While spending a few weeks in Den Haag (the Netherlands) the importance of the “urinal”, especially the public provided ones surfaced as a key ingredient to the success of the local economy. In addition it also struck me how something so deceivingly simple added so much value into a “system chain”.
Where to start with this epiphany is the question, as a urinal is something we just take for granite until we need it, just like no one knows the plumber till their toilet backs up. However I think the right place to start is with the age old saying “god loves us and I know so because he gave us beer“! Why is this so you ask? Well no matter your beliefs be it personal or religious, beer is a major economic driver as it’s a magical staple (yes in Munich it’s legally considered a food/staple).
Why is this the case, well first in general concept “beer” and it’s hybrid products are easy to produce from renewable sources such as wheat, barley, hops and such. Ok, I know you diehard Beer-O-Philes out there are saying “what! Beer creation is an art form!“! Sort of yes, however it’s much like modern art is just paint smeared on a canvas, as is beer just is cooking because here the discussion is focused on the “system think” and not the taste.
However back to the point, strolling down the street other then the “public urinals” (see pictures) one will notice a lot of drinking establishments, bars to most North Americans and Beer Gardens to many of my European colleagues. With this said, we all know the one universal law of beer, “what goes in must come out“. Therefore, based upon this axiom, “System Think” says the more that goes in, the more that needs to come out. Therefore to build a positive “reinforcing loop“, one needs to ensure they provide for such conditions to exist.
Here the abundance of public urinals provides for this as well as adding a new twist to the social wealth sharing model. Think of it this way, in the states for the most part we have building codes which say you must have a defined number of “rest facilities” per occupancy count. So if a bar has occupancy of say three hundred persons, then they must provide six toilets or 2% ratio. What does this do to the social trend if ample rest rooms are available? People will remain at the same establishments and drink, focusing their spending in one spot*.
Whereas in most of Europe, the buildings are historic and never built with the concept of restrooms in mind, the game is changed. While I can’t say for sure, however a good guess would be the municipalities built these open rest rooms to prevent a health concern (public urination) rather than a tool of local economic stimulus. However the by product is, the [drinking] establishment doesn’t have the facilities (i.e. Restrooms) available to handle the full load of their beer drinking patron population so therefore they must “leave” the business to relieve themselves. Now since they must leave to find a public urinal for relief, they are placing themselves back into the open economic market.
Thus after business is taken care of, the reason to return to the same establishment is now gone and much like the humble bumble bee, our drinking associate is now free to seek new fields on which to take their nectar.
Here we see two drivers supporting a reinforcing economic loop, the first is the availability of ample “release” opportunities. The second is, the relocation of these “centers of opportunities” from the economic establishments leads to the cross pollination (distribution) of wealth.
With economics aside, there is also another social aspect to these urinals which I find interesting, first off they are geared to males. Statistically males are the lesser gender count in a population, however from this it’s clear they are the larger consumer of liquid refreshments, ok beer (I’m sure there is some pork barrel based government study which says the same).
The other piece is social chivalry, as mentioned the atypical “semi-private” rest rooms our North American norm’s are use to exist in short supply. Thus these are typically reserved for the “female” drinking population out of what’s viewed as an implied gender courtesy. However I know there are those of you out there that have the question in the back of your mind “do women also manage to use these too“? Well the answer should not surprise you as yes; I have witnessed enterprising young ladies demonstrating exceptional skill in release. Thou it does seem to discriminate base upon height, however that seems to be a situation solved by shoes which sport a higher heel to solve the problem (systems think in foot wear is yet another post altogether).
The real point here, never over look the social-economic impacts of the obvious as I said a thousand times before, success is found in knowing the trees, as they make up the forest….
P.S. If you’re going to drink, please do so responsibly, public urinal or not.
*Note: Hesitation sets in with me to phrase this, this way. However the location and availability of rest room facilities may have a causal effect on drinking irresponsibility. As if it were limited (rest rooms), blinded or perceived limitless consumption would be less likely to take place. As the majority of patrons recognizing this limitation would more closely govern their consumption knowing their opportunities for relief where limited.