The Open-Urinal Rule

Scott - Santa Monica, California
Entered on June 20, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: place, respect
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

Each person has his own sacred ground. To some, it may be a church, which protects and teaches. To others, it may be a certain diner, which is always friendly and warm. Still others look to the sanctity of their own home. All of these places may be varied, but they have one thing in common. They are a Sanctuary.

I am not a religious man. I don’t eat at certain restaurants. I usually spend more time away from home than at my house. My sanctuary is a simple place. My sanctuary is The Bathroom.

I tend to drink a lot of water, and because of this, I spend a lot of time going to and from The Bathroom. In the men’s bathroom there are some rules that are unspoken, but always followed. When a line forms, we wait our turn. When a handicap stall is open, we leave it open. And finally, when a man is using the urinal, we must leave an empty urinal between him and another man.

I believe in the Open-Urinal rule, but I have not always been so adamant about my belief. As many rules go, it takes someone to break it before it’s appreciated. It was a Saturday night many years ago, and I had just finished watching The Lord of the Rings with my friends. I had made the fatal mistake of buying a large drink that night, and to this day I lay awake at night, wishing that I could turn back the clock and never buy that foul beverage. As I entered the public bathroom I was elated to find that no other person was intruding in my sacred territory. I positioned myself in the center urinal against the wall, with 3 urinals to my right and left. I let my burden go and relaxed. When he entered, he entered silently, and I was completely unaware of him. My fly was down and my back was turned. I had no chance. He pounced at the urinal directly to my right like that of a Leopard pouncing on its helpless prey. Before I could react, his fly was down, and he was peeing with such fury that I feared for the urinal before him; it sounded like a thousand dams had all been broken in unison. Completely oblivious to the travesty that he was committing, this strange person beside me began to make drawn out grunting sounds like that of an animal about to die. In those ten seconds, hell unleashed itself upon this earth and directed its wrath towards me. He left just as quickly as he came, but the damage had been done.

As with any church, restaurant or household, there are rules to be followed, and a bathroom is no exception. When that man took the urinal next to me, he was assaulting all of the sacred principles that the unspoken rules of the bathroom uphold. So please, when the situation arises where we must choose between waiting or using the urinal next to another person, I hope that I can set an example for the rest of us, and wait it out. I don’t believe in many conventional things, but I do have one belief that I stand strongly by. I believe in the Open-Urinal Rule.