What's with the spitting in the urinal?
July 29, 2005 1:18 PM   Subscribe

Spitting in the urinal, what's that about? Why do so many guys feel the need to spit first, before urinating?

It's not like I work in a slaughterhouse or a bar, either -- I work next to programmers and share an office floor/bathroom with mortgage brokers. At least once a day I see or hear somebody working up the old hack-twoey in front of the urinal. Some just lean forward and "politely" drop a mouthful of spit before they do their business. What the hell is the point?
posted by soundslikeobiwan to Health & Fitness (50 answers total)
It's a convenient, sanitary place to do it, that's all.
posted by rocket88 at 1:21 PM on July 29, 2005

You know, I caught myself doing this the other day. I wondered: if someone asked me why I do this I'd be utterly unable to respond.

I think it just has to do with the standing and facing forward stance of male urination. It presents an opportunity for discreet and hygienic spitting and we just automatically take advantage of it.
posted by aladfar at 1:22 PM on July 29, 2005

Response by poster: rocket88: I don't disagree, but are these people walking around with a mouthful of crap that needs to be spit out, and happen to wait until they need to pee to take care of it? Why not just swallow?
posted by soundslikeobiwan at 1:23 PM on July 29, 2005

I can't say why, but I can say that I only do this when I am drunk.
posted by Turd Ferguson at 1:31 PM on July 29, 2005

Same here, Turd. Same here.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:32 PM on July 29, 2005

Response by poster: I'd also have to add that this is a question I only feel comfortable asking online, if you know what I mean.
posted by soundslikeobiwan at 1:33 PM on July 29, 2005

Interesting question, but I want to know why men feel the need to pick there nose and wipe it on the wall whilst urinating. That drives me nuts to look up and see dried boogers on the wall in the bathroom
posted by internal at 1:35 PM on July 29, 2005

Funny how you don't exactly raise the question in the men's room... I've wondered about this a billion times myself -- it's unbelievably common. Maybe the tensing up to spit somehow gets the bladder primed to release? Surely there's a reason for it!
posted by rleamon at 1:36 PM on July 29, 2005

What's with spitting, in general? I myself very rarely feel the need to expectorate, but I know folks who regularly spit.
posted by Specklet at 1:36 PM on July 29, 2005

but are these people walking around with a mouthful of crap that needs to be spit out
I'm curious about this too. What do these people spit exactly? Saliva? Mucus? Spitting seems to be a very cultural thing : there are cultures where people spit all the time and others when they never do it. Or is it genetic? Or due to particular environmental conditions (nutrition, pollution...)? For the record, I've never seen anyone spit in a urinal and in fact I rarely see people spit at all.
posted by elgilito at 1:36 PM on July 29, 2005

I have a French friend who does this. I asked him and he said he only started doing it after he moved to the US as an adult. Definitely a learned characteristic.
posted by Nelson at 1:42 PM on July 29, 2005

I've always wondered about spitting, too. Then I got a nasty head cold with lots of phlegm, and suddenly I've got a mouthful of mucus everytime I clear my throat. It's gross and I don't want to swallow it, so yes, I have been walking around looking for a place to spit it. If I'm walking down the sidewalk I'll glance behind myself to see if anyone's watching. Otherwise I look for a trashcan or bathroom sink to unload my mouthful of mucus in. Mmm, mucus. I'm not a guy, though, so I haven't used a urinal for this purpose.
posted by bonheur at 1:42 PM on July 29, 2005

For me, it's just regular saliva. I don't feel a need to expectorate, I just do. I spit in my home toilet and in urinals, etc. Until very recently, it was an almost autonomic reaction.

It should be noted that I do not generally spit in public. The idea of letting fly on the sidewalk seems entirely uncouth.

