Urinals' Undoing

I HAVE A FEAR OF URINALS.

Irrational fears, or phobias, are commonplace but seldom addressed. The sheer expression of them creates added anxiety. To overcome a phobia, it must first be acknowledged. With this in mind, I'm taking the first step in my quest for mental health.

To be exact, it is with dread that I relieve myself in a urinal. I do not think I am alone in this fear, although I have had only one patient in 27 years of counseling present this problem. He was indeed a brave soul.

I am hoping that my disclosure will open the floodgates of discourse about urinal phobia. Perhaps a self-help group entitled Urinalphobics Anonymous (UA) will emerge. Thousands--if not millions--of men may be afflicted by this silent illness. It puts an inordinate strain on the existing toilet facilities, and the lines are beginning to back up.

There is something very intimidating about relieving oneself while standing next to another individual. Urinals are typically placed too close together for any sense of privacy to exist. The distance between two is less than an arm's length. Water seems to be splashing everywhere. Public restrooms should dispense umbrellas and galoshes along with deodorant and condoms.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

The urinals themselves are designed to only partially block the view of your all-too-near neighbor. Unfortunately, most men are concerned about the size of their organ, which only heightens their anxiety and presses them closer to this alabaster wall of cascading water. Yes, standing too close to the neighbor you're looking at does have a tendency to increase the amount of splashing.

Another source of this indoor irrigation is the dripping problem. In fact, this may have been the genesis of the "drip irrigation" technique, one that is now considered quite common. Most men drip a little after completing their business. Urinals pose yet another perplexing problem because no paper is readily available. There seems to be a few solutions available, however.

The most common method is a technique called "shaking the tree." I believe the title is self-explanatory. And, yes, this technique also causes some splashing. Thus it should come as no surprise that men's bathrooms tend to look like Venice after a rainstorm. Another more laissez-faire technique, most commonly known as the "hands-off approach," is the second most popular strategy. Those risk-takers who attempt this method bear the ignominy of the dreaded spot if they fail. Precious moments are wasted hoping that the spot dries before anyone else takes notice. Yes, this is another source of incessant delay.

To make matters worse, half the male population doesn't wash its hands before leaving the restroom. The number is higher for those who use urinals rather than stalls, although not significantly so. (Sorry fellas, but somebody finally had to disclose the sordid truth.) It is certainly something to keep in mind the next time you consider shaking a man's hand. It should be a law that everyone washes his hands, not just restaurant workers.

The quick cure for Urinalphobia is simply not to worry about it. Just use one of the stalls, even if you have to wait. But for those who want to conquer their fear more directly, they must come out of their water closets. Unite behind the banner of UA. The uniform will consist of a raincoat, galoshes and an umbrella--regardless of the weather. And washing your hands after every meeting will be required. After all, truth does not relieve one of a pressing burden.

ILLUSTRATIONS (COLOR)

Victor Kops, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist, practices privately in San Diego, California. He is a fellow of the San Diego Psychological Association and has written more than 200 articles for various publications. He still doesn't use urinals.

Current Issue

Just Say It

When and how should we open up to loved ones?