all possible they prefer to have a space of at least one urinal away from someone who's already using one. This means that in a bathroom with three urinals, maintaining that space means using one of the ones on the edge, either if there's someone already there, or if someone comes in.

So the difference isn't likely to be an astronomical difference, but yes, you want to use the middle one.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:20 AM on January 6, 2012


The middle one will be the least used as the logic outlined by everyone above, but I would venture that you would want to go with the last one because on the 50% chance that someone else comes in while you are there, they will be the furthest away from you which I would assume will also satisfy some OCD requirements. For sure the first one is the most used and for sure the middle one is least used, but I would guess that the last one is actually not as utilized as often as you think it is.
posted by like_neon at 9:26 AM on January 6, 2012


The middle one gets the least amount of use, for the reasons stated above. You'll just have to decide if your OCD-type reasons are worth being labeled as the really weird dude who always uses the middle urinal.

Which is only one step up from the asshole who will only pee in the stalls even if all the urinals are free.
posted by Grither at 9:28 AM on January 6, 2012


Don't worry about it -- the efficient urinal hypothesis holds that your co-workers are just as capable as assessing this as you are, and urinal usage will inevitably converge to a Pareto-optional equilibrium where all urinals are used equally often. I mean, think about it -- did you ever find a $20 bill in a urinal??
posted by escabeche at 9:30 AM on January 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Agree with everyone above that the middle will be the least used, but you would seem like the weird guy when other people walk in.

Which is only one step up from the asshole who will only pee in the stalls even if all the urinals are free.

Peeing openly in urinals can be very stressful for certain people to the point of being impossible. Please don't create extra stress for them by implying that they are assholes.
posted by Midnight Rambler at 9:55 AM on January 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm conscious that this may be slightly off-question, but I think the more interesting is that of whether the urinal nearest to or furthest from the door gets the greater use. I'd personally always walk to the furthest one; the furthest urinal is least visible from the door, and anyone coming in after you doesn't have to walk around you to get to a urinal.

If your goal is even wear-and-tear, I doubt very much that urinating on the ceramic actually does much damage, at least relative to wear-and-tear from cleaning.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 9:59 AM on January 6, 2012


Going to the middle urinal if a guy is already peeing at an end urinal is like sitting next to someone on the bus when there's a whole empty seat across the aisle. It's weird.
posted by fso at 10:02 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or, use the toilet instead..... always an option.
posted by HuronBob at 10:03 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


The configuration of the bathroom is also important. For example, if the three urinals are in between the sinks and the stalls. Hence, I really don't think you can get an accurate estimate without collecting some data. A camera is probably illegal, however IANAL, so collecting the data in person is probably your best bet.

While in general, I agree that the first will get used most and the middle the least, there are some situations where the middle is preferred. For example, if the third urinal is adjacent to a stall and someone is taking a dump. A really nasty dump. Then, even if the first urinal is occupied, the middle urinal would be preferred, unless you somehow were able to cover your nose and ears while taking a leak. Similarly, if someone is using the third urinal, but the first urinal is next to the sink and someone is washing his hands, well now you have a bit of a dilemma. If you feel that the guy at the urinal is about to finish soon, you may very well prefer to take the middle urinal.

In addition, without more data on the types of urinal users at your office (e.g., buddies, propensity to "wide stance"), your estimation model will probably be very biased.
posted by Bokmakierie at 10:11 AM on January 6, 2012


Important question--is there one of those short urinals on the end? If so, use it.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:12 AM on January 6, 2012


Pick the one that seems most likely to be used/dirty. Your judgment is probably like most other men, and therefore you'll be picking the one most are avoiding.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:14 AM on January 6, 2012


I've often speculated about traffic flows in bathrooms (you have to think about something while you're in there)--especially in more complicated layouts than the one you describe (where, as everyone says, the middle one is obviously the least used). But one thing I've noticed is that men being lousy at aiming where they pee and urine being mildly corrosive you can often simply look at the size of the stain under the urinal to determine which gets the most use. Depends, of course, on the flooring material and the frequency of the cleaning.
posted by yoink at 10:18 AM on January 6, 2012


Important question--is there one of those short urinals on the end? If so, use it.

Those urinals are for little kids, because they're the only one kids can use. Little kids usually give parents about a 1-minute warning. If I come in there with my squirming son and you're by yourself using the short urinal, I will bodily shove you away.
posted by escabeche at 10:19 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


See, I thought the middle was the right answer too, and it might be. I have no qualms about being the wierd guy, so I'll use it. The thing is, I never see anybody using the far urinal, but it seems certain the first urinal definitely gets the most play.

I truly doubt that a lot of men actually abide the etiquette rule of using an end urinal so that the potential next user will not be forced to stand next to them. These guys don't necessarily even flush the urinals afterwards.