Regarding boogers on the wall: I have never seen this in my life. It sounds positively horrid.
posted by aladfar at 1:43 PM on July 29, 2005

I don't care about spitting (occasionally do it myself), but I want to know why guys think it's ok to flatulate at the urinal, right next to you. I mean, I've heard them straining before as they push one out, and that's just gross.
posted by knave at 1:49 PM on July 29, 2005

My husband was recently in a men's restroom when the governor of our state approached the urinal next to him, spat vigorously, and proceeded to relieve himself. According to mister junkbox, men who do this are almost universally "assholes" (which probably holds true in the case of the governor, as much as we like his politics). Apologies to aladfar and others; I'm not sure why my better half thinks you're assholes, but the spitting thing hasn't made a good impression on him.
posted by junkbox at 1:49 PM on July 29, 2005

Response by poster: knave- funny how a spitter gets offended by a farter. I would think farting in a bathroom is one of the more appropriate places to do it.
posted by soundslikeobiwan at 1:50 PM on July 29, 2005

And a follow up question... what's up with not flushing the urinal? Does it have to do with leaving your scent of stale coffee and asparagus?
posted by SteveInMaine at 2:04 PM on July 29, 2005

It might be a relaxation thing. Gets the fluids going and such. Spitting leads to pissing.

Call me weird, but when I head to a public toilet, I keep my head down, stay absolutely still and quiet, get the job done, and make my rapid escape. In fact, I often have trouble pissing in front of other men to the point where I usually choose the stall (still standing of course). But I'm a bit weird when it comes to nakedness of any kind.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 2:04 PM on July 29, 2005

Response by poster: There's a smaller contingent who seem to need to lean forward and brace themselves against the wall in front of them while they piss, despite being otherwise sober. I'll leave that as an AskMeFi for another day.
posted by soundslikeobiwan at 2:07 PM on July 29, 2005

Isn't it just a question of grabbing opportunities? Like when you're on a road trip and you stop off at a store and then you think, might as well use the restroom whilst I'm here because I'm not going to have the opportunity for a while. Same for spitting I guess (even though I only do it when I've got a cold and I probably even wouldn't do it then in front of people but hey, I'm British) - there aren't that many convenient locations to do it, so when one comes along, I guess some people just grab it with both hands, so to speak.
posted by forallmankind at 2:10 PM on July 29, 2005

I spit in the urinal because I saw my dad do it when I was just a wee lad. So elgilito I think your on to something. I do it automatically, but sometimes I do it consciously. All I know is that I love to spit, I spat the last time I went to the bathroom and im gona spit again the next time I go, and I am not an asshole. I spit on people that are assholes.
posted by pwally at 2:21 PM on July 29, 2005

I spit before I pee because I like to think, "Here in front of me is the primordial soup, the building blocks of life, the nuts and bolts of species to come—here, in this porcelain vessel made by man, from my fluids and the fluids of others could spring a lifeform that in a million years will run down the diminished creature once known as homo sapiens and make it roadkill." Then I flush because I never have lightning handy when I need it.

I read too much sci-fi as a kid.
posted by Mo Nickels at 2:34 PM on July 29, 2005 [2 favorites]

We like to have a target.
posted by MrZero at 2:44 PM on July 29, 2005 [1 favorite]

Hmm.. I wonder if it's a "distaste" thing. When exposed to bad smells, I automatically get a mouthful of saliva. I assume it's so I'll be prepared to spit if something nasty splashes me in the face.

Maybe other people have this reaction too?
posted by Laen at 2:45 PM on July 29, 2005

Response by poster: I wonder if it's a "distaste" thing
That's better than the alternative I was considering, that I share the office with a bunch of guys whose mouths start to water when they near the restroom.
posted by soundslikeobiwan at 2:48 PM on July 29, 2005 [1 favorite]

I can't say I've ever noticed anyone spitting into a urinal. I've probably seen it, but it just never registered. What's the big deal, anyway? Can you suggest a better place to spit?
posted by Doohickie at 2:52 PM on July 29, 2005

I also spit into the sink when I wash my hands (no, not on my hands). Any water other than in a glass makes the desire to spit almost impossible to resist. It's definitely hard-wired into me. Lake, ocean, urinal... I spit. When it rains I want to spit into puddles, but for the most part my aversion to public expectoration keeps my mouth shut. I've so far managed to avoid aquariums.
(BTW, I NEVER spit on the sidewalk on a dry day, so it's not like I'm an inveterate spitter.)
posted by johngumbo at 2:54 PM on July 29, 2005

Because spitting is a pleasurable activity.

As is urination.

Gotta take the time to appreciate the little joys, y'know?
posted by cmonkey at 2:56 PM on July 29, 2005

When I used to work in a big office and share multi-user bathrooms with coworkers and the public, I started doing it to break up the silence of standing there trying to overcome "stage fright" in a crowded bathroom.

After a while, it became almost pavlovian, as I couldn't pee in a busy public urinal until I spit first.

