There are many unspoken rules in society. Among these rules, general man codes have been adopted to deal with everything from accidentally touching hands (never spoken about again) to proper procedure to calling shotgun (only when en route to vehicle). But the one inviolate code is urinal distribution. Most guys pick up on this intuitively. Mention it to any guy, he’ll certainly be savvy. In fact, most women know about this cultural phenomenon. But for those a little behind on masculine societal trends, it breaks down to one simple rule: don’t stand next to another guy. In a row of urinals, always stand at least one urinal apart from the next participant. In a trough situation, appropriate space is at least one person’s width. Of course, this system can be complicated by such unforeseen circumstances as partitions, spills, short urinals, or emergency (though in that case, I’ll still ask if you checked the toilet stalls first).

This entry is not a treatise on the elegance of urinal selection however. In most cases, guys know this all intuitively. Instead, a more complicated situation happened to me the other day that I felt needed to be addressed. Imagine a row of five urinals. Number 5 is occupied when I enter. Another guy comes in behind me. Rather than take 1 or 3 and leaving the other to the next guy, I accidentally took number 2. I made sure I was adequately clear from 5, but by taking 2, I forced the next guy to either stand next to me or the first guy.

Above: acceptable configuration; Below: reality

As you can see, the result was like a demented logic puzzle. The top diagram being the optimal solution, the bottom being the unfortunate reality. Faced with this dilemma, the next guy was actually so confused as to stumble between urinals 3 and 4 before finally settling on 3. I almost felt as though he chose the one next to me as some sort of retribution for forcing him into this awkward situation. I noticed right away the problem I had caused, but what could I do? I was already in mid-stream. Afterwards, I wondered if I should say something. Perhaps I should’ve apologized for my mistake. But then that would be violating the other men’s room code. No talking…ever.