The passport office is located in my neighborhood in the county administration building, and the men's rooms in the county building are a fairly nice place to relive oneself, compared to other men's rooms that I've used, especially those in bars and stadiums. There the need for human males to void their bladders increases in direct proportion to the amount of alcohol they've consumed, while their ability to hit their porcelain targets decreases in inverse proportion to the same. The resulting spray-fest would put a pack of roaming coyotes to shame. It renders those environs slippery and odoriferous.
The passport office restroom was clean and sedate by comparison, probably because most of its users are sober at the time and also because a government employee janitor who likely makes nearly as much a year as a college professor regularly scrubs it out. After calmly performing the task at hand, I hit the button on the wall to flush the unit.
Nothing happened. I hit the button a couple more times before my palm was sore. Ordinarily I, like any other male, would depart at this point, leaving my waste unflushed. Those are the sorts of problems that the county janitor and his friend, the county plumber, get overpaid to deal with. It was then that I noticed the fine print stenciled above the facility:
This is a flush free urinal.
My first thought was well, what isn't? A stand of bushes, the shoulder of the road, a couch at a fraternity house—all could be employed in exactly the same manner, except they are not accorded the dignity of a footnote. When the earliest male humans were granted by evolution the ability to walk upright, they were also gifted with the ability to pee standing up. We immediately took advantage of this boon from God or Darwin to cast our waters everywhere upon the young Earth, marking our migration to the world's furthest corners with our scents. No rock, no stream, no puddle was left unaugmented by the yellow element. In some men the urge to void atavistically is still strong; I had a cousin who would not urinate indoors unless he had no other alternative. He would deliberately step outside a residence with a perfectly functional toilet to pee behind the doghouse. His favorite external spot was a deep snowbank. He claimed nothing gave him more inner peace than the experience of watching his personal steam curl out of virgin snow.
Of course he always attempted to write his name as well.
The discovery of the fermentation and distilling processes made the need to control the location of relief stations obvious. The earliest drinkers no doubt experimented with urinating on other cavemen, or bear cubs, or the clan's only source of fire. Their spiritual descendants still live among us. Just run "man urinates" as a search on You Tube and watch what pops up, if you don't believe me. Designating certain bushes, rocks or holes in the ground as rest stations was a start; as civilization progressed so did the design of outhouses. The invention of indoor plumbing made frostbitten bottoms a thing of the past but made accidentally micturating on the throw rug or in the bathroom trash can a problem for the foreseeable future.
Now the flush-free urinal means we have come full circle. Despite being herded into tiled rooms and cut off from nature, we males are nonetheless now back to relieving ourselves into what is essentially a porcelain hole in the ground. I returned glumly to my seat in the passport waiting room.
"Keep an eye on that number," my S.O. told me. "I have to use the ladies room."
"Lucky you," I replied.