After years of peeing in private in my own home and small offices, I don't do it anymore, but if I'm at an airport trying to go, I might do it while I wait for the pee to start.
posted by mathowie at 2:57 PM on July 29, 2005

"Spitting leads to pissing."

If that were the case, then wouldn't women do it too? In my entire life, I have never seen or heard any woman spit in a pubic restroom--in the toilet, on the wall, or in the sink*.

(*not counting the ones who were deliberately rinsing out their mouths)

"to break up the silence of standing there trying to overcome 'stage fright' in a crowded bathroom"

Interesting point. Sometimes women will ask someone by the sink to turn on the tap "to get the process started" so to speak.

I love AskMe. I learn the most amazing things.
posted by luneray at 3:11 PM on July 29, 2005

Response by poster: then wouldn't women do it too
Interesting point. Any more female lavatory inspectors care to report on the phenomena?
posted by soundslikeobiwan at 3:15 PM on July 29, 2005

Women don't do it because, as I mentioned previously, they're generally facing the wrong way. The subtle cue that we men receive from a standing pool of toilet water doesn't effect them in the same way.

It's just a theory, of course, but I think it holds up pretty well.
posted by aladfar at 3:37 PM on July 29, 2005

I think it may be a cultural thing. I can't say as I've noticed a lot of spitting going on around where I've lived.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:46 PM on July 29, 2005

I thought we had a spitting thread a while back, but the updated search mechanism isn't bringing it up (heh). Some people, usually men (but not me) feel they have too much saliva, and need to rid themselves of it at any convenient opportunity.

what's up with not flushing the urinal?

Some of us from dry places take the opportunity to conserve water -- you know, "If it's yellow, let it mellow; if it's brown, flush it down." Others don't give a shit -- they're they guys I hear in the neighboring stall who flush before, after, even during. IMO, they're overly sensitive to the smell of human waste.
posted by Rash at 4:08 PM on July 29, 2005

OK. Humilating myself for the benefit of your education: I'm female, and I cannot swallow a mouthful of saliva in the restroom either. So sometimes I quietly spit into a wad of TP, or into the floor drain if one is in my stall. Or I hold the spit until I'm done and spit into the toilet as it flushes.

It's pretty rare that I feel the need to do this. As someone else mentioned, it's only if I get a disgusted saliva reflex, like if the bathroom really stinks. In these situations, I don't like to breathe through my nose OR swallow - makes me feel like I'm swallowing a little bit of the smell.
posted by peep at 4:11 PM on July 29, 2005

A good 'snorf-whock-ptui' is not for urinals, but I'm old school.
posted by nj_subgenius at 4:25 PM on July 29, 2005

I'm female, and I really don't get the public spitting at all. I don't like that gobs of spit are one more thing to avoid on the sidewalk, not because I'm germ-phobic, but because, like dog shit, gum, or trash, I don't want to step in it. My gut reaction to people spitting as they walk down the street is that it's rude.

Much leniency to above reactions if drunk, which is the ONLY time that I have any urge to spit, or hear any other girls spitting in the bathroom before peeing. I can understand the gross-smell-not-swallowing thing too.

Why is spitting pleasurable? Why do you feel that you need to spit occasionally?

(rash, I thought the rule only applied at home to family pee/family water bills, not to public bathrooms...)
posted by desuetude at 5:13 PM on July 29, 2005

I'd say it's because "it's appropriate".

Think about this - how many places do you get to piss while standing up? It's not what you'd call proper etiquette.

So, in this place wehre we can all act im properly....here's something similar that we've seen.

In other words, it's perfectly proper etiquette to spit there. Which may have started from people who spit chaw.

Oh, and the idea of eating or swallowing anything, including your own saliva might be disgusting for some.
posted by filmgeek at 5:29 PM on July 29, 2005

how many places do you get to piss while standing up? It's not what you'd call proper etiquette.

When you goto a friend's house, do you sit and piss? Because that's news to me people actually do that. The only place I sit is at home, usually when I'm too fricking drunk to stand up.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 5:39 PM on July 29, 2005

Best answer: how many places do you get to piss while standing up?

