There’s gold in them thar urinals

white ceramic male toilet
Photo by Markus Spiske on

I suppose it had to happen. Now they are putting advertising in men’s public toilets.

And sometimes it is right in your face on the wall above the urinal.

“Hmmm, I see they’re having a 50 per cent sale at the hardware shop,” you find yourself saying to the bloke next to you. “I think I’ll go straight down there as soon as I finish peeing. I do need a new hammer.”

Goodness, what are things coming to?

I remember a time when no one, and I mean no one, spoke to the bloke alongside them at urinals.

I know women like to go to the dunny in pairs and no doubt chat, but men are not like that.

We never go to the toilet with a friend. People would talk. And we were brought up not to talk to strangers, especially at public urinals.

This unwritten rule has now been enshrined into an international toilet etiquette convention.

Etiquette rule XLCVIVXC clearly states: “Look straight ahead when peeing. Under no circumstance should you peek left or right. Look straight ahead at any interesting or amusing graffiti on the wall and express no surprise that your peripheral vision indicates the man next to you appears to be unravelling a fire hose unless, of course, the dunny is filled with thick smoke and he is in fact a fireman.”

What has happened to that rule, eh?

Well, I will tell you what has happened to it.

It has been hijacked by clever advertising people.

They know that the spot above the urinal is prime real estate in the advertising world.

So they have moved in and pushed the poor graffiti artists out into the cold where they have nothing to do but tag trains etc.

Poor old Hennig Brand would turn in his grave if he knew. He had it nearly right all the time.

Brand, a German, was convinced circa 1675 that gold could somehow be distilled from human urine.

He collected 50 buckets of the stuff and kept for months in his cellar before going to work on it.

Alas, it did not work. The only substance he distilled was phosphorus, which led to the invention of the matchstick.

But you have to admire his vision. He was on the right track. There’s money to be made from urine.

Of course, the ancient Romans knew this.

Urine was used then for cleaning or tanning leather and was so valuable that an emperor named Vespasian levied his people with a tax on wee.

I bet Vespasian would be kicking himself now that he did not think of signage in public toilets.

In my defence against any accusations of sexism, I have to say that I am not aware of what signs go up in women’s toilets.

In the interests of balance, I have to say I have also seen advertising in other quarters of men’s dunnies, not just above the urinals.

Only yesterday, I saw one in the dunny of a licensed club, asking people with a gambling problem to take one of the pamphlets purportedly below.

Alas, the pamphlet holder was empty, leading me to conclude either a) there had been a run of problem gamblers using that toilet or b) there had been a run on toilet paper substitutes.

I also saw a poster a while back advertising a concert by an international celebrity.

The poster was on the wall between the sink and the hand-dryer, sending out a subliminal message: “Please come to this concert, but only if you wash your hands first.”

I have no problem with those adverts.

But I do object to the ones above the urinals.

I feel I need to declare a vested interest here.

In 1965, I won the silver medal at my primary school in the unofficial peeing-the-highest-up-a-wall Olympics (long before it became an Olympic sport).

I think the advertisers have grabbed a spot of the wall that no drug-clean athlete could ever reach. A new high and a new low!

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