At Your Convenience: A Lavatorial Walking Tour
You are currently standing on a Urilift: one of London’s nocturnal pop-up urinals. At night they rise from the ground and stand approximately 7 feet high… a silver column with three open air urinals round it.
The Urilift was invented in the Netherlands as a solution to the problem of on-street urination by people drunkenly stumbling out of pubs. It can be put up at night and lowered during the day so as not to be an eyesore. London introduced them in the early 2000’s. Westminster council estimates that every year approximately 10 thousand gallons of urine is at risk of ending up on the streets!
I have a particular bone to pick with these… they are for men only! It is the end of a long line of gender inequalities in the toilet, which we’ll talk more about as we go.
Start heading up the hill.
You’ll want to try and stick to the right for the moment, because while it may not look it this is actually a road.
The fact that men can pee standing up has long been an evolutionary advantage. Even the clothes we wear… the fly front zips on our trendy jeans are designed to accommodate this. And this has meant they always save a penny. At the Crystal Palace Exhibition when the toilets raised £2440-some over £2000 was from women. You can’t charge a man to have a wee!
He’ll just find somewhere else to do it! So urinals were provided completely free of charge.
In some ways this remains true today. In addition to the Urilifts, plastic urinals are dropped throughout the nightlife areas of Soho. Some public conveniences still have coin operated locks on the cubicle doors rather than a general entrance fee.
The modern convenience which I am by far the most bitter about, petty though it may be, are the Wee Controlled video games. If you’re a man and you go to certain bars across the city you will find a screen above the urinal… it plays a commercial until you approach it, at which point it senses your presence and says “Pee to Start the Game!”
As a woman this was as far as I could get. But boys, as you wee you can shoot penguins while you ski down a slope! When you get to the end it gives you your score, and you go drink more so you can play again. It’s great for everybody… except women who are “anatomically challenged” according to Captive Media, the game’s creators.