What a Pisser

Where does the urine go anyway?

Where does the urine go anyway?

We saw so many memorable sights this weekend in London: Families frolicking on an ice-skating rink near the Tower of London, little boys and girls marveling at holiday lights in Old Spitalfields Market, even “elves” working overtime at Hamley’s toy store.

Oh, we also saw a bunch of grown men urinating in public.

Sorry if that last sentence struck you as a bit of a shock. The reality is that it shocked the hell out of me and my wife, too. Especially since the urination was happening at a fiberglass urination station with four urinals, set up in the middle of the sidewalk across the street from a popular bar near Leicester Square.

Thankfully, we were sans kiddos when we witnessed this debacle. Still, the scene raises some questions:

1. What would we have said to our girls if we had seen the urinators with them?
2. Why was there a place for grown men to wee in public anyway?

I could go on and on with my outrage about these things. I also could write pages about my ire over the gender bias they represent. (Why don’t women get a place to wee on the street? I mean, when they drink beer they have to wee as well. Are their bladders not worthy of such convenience?) Heck, you could even argue that these public pissers are so improper that they actually are anti-British.

I’ve chronicled my complaints in a letter to the Westminster Council. I’d share it here, but, trust me when I tell you: The missive ain’t pretty.

Instead, because this is a family travel blog, in these pages I’ll stick to the bigger issue: When you’re traveling with the entire family, it can be *really* uncomfortable to explain certain sights and sounds to your kids. Even if you are the most quick-thinking human on Earth, there usually is no easy way to do it. Nor should you have to.

Powerwoman and I are big supporters of tackling issues head-on; if we had seen the urinals with our girls, we likely would have justified the scene as some sort of overflow bathroom.

Still, I must admit: This is NOT the kind of thing I wish to have to explain to my little girls. Ever.

To my knowledge, these public urinals haven’t made their way to the U.S. yet, and that’s a good thing. If and when they do, we’ll be ready to fight them and keep urinals where they belong: In the men’s room.

How do you explain uncomfortable and inappropriate sights and scenes to kids while traveling?

2 replies
  1. SarahG
    SarahG says:

    It’s an interesting challenge for sure. We were on a road trip and had to pull over in a super sketchy part of a town we’d never been to to pop into a Walgreens since my son was super car sick and there was a woman standing next to the cash register clearly on drugs trying to talk to my kids. I had to form a mama barrier and then later had to explain to my 8-year-old what was wrong with her. A good chance to show in real life what drugs does to someone but not a conversation I wanted to have for sure.

    On another note, public urinals are the worst! They are pretty common in South America. When I moved to Peru after college, the school I was working for put me up on a street that had a long drainage system so, at my young, naive age of 22, I had to walk past men urinating to get to my apartment. I quit two weeks later and came home to the US.

    • Matt Villano
      Matt Villano says:

      Sarah! First of all, thanks for commenting. Second, I can imagine how difficult that Walgreens experience must have been. How did you end up explaining to your son what was up? As for the whole public urinal thing, there’s got to be a bigger story in this. In the process of researching and pitching now. Thanks for the tip on Peru!


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