If a man walks into a gents public convenience, and there are three urinals, and all are free, urinal etiquette dictates that he will generally choose the one on the left or the one on the right. This allows the next man who enters to go to the opposite end of the row because if he went to the one in the middle this would cause the first chap to become slightly concerned and silently angry at this blatant disregard for the sanctity of his personal space. However, the next man in is faced with a dilemma. Yes, there is a urinal free in the middle. But there are men either side of it, possibly both with larger appendages than him. What to do?
In many countries, including most Spanish shopping centres, airports etc, this is not a problem, as almost all urinals are designed with curved edges, or have privacy dividers, that will allow you to feel secure as you perform your necessities.
However, for some reason in the UK it is usually different. Almost all men’s urinals in public and workplace toilets do not have dividers and are designed to offer no privacy whatsoever. This means that when the 3rd chap enters and sees only the middle urinal free, my observations are that at least 80% of the time, he will chicken out and head for a sit-down cubicle.
So how big a problem is this? Well, it is an environmental scandal and I’m surprised Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion aren’t all over it. Every time a cubicle is used instead of a urinal, 3 to 5 litres of water is used for the flush. Urinals tend to flush half a litre at intervals. A calculated estimate would of course be guesswork but I would still suggest millions of litres of water are being unnecessarily wasted every year in the UK by men using cubicles in order to avoid that middle urinal. There is also the destabilising effect this has on the general well-being of the male population, many of whom always feel nervous when embarking on a trip to the loo in case they are faced with the middle-urinal dilemma.
Why do urinal manufacturers and installers in the UK not understand any of this? Do none of them stop to think about how their product is used or do any customer surveys? (although to be fair British men are unlikely to admit to any of the behaviours I have outlined above). Or is it, as is often the case in the UK, all down to budgets and cost-cutting (the answer is ‘probably’). But it wouldn’t cost a huge amount more and just on water usage alone it would surely pay for itself in the end. There needs to be a set of rules or industry guidelines that must be followed for all urinal installations so that either dividers or more sensitively designed urinals become mandatory.
I’ve even thought of a slogan: “Wee demand urinal privacy”. Lobby your MP!