Contrary to the rumors you may have heard, peeing while standing up is still perfectly legal in Germany. Last week I got a press release from litigation enthusiast John Banzhaf that opened with the startling assertion that "in Germany–and soon in Great Britain–men are being told to sit down while they urinate, or face stiff fines." The thing is, they're being told this not by the authorities but by a novelty item called the WC Ghost. The Telegraph reports that
the battery-operated devices are attached to the seats and deliver stern warnings to those who attempt to stand and urinate…
"Hey, stand-peeing is not allowed here and will be punished with fines, so if you don't want any trouble, you'd best sit down," one of the devices orders in a voice impersonating the German leader, Chancellor Gerhard Schroder. Another has a voice similar to that of his predecessor, Helmut Kohl.
The manufacturers of the WC ghost, Patentwert, say they are ready to direct their gadgets at the British market.
Their prototype English-speaking WC ghost says in an American drawl: "Don't you go wetting this floor cowboy, you never know who's behind you. So sit down, get your water pistol in the bowl where it belongs. Ha, ha, ha."
For Banzhaf, the WC Ghost is an excuse to remind his e-mail list that he "has been called [by himself, mainly] the 'Father of Potty Parity.'" As recipients of Banzhaf's self-promoting missives know all too well, "potty parity" is the idea that women have a right to more public toilets than men because they spend more time in there–an idea so silly that even Banzhaf treated it as a joke when he first wrote about it in 1990. Even now that he has adopted the cause as his own, he can't resist endlessly punning on the topic:
Some had suggested that one answer to the longer waits women now endure is to require them to use a female equivalent of a urinal; a device said to speed up the process. But, if some men are going to start going sitting down, the issue is seemingly reversed. "How can we ask women to stand up for their rights if men don't," says Banzhaf. This is one situation in which the trickle down theory certainly doesn't work….
Punsters will no doubt have fun with this new campaign, just as they did with the initial more serious issue of potty parity. In that regard there are jokes that women have to wait a she-tunity in pee-gatory, suffering from no-stall-gia and assault and bladdery, because they are under-privy-ledged. On the other hand, men-nopause while they exercise a male pee-rogative and stand up for their rights. A new device being advertising on the Internet says that it allows women to urinate standing up at an ordinary urinal, thereby permitting women to "stand by your man!"
If you thought John Banzhaf was humorless, this spurt of urine jokes may not convince you otherwise. But it's so bizarre (or, as Banzhaf might say, pee-culiar) that you have to marvel once again at the man's imperviousness to embarrassment.