From September 5, 2003: Don’t forget to wash your hands

On the John

True camaraderie.
True camaraderie.

Don’t forget to wash your hands

Originally published in the Indiana Daily Student on September 5, 2003

IDS byline accidentally assigned to “Jake” Silverstein

The bathroom is one of the great equalizers of man. Sporting arena bathrooms in particular. In fact, any place with multiple urinals attached to a wall, or at the very least, lined up next to each other. It doesn’t matter where you are or who’s at the john. Give me a king, a president, the guy who works the overnight shift at Steak ‘n Shake and a hobo, line them all up at the urinals and all you’ve got is four guys taking a leak.

Dave Barry once wrote about the instinctive male urinal code that says that men would rather hold it in for a 48-hour period then take a urinal between two other men. For the most part, I agree. Go into a restroom in a bar or restaurant and that code will be silently upheld by every guy there, as we stare deep into the wall in front of us out of fear of accidentally making eye contact with another person in the room.

But go check out the bathrooms at Assembly Hall after a Hoosiers game, and there you’ll find guys side-by-side doing their business without a care in the world. Of course, the ultimate in arena bathrooms were the giant troughs that replaced urinals at Soldier Field until about six years ago. Is there any better way to signify the kind of basic animal instincts that take men over when we are watching sports than making us piss into a 30-foot half pipe that most horses would refuse to dine at?

When you are inside a bathroom in a sporting arena, the collective mood of every fan grows into an aura of emotions, one you can feel the moment you enter. Let’s say you’re watching an IU-Purdue hoops game and, for some reason, Purdue is womping on us. Bathroom patrons can then be found angrily pissing and cursing, banging on the flush handle and aggressively harassing small children who happen to be wearing Boilermaker gear. If you’re in there with IU up 30 late in the first half, you will see guys cheering on IU loud enough to be heard at their seats, high-fiving each other and gleefully harassing the same small children.

This is, as far as I know, the way it’s been for an eternity.

I’ll bet in ancient Rome you could find four guys lined up at trees during a gladiator fight saying things like “Stupid Demetrius. What was he thinking getting killed like that?”

One big quandary that faces every male sports fan is when to go. Bathrooms are obviously less full during game time, so if nothing much is happening one might be able to go during the game. But no one wants to miss the action, so we wait for halftime or postgame or between innings to use the facilities. No matter when one goes, at some point he will enter the restroom only to find that he’s immediately in line. When this happens to me, I’m among those who will gladly use a stall. Sure, it’s not nearly as exciting as using a urinal — after all, I’ve got toilets at my house, and urinals strictly belong in the outside world — but they’ll do fine. Also, like all men, I find it necessary to lock the stall door when I’m peeing. I mean, God forbid if someone were to actually see my back while I’m at the john like they do when I’m at a urinal. I’m not sure how my fragile male psyche would hold up.

But that’s the way it is. Men want as much privacy as possible when doing “Number One,” unless, of course, we’re doing it outside.

Copyright 2003, jm silverstein

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