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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

I Was About to Do a Speedball When…

Posted by on December 28 at 15:14 PM

I’m at my mom’s house in McHenry, Illinois, an longish train ride from downtown Chicago. I needed to sneak off today and write Savage Love, so I headed for a Panera Bread Company a half a mile from her house. Panera is one of those supposedly high-end franchise restaurants that have taken over the `burbs. Despite the fact that this Panera faced six lanes of traffic packed with SUVs and Hummers and minivans, the place was going for an urban feel. It’s had Starbucks-esque interior (lots of browns and ambers), a couple of deep leather club chairs, a fireplace.

The only thing missing from this “third space,” faux-urban paradise was, naturally enough, urbanites. I walked to the café, an urbanite sort of thing to do, and I was probably the first customer to show up on foot in the three or so years it’s been open. Everyone else in the café was either under 18 or over 35. Moms, dads, kids, tweens, and teenagers who were clearly itching to graduate from high school and get the hell out of McHenry. (And I don’t want to hurt my mom and step-dad’s feelings, but who can blame them? ) There was no one I could see in who was in their 20s or 30s. The presence of these young-ish adults20s/30s, single, childlesspretty much defines modern urban spaces. Cities are increasingly the province of single adults (who live in apartments) and the retired (who live in condos). People are writing about it, cities are stressing about it.

After dashing off some of my famously unhelpful adviceI’m particularly unhelpful next week; I fail to answer two questions, and then lash out at someone who had the nerve to challenge me on a point of Catholic doctrineI had to take a leak before I walked back to mom’s.

Here’s the urinal in the bathroom:


When I stepped up to the plate, I noticed that this urinal had something to say to me. I looked a little closer…


A little closer and I got the urine-slicked message…


Just say no to drugs. Another moment of urban/exurban disconnect: In, say, Linda’s or the Cha Cha, this would be a highly ironic statement for a urinal to make. If they bothered to put a red plastic urinal thingywhat is that thing anyway? a filter?in the urinal, there wouldn’t be a trace of it left by the end of the night. It would dissolve under the combined toxicity of one night’s worth of hipster urine.

Anyway, I peed, returning the hot water I had purchased when I arrived at Panera back to ecosphere in the form of slightly-less-hot water. And thus is the circle of life completed. Then I walked back to mom’s place. And ultimately I took the urinal’s anti-drug message to heart. Instead of sharing a traditional post-Christmas speedball with mom, we split a bottle of wine. Cheers!

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Anything to do with a urinal is disgusting. I hope you aimed and peed on right on the 'say no to drugs' portion, I would have.

Have you seen the urinals that have a very realistic image of a fly or a small target in the porcelain? They put it there because men will aim for it, and it's in a strategically-selected spot to minimize splashing. Experiments have shown that it reduces "spillage" by up to 80%.

Now THAT's interesting.

Didn't Mike Schmidt die from a speedball?

Seatac's urinals have little curlycues in them that look like... turds or cinnamin buns. I find them unsettling and intentionally engage in spillage in retaliation.

I find them unsettling and intentionally engage in spillage in retaliation.

The janitors at the airport thank you very much, Dan. Way to make their jobs just a bit more icky.

The red thing is there to screen out the quantities of garbage (cigarette butts, etc.) that boobs throw in the urinal, but which probably wouldn't make it 'round the bend. It's also probably impregnated with a theoretically pee-smell-masking scent.

I saw a urinal in Boston's Logan Airport once that someone had taken a poo in. Be nice to janitors.

Panera was a lot better back in St. Louis, where it was just plain old St. Louis Bread Company. Nothing fancy, just good bread and amazing pastries. The decor even used to include chintz, believe it or not. Guess that's what you get when you let corporate types to sell your 'image.'

But mainly Panera sucks because they don't sell gooey butter danishes outside of St. Louis.

Damn. Now I am homesick for St. Louis, of all places....

I've seen those urinal strainers for years, and for a long time I wondered whether the phone number on the thing was some sort of drug addiction help line. It's placement directly underneath Nancy Reagan's slogan would lead one to think this. Finally, I saw one when I was sober enough to memorize the number, and gave it a call. It is the number for Swisher, the janitorial supply company that provides the strainers.

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