C Y Gopinath: Should he tinkle like she tinkles?

May 15, 2018, 07:01 IST | C Y Gopinath

What's so manly about peeing standing up, when all it does is make men's toilets smell worse than women's?

While women sit devoutly, the male attitude has tended to be: let us spray. Representation pic
While women sit devoutly, the male attitude has tended to be: let us spray. Representation pic

C Y GopinathBangkok's malls have thousands of people. And people tend to pee, which is partly why they're called peeple. So malls have dozens of men's and women's toilets. Being Bangkok, city of fragrances and aroma oils, they really hate bad smells, so the lavatories generally smell like boudoirs.

In a hurry recently, and finding all the cubicles in the Men's occupied, I looked left and right, then darted into the Women's toilet, which happened to be woman-free at that moment, and locked myself into a booth there. Man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. Emerging, visibly relieved, I noticed two things: there were no cleaning ladies in the women's toilet; and there was no pee smell there either.

The adjacent men's toilet had two cleaners toiling away with mops and buckets of perfumed disinfectants, but you could also detect the fouler odour they were masking: the stink of uric acid and ammonia from male piss. While women sit devoutly, the male attitude has tended to be: let us spray. I know, I know. We don't talk about such things in polite society. It's like the 13th floor in a skyscraper: you can't get rid of it, but you pretend it's not there. Never say "I would like to urinate, be right back". Better go with, umm, Have to see a man about a dog, or Going to make the bladder gladder, or Excuse me while I drain the dragon. Or, if a lady, Pardon me while I take a quick tinkle.

Say it how you wish, amigo, but here's the bottom line - India has fewer malls than Bangkok, but billions more, erm, happy pissers to whom the world is a urinal. Urinary odors were so much a part of childhood that I always assumed that toilets would always smell like, well, toilets. And it's true - a men's toilet in Chicago or Piccadilly will reek just like one of the 71 million apparently built so far by the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan.

What can I say? Piss smells. But Bill Gates, who loves poking his nose where things don't smell right, commissioned a worldwide study and found that usage of freshly minted toilets slopes off after six months. Respondents cited "dirty and smelly toilets" as reasons why they preferred the fields. Gates started the Reinvent the Toilet initiative in 2011, and began working with Firmenich, a Swiss company that makes bad smells better. They identified the four stinky molecules in toilets as indole, butyric acid, p-cresol and dimethyl tri-sulfide, and came up with a fragrance that blocks the nose's receptors that detect these. You could be up s**t creek, so to speak, and not smell a thing.

Like pretending the 13th floor doesn't exist even as you pass it. But you know me. The man with the humble opinion. While Gates would like to block your nose, I think I'd like to block the stink itself. After all, women seem to have it figured out - they sit when they tinkle, so they don't sprinkle. So - men should stand to pee why?

Toledo University's 18-month study found three causes of toilet odors - Missing the target. Face it, not all men are born snipers. The average Indian pissoir is haloed by a wet ring of failed attempts to hit the superbowl.

Uric acid, from men who pissed, but missed and dribbled on floors and walls (and their own shoes) instead, causing smelly bacteria build-up. Splashes - even when the target has been successfully met, a fine aerosol of uric acid lands on nearby surfaces. Urine in the cracks: Urine is absorbed into grout, ponging over time. I'd add poorly paid municipal cleaners and maybe a faint inherited attitude that only untouchables clean toilets. Splashing a bucket of water in a Swachh Shauchalay only spreads the urine evenly across the floor.

Research from the Dutch Leiden University Medical Centre says sitting down to pee helped men suffering from lower urinary tract disease symptoms to pee with greater force.

The stand-up guy activates a host of discreet muscles in the pelvis and spine, which prevent proper urination. More acute in public toilets where certain muscles might be clenched to suppress nether blasts while peeing.

As always, I didn't think of it first. In 2012, the Swedish Left party of Sormland Country Council put forward a motion that all male employees should sit down like well brought up girls when open their sluice gates. Taiwan and Japan have begun advising their men to sit down to pee - or else. And since a real man is clean, courteous, considerate and utterly lazy, a squat over the pot should suit him right to a, well, P. Believe me, I'm a recent convert. Want better reasons? Listen to Larry David from Curb Your Enthusiasm. http://tinyurl.com/ycqa6q3g

Here, viewed from there. C Y Gopinath, in Bangkok, throws unique light and shadows on Mumbai, the city that raised him. You can reach him at cygopi@gmail.com Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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