Not thet The urinals are not so close together to make it uncomfortable, and there is a significant divider between each urinal.

Another factor is that the far end urinal is a kid-height urinal, and I have a feeling that most men are disinclined to use those.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:19 AM on January 6, 2012


"Not thet The" = Note that the
posted by jabberjaw at 10:20 AM on January 6, 2012


Also, this is an office building, 16th floor, no kids use these bathrooms.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:22 AM on January 6, 2012


I truly doubt that a lot of men actually abide the etiquette rule of using an end urinal so that the potential next user will not be forced to stand next to them.

Just one data point: I do avoid the middle urinal.
posted by downing street memo at 10:25 AM on January 6, 2012


I truly doubt that a lot of men actually abide the etiquette rule of using an end urinal so that the potential next user will not be forced to stand next to them.

I think if using the middle urinal is something you need to do, you should go for it. But on this count you are very, very wrong.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 10:33 AM on January 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


You can collect actual empirical data by using urinal cakes. During usage, the cakes will slowly dissolve away. After a few weeks/months, compare their sizes. (Well, weight would be a better measure, but would you really want to remove them and weigh them?)
posted by ShooBoo at 10:59 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Am I wrong? Perhaps. Let's walk through a real scenario: you walk into the bathroom and need to pee. You see the first stall is heavily used, you'll be stepping in pee spray if you use it. You see the last stall is a kid sized urinal. The middle stall has less pee spray on the floor, but pee spray nonetheless. There are no other people in the bathroom, and you think you can finish before the next person comes in.

Do you use an end stall for etiquette purposes if it means standing in a whole bunch of someone else's pee spray? Do you use a urinal that is clearly intended for children? Or do you use the middle one? It's easy to think that everyone uses an end urinal to prevent the potential of standing next to another dude, but there are other factors at stake, like heavy use pee spray.

One reason I'm asking is because I am in the three-urinal scenario, but my empirical data is that the middle one seems to get a lot of use, which is counterintuitive. The only reason for that, under normal bathroom etiquette, would be a high incidence of three-person simultaneous use, which I have not observed.

So, my empirical data might be off, and the center stall does get the least amount of use, as emphatically suggested. I was hoping someone more clever than me could think outside of the box to reason why the center stall would not be the least used.

On preview: there are no urinal cakes in this bathroom.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:22 AM on January 6, 2012


Important question--is there one of those short urinals on the end? If so, use it.

Oh, good lord, no. Our office has one of those on the end closest to the door, even though there are no children here. I still never use it.

I don't know if it's the shape of the urinal, or the increased distance to the floor, but the splashback on the short urinal is unacceptable. Go ahead and use that one if you want urine splatter on your pantlegs (Or ankles during the summer. We have a very casual dress-code.).
posted by zen_spider at 11:30 AM on January 6, 2012


In my bathroom scenario, the first urinal is rarely used, since using it requires sort of a sharp turn upon entering the bathroom. The third is out for most folks because it's kid-sized (and also next to a stall, which could be occupied). So the middle one is definitely the most used, even though it results in massive breaches of urinal etiquette.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:32 AM on January 6, 2012


I'm not a dude, so I might be missing something, but instead of finding the least used urinal, couldn't you use a stall? Those should be the least used, yes?
posted by theRussian at 12:58 PM on January 6, 2012


Do you use an end stall for etiquette purposes if it means standing in a whole bunch of someone else's pee spray?

Yes, you're wrong -- at least, you're the outlier and most men's priorities are the opposite of yours. "The guy who doesn't like other guys standing right next to him while peeing" is way, way more common than "the guy who won't stand on pee spray".

Men will pee standing on just about anything. I've seen toilets at football grounds that would send you hopping. They will, in contrast, almost always avoid standing right next to someone else. The "other factors" all pale in comparison.
posted by fightorflight at 12:59 PM on January 6, 2012


Also, this is an office building, 16th floor, no kids use these bathrooms.

If this is in reference to the question about whether there's a short urinal, those are actually mandated by accessibility regultations more than by whether there's a potential for use by children. If there is no such urinal in your office, it's either because your state does not have such a regulation or because the building predates it.
posted by LionIndex at 1:03 PM on January 6, 2012


I'm not a dude, so I might be missing something, but instead of finding the least used urinal, couldn't you use a stall? Those should be the least used, yes?

Only someone who has never experienced the joy of peeing without pulling down their pants would say such a thing.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 1:37 PM on January 6, 2012


For urinals: the middle one.

For stalls: the one closest to the door.
posted by asnider at 1:43 PM on January 6, 2012


no regrets, but can't you just use the toilet "urinal style"? I mean, that's what happens at home, yes?
posted by theRussian at 1:45 PM on January 6, 2012


Yes of course one could use the toilet "urinal style" but then guys like Grither think we're assholes (oblivious as they are to the problem of Bashful Bladder) which is why I always act like I'm doing #2 when it's only #1 (in the most remote stall, please -- the one farthest from the door). Besides, sitting down's more relaxing -- Sitzpinkel Ja!

