It’s well known that I like to know how things work. I like to take things apart, I’m obsessed with How It’s Made, and I have a home repair library that rivals the Home Depot.
Yet somehow, until last week, I’d never considered the urinal.
All of a sudden, when the urinal in my staging site overflowed, I needed to fix one. And to fix it, I had to know how it worked. I make it my business to learn these things, and I thought this one should be easy. I know how a toilet works, I know how a sink works, and I’d already identified a problem with the water pressure that prevented two toilets from flushing simultaneously. And I was surrounded by savvy guys, so I thought I’d start by asking them, “Does a urinal flush like a toilet, or drain like a sink?”
This question was universally met with a blank stare. Commonly, the answer was, “Well, you push a button, and water comes out, and then it drains away.” Often, this was followed up with some sort of observation about the personal preference of the speaker for a high or low mounted unit: singles or “troughs”; in a stall or against the wall; personal space; splashback; hands-free or not; walking away before or after the flush, so as to have or avoid the “refreshing mist”; and a variety of other options I’d never considered.
But no answer as to the actual function. Seems you don’t think a lot about it as long as your pee is clearing through well, and clogging without visible stuff in the basin is rare.
Being nothing if not tenacious, I continued to ask every male staffer and volunteer through the door what they knew about urinal functionality. I continued to get more and more information on personal preference. At the conclusion of one of these conversations, one of the gentlemen in question asked me what I do for a living, and I informed him that I work in fundraising and development. “So we’ll probably be reviewing your proposals through our office,” he said to his colleague. He assured me that this particular conversation will have only a beneficial impact on my funding requests. I have to trust him.
I’ve since learned that (1) urinals flush like a toilet, (2) some are on an automatic interval flushing, and thus might not be broken, and (3) that the mesh basket thingy can slide around, thereby allowing miscleaneous items to clog the plumbing. Any of these could have been the issue, or any combination thereof. But in the time crunch I was under the best option seemed to be to close the stall and let people suffer with other toilet options. But I have been disabused of the notion that all urinals are the same, and have had a hole in my sphere of knowledge filled with more detail than I could have ever hoped for.