One of the things that shapes the psyche of those of us who grow up male is the ability to pee standing up and use public urinals. There's a whole subculture going on in men's public restrooms with its own rules of etiquette. This is an ugly, private world that most women are completely oblivious to, since you have the luxury (and curse) of your own private stalls to piss in. Some of the cramped restrooms in the old buildings around Portland make for some bizarre social situations. Any guy who's taken a whiz at Mary's Club knows what I'm talking about.
I tend to freeze up if things get too weird in a restroom, meaning I have a hard time getting the flow started. For instance, I was driving on the freeway late one night years ago, and I stopped at a rest area. I entered the restroom, and there was one guy using a urinal, and I could see someone's feet in one of the stalls. I stood at the urinal next to the other guy and pulled out my junk. In the corner of my eye I could see him turn his head to look at me, which immediately made me clam up. I cleared my throat and bobbed my Bob a little bit, which sometimes helps, but nothing came out.
Then I realized that I couldn't hear the guy next to me peeing, either. We were both just standing next to each other in complete silence with our penises out, and I could sense him looking at me. So I stood there for a long, grueling couple of minutes wondering what the fuck kind of weirdness was going on here, and the pee never came. He knew that I wasn't peeing, and I knew that he wasn't peeing, and we just stood there. Then I pretended to shake, zipped up my pants, washed my hands out of habit, and left. The worst part was I had to pee really bad and ended up holding it for another 45 minutes, sweating bullets until I got to the next rest area.
Even worse, this happened to me once while using the trough at the old Silverado on Stark Street, with guys standing on either side of me. They noticed that I was standing there not peeing and started commenting on it, saying, “What's the matter? You shy?” and “You need some help with that?” Back then there was always a huge line at the Silverado bathroom, and pretty soon there were guys crowding around me at the trough, staring at my penis and asking me what was wrong. Then for some reason two guys got into a heated argument over whether or not I should cut my hair, which was really long at the time. Once again I ended up leaving the restroom feeling embarrassed, confused, and unrelieved.
The other night I had probably my weirdest urinal experience ever. I was hanging out at Kelly's Olympian with some friends, and I went into the restroom to pee. There was one other guy in there peeing in one of the stalls (which don't have doors on them, by the way), so I decided to use the urinal in the corner. The urinals at Kelly's don't have splash guards – they're basically just two porcelain bowls jutting out of the wall, which is a fairly common setup. As I unzipped my fly, I realized I was standing in a puddle of piss. Great. The other guy flushed just as I began peeing. He started heading towards the door, and then suddenly he turned towards me and said, “Man, I just lost twenty bucks!”
My stream's flow weakened. I hate it when people talk to me while I'm peeing. I glanced over at him and said, “Oh? That sucks.” He was a short, dark-skinned man with glossy, bloodshot eyes. He appeared to be stoned or drunk or both.
“Yeah, it really sucks, man.”
Awkward silence. Did he think I took his twenty bucks? Did he want help looking for it? I cleared my throat and tried to pee harder, but my stream was reduced to a trickle. The man's whole body was turned towards me, and I got the distinct impression that he was checking me out. It's always awkward when people talk to you while you're peeing, but usually they at least give you the courtesy of not staring at your penis while they talk.
“I was trying to buy some pot from someone on the street,” he finally continued. “I gave the guy twenty bucks, and he was like, 'Give me the other twenty,' and I was like, 'Not until you show me the product,' you know? Then he hands me two crack rocks!”
By now I desperately wanted out of this restroom, but this was turning into the longest pee ever. It just kept going and going, and as I got more agitated the stream got weaker.
The guy kept talking. “So I was like, 'What the fuck is this?' you know, and I fucking threw it into the street, 'cause, you know, I didn't want crack. I wanted some weed. But the guy ran away and took my twenty bucks. I got ripped off, man.”
“Yeah, I've been ripped off before, too,” I said. “That sucks.” And the pee just kept on coming.
“I dunno, I guess it was just a miscommunication, you know? Like, he called it something weird at first. I don't remember what he called it when he asked me if I was looking for some, but I thought I was buying pot, and then he hands me these two crack rocks!”
“Yeah...” I had no idea what the hell this guy wanted from me or why he was telling me this story. By now I had come to the conclusion that he was going to try to mug me or something, because it really didn't look like he was leaving any time soon. He had me cornered.
Finally the pee stopped, and I shook several times while the guy stood there watching me. “It just sucks, 'cause I really wanted to get stoned, you know?” he said as I zipped up. “I mean, I don't smoke very often, but sometimes it's nice to just get high.”
He continued standing there while I washed my hands, and I said, “Yeah, it's usually not a good idea to buy stuff like that on the street. You're always gonna get ripped off to some degree.”
I kept an eye on him in the mirror while I washed my hands, expecting him to whip out a knife at any moment, but nothing happened. We exited the restroom together and didn't speak to each other again. Even now I don't know if he was hitting on me or hoping I had some weed on me and would smoke him out or what. Whatever he was trying to do, he went about it the wrong way. The funny thing is, this would have been a relatively normal conversation to have with a stranger while sitting at a bar, but because it happened while I had my penis out, it really changed the whole social dynamic of the situation.
I went back to my table and told my group of friends what had happened. One of the women I was sitting next to said, “You guys and your urinals. So weird!”
You ladies get the shaft in a lot of ways, but you can at least be happy that you'll never have to experience the awkwardness of a urinal faux pas. And guys: Don't talk at the urinal. Just don't. Feel free to look at my penis. I don't care. Just please, please don't talk to me. For some us public urination takes a lot of concentration. Thank you.