Seconding fightorflight on this one -- the OP's fastidious problem with the floor is why we wear shoes in the restroom.
posted by Rash at 3:11 PM on January 6, 2012


> Which is only one step up from the asshole who will only pee in the stalls even if all the urinals are free.

This is why I am the asshole who always goes up or down one floor and pees in one of their stalls. The guys on my floor must think my bladder holds three quarts.
posted by bukvich at 4:23 PM on January 6, 2012


but can't you just use the toilet "urinal style"? I mean, that's what happens at home, yes?

This is absolutely true. The concept of picking even the cleanest stall over the dirtiest man-friendly urinal so shocked my sensibilities that I didn't think my comment through.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 5:28 PM on January 6, 2012


You guys are all great. I have a feeling that the farthest urinal (the kid-sized one) is considered not usable, some other form of bathroom etiquette I'm not familiar with.

I use the 1st mostly, unless the pee spray is literally a pee pool on the floor. My ick factor has a limit when I think of leaving invisible pee footprints in my office. Then, if I think I can get away from it, I use the middle. If a guy is already at the 1st one I begrudgingly use the kid urinal.

If a guy is already in the center (it's like marking X in the center square in tic tac toe) then I use the 1st, but I try not to judge the dude.

In fact I sometimes have conversations at the urinal. It's a crazy world, I know.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:46 PM on January 6, 2012


Men will pee standing on just about anything. I've seen toilets at football grounds that would send you hopping. They will, in contrast, almost always avoid standing right next to someone else. The "other factors" all pale in comparison.

I dunno... If all three are unoccupied, and the floor under the left and right is noticeably soaked, I think most guys would just go to the center. No one's likely to join you, and even if they did, they'd probably see pretty quickly why you opted for the center one.

Now, if you walk in and the left one was taken, but the floor of the right was soaked, then I can see most guys going with the right one anyway, because you risk the guy on the left thinking "Why's he pissing in the one next to me?"

Having the kid-sized urinal on the end complicates things. I never really thought about it being more difficult/messy for an adult to use it, I figured guys avoided it whenever possible simply because it's kind of embarrassing.

(Someone earlier compared this to bus open-seat situations, and I wonder if there's a MeFi discussion about that... And if anyone else ever feels unreasonably slighted when a stranger opts to sit next to someone on the other side of the aisle instead of you.)
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 2:16 AM on January 7, 2012


In fact I sometimes have conversations at the urinal.

Do you strike them up? Please stop doing that, it's not cool.
posted by fightorflight at 9:34 AM on January 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can see most guys going with the right one anyway, because you risk the guy on the left thinking "Why's he pissing in the one next to me?"

What is the effective outcome of this?

1) If you know the guy, then it can create weirdness, and if you care, then you can facilitate a relationship with the person that may cancel out the weirdness.

2) If you don't know the guy, then it will never make any difference how weird the person thinks you are. Seriously, who cares what some asshole who gets freaked out by someone peeing next them thinks? Not me, I guess. While we should abide bathroom courtesies (and all courtesies, because it is never incorrect to be polite), I don't see the sense of going into shock if I have to stand next to a guy when I pee at a urinal.

Clearly I'm a very weird dude, though, and I'm "that guy." Tread cautiously.
posted by jabberjaw at 9:48 AM on January 10, 2012


Seriously, who cares what some asshole who gets freaked out by someone peeing next them thinks?

Obviously it's not a big deal that will have any lasting repercussions. And a lot of men surely don't give it a second thought, nor should they.

But there's just some unspoken rule about voluntary proximity among strangers in public (like with mostly empty restaurants, lobbies, etc). The funny thing about restrooms is that it's more heightened, yet more fleeting (well, maybe except in the stalls). You wash your hands and go back to work, and it's all forgotten.

And I don't think it's really a matter of one guy thinking "Why'd he take the one next to me?" as much as it is the other guy thinking, "Great, he's gonna think why I took the one next to him." It's not awkwardness as much as it is potential of awkwardness, which could just be avoided altogether.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 1:55 AM on January 11, 2012


Conversations about talking in the mens room always make me think of that Asimov book. From the literature section of TVTRopes' Wondrous Ladies Room section:
In the Isaac Asimov novel The Caves Of Steel, the people of the overcrowded, quasi-socialist 47th century use communal bathroom-shower-laundry facilities called "Personals". While men are instructed from childhood that it is never permissible to speak in the Personal, women often socialize in their Personals and this fact is an object of fascination and confusion for men.
posted by Rash at 8:44 AM on January 11, 2012


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