An Idea Whose Time Has Come

January 5, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

Men – the gang that can’t shoot straight.

Long ago, I blogged (here) about public men’s rooms, particularly the mess caused by men peeing outside the box. Here was the stuff of culture. The American approach to unwanted behavior is typically to define it as sin and punish it, and I suggested (only half facetiously) that our first impulse would be to try to curb splashing by levying heavy fines.

The Dutch by contrast have a less morally absolutist approach. They see unwanted behavior as a problem to be solved. Instead of posting signs threatening punishment, they gave men a target to shoot at – a fly painted on the porcelain – and spillage decreased by 80%.

But American culture, in addition to its moralism, also has a healthy streak of pragmatism – a practical concern with results. Nothing succeeds like success, and apparently news of the effective insect has crossed the Atlantic.

I was at JFK Airport last night (the teenager formerly in residence was himself about to cross the Atlantic), and in the men’s room, every urinal still had its central fly. I had noticed something similar at the Newark airport last summer, though with a slight variation. JFK gives shooters a realistic fly to aim at. Newark uses a cartoon-like bee (a realistic bee might might trigger a counterproductive startle and flinch).

(For a larger picture, click on the image.)

No doubt, other painted-on insects are coming soon to an airport urinal near you.

UPDATE, January 6. The target idea hasn't caught on everywhere. I'm blogging this from the new Jet Blue terminal at JFK, where the urinals have no small creatures in them, real or painted.

1 comment:

mike3550 said...

Jay, I noticed these a little while back and didn't realize that the bug was a target. I thought that it was meant to scare away other insects like cut-outs of owls or hawks to scare away smaller birds. This is a much more intriguing reason, though.