Men are often called simple creatures when compared to women. While I’m not here to argue about the validity of this claim, there is one area that men are definitely quite simple and predictable: the bathroom.
When it comes to guys and bathrooms, there are two simple truths:
- Always try to keep a one urinal “buffer” between yourself and the next closest person
- If possible, try to avoid the shorter urinal, which is reserved for children or the handicapped
Despite these characteristics, I almost always see public bathrooms arranged in the following way: two or more regular height urinals and one shorter urinal at the end of the lineup:
Despite being the most common bathroom lineup, this arrangement is far from ideal if more than one person is peeing.
When someone is already at one urinal (likely the one on the left), the second person to walk into the bathroom faces an uncomfortable decision: stand right next to the person already peeing or give them space and use a urinal that’s less than an ideal height.
However, it doesn’t have to be like this. There’s a very simple fix to let both parties pee in peace.
If the urinal lineup was switched to the shorter urinal in the middle, both bathroom users would be happy. They’re both using regular height urinals with a comfortable buffer in between them.
Not only does this design make it easy for two people to use three urinals, it encourages “correct” behavior for the first person who enters the bathroom. In the top urinal lineup, the first person in the bathroom can choose the left or the middle urinal. If the first person takes the middle urinal, the second person has no choice but to stand next to them. But with the bottom urinal lineup, the first person in the bathroom is almost guaranteed to choose either the left or the right urinal, leaving plenty of space for the second person in the bathroom after they take the opposite urinal.
Another benefit of this design is it’s more likely to comply with the law. The whole reason short urinals are legally required is not for children, but for wheelchairs. The law stipulating the existence of a shorter urinal, the American with Disabilities Act, says there must be “a clear floor space 30 in by 48 in … in front of [short] urinals to allow forward approach.” This strengthens the argument that placing the shorter urinal in the middle is better, as urinals placed at the end are closer to the bathroom wall. This placement makes it more likely that the approach area in front of them overlaps with wall decorations, furniture, or protruding architecture.
For most men, this urinal inconvenience may be annoying but not a huge deal. However, shy bladder syndrome is a real medical condition that supposedly affects up to 20 million Americans, and many more men than women. Encouraging men to space apart at the urinal may just make some people more comfortable, but for some it may be the difference between being able to go to the bathroom in public or not.
Whether or not men are simple creatures will likely be a debate that continues for decades. But what is undeniable is the simple design change that can be made to make public bathrooms more comfortable and more usable.