Er, most of them.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:56 PM on July 29, 2005

Hmmm, well, let's see, I do all of these things in the mens room that seem to offend others here:

- Spitting in the urinal? Check. Toilet? Hell yes check. In the sink too? Somtimes. Why? Because I like the freshness of a freshly emptied mouth and I *don't* like to spit on the streets. I don't like using the sink for it either, but at this point bad habits die hard.

- Propping myself up on the wall behind the urinal? Check. But I have very bad balance, I wouldn't be surprised if one day I didn't do this and fell instead...

- Flushing multiple times on the shitter? Check. I've had bad luck with jamming up shitters, especially the newer "low-flow" ones. Giving the toilet smaller "bites" has meant I haven't needed to plunge the toilet for a year.

Not flushing urinals, though, now that is offensive. :D
posted by shepd at 8:10 PM on July 29, 2005

I'm not sure why my better half thinks you're assholes, but the spitting thing hasn't made a good impression on him.

I'm afraid I'm with Junkbox's husband on this one--Its been my personal experience that men who spit in urinals also tend to be the same bastards who think nothing of trying to have a conversation with you while you're pissing--which, according to my father ("chatting in the shitter is what women do. A man takes care of his business and leaves--the toilet is not fucking happy hour."), is a cardinal sin and a sure indicator that you are dealing with someone who was either raised wrong or is too drunk to remember the rules... To my mind the restroom--especially at one's place of employment--should be a neutral place, wherein conversation, except in dire circumstances, should be suspended. Why? Because there are few things more humiliating and uncivilized than being forced to discuss the monthly sales numbers or what you did this weekend or how your family is doing while standing next to your boss or some vice president or the CEO with your dick in your hand.
posted by Chrischris at 9:57 PM on July 29, 2005

I did this in such a hurry once that I'd actually spat before I'd stopped walking to the urinal. When I did stop the momentum caused my tie to swing outwards (I was at work) and I spat a fat one directly onto it. Thank goodness no one was there to see. What a twat.
posted by nthdegx at 5:59 AM on July 30, 2005

What's with spitting, in general?

I guess it's linked with smoking. as a lifelong nonsmoker, I never ever feel the urge to expectorate
posted by matteo at 8:11 AM on July 30, 2005

SteveInMaine, I've heard not-flushing cited as a cleanliness thing; people are scared of flush-handle cooties. The few times I've met the washroom cooties trifecta (not flushing, not turning the tap off, then littering with the handtowel they've used to open the door) have made me fume.

But I won't even begin to mention the even worse not washing hands after peeing thing ...
posted by scruss at 8:45 AM on July 30, 2005

But I won't even begin to mention the even worse not washing hands after peeing thing ...

Well, don't pee on your hands!
posted by mendel at 9:28 AM on July 30, 2005

A marine and a naval officer are standing next to each other at the urinal, and upon finishing, the naval officer notices that the marine promptly exits the restroom without washing his hands. Considering it his duty, the naval officer chases down the marine and states, "Marine, in the navy, our officers are taught to wash our hands after we take a piss!". "Haha" replies the marine, "In the marines, they teach us not to piss on our hands!".

I have never understood the washing your hands thing in a public restroom. I'll take my chances on the door handle, rather than interact with the urinal flush, sink, and towel dispenser. Unless of course there is an attendant vigilantly attending to the faucet and urinals. I have used the 'elbow-flush' technique with some degree of success.
posted by jasondigitized at 8:27 PM on July 30, 2005

One of the best reasons for washing your hands is not because your penis is dirty, but because most everything else is.

Logically, you'd wash before handling your stuff.

Failing that, it's always a damn fine idea to wash before eating. If you haven't developed that habit, you'll likely be a little surprised at just how filthy your hands get over the course of an afternoon.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:31 PM on July 30, 2005

I have never understood the washing your hands thing in a public restroom.

Erm, hope we meant "understand the not washing your hands thing" -- why, you ask? I'll always remember a dad loudly hectoring his small son in a lobby restroom of the Royal Hawaiian (the Pink Hotel) on Waikiki Beach, how you must always wash after you go, because "what if you have to shake another man's hand right after you leave the restroom? You wouldn't want to if he'd just touched his penis, right?"
posted by Rash at 11:10 PM on July 30, 2005

I have to agree with Rash. Erm, do the rest of a world a favour and wash your hands after you've been handling your penis. With modern technology you shouldn't have to touch *anything* before leaving the bathroom.
posted by nthdegx at 2:47 AM on July 31, 2005

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