Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Fly in the Urinal

I'm not often late to the party. Living as I do in a large forward-thinking metropolitan area and working in the Internet industry, I'm usually at least aware of emerging trends, like flash mobs and, I don't know, setting winos on fire, even if I have no intention of participating.

So about two weeks ago, when I ventured into the men's restroom on my floor of the office building where I work, I didn't give much thought to the large black house fly that appeared to be clinging to the porcelain right at the water line, other than, Gross. So of course I used the force of my urine stream to try to dislodge it. Oddly, it didn't budge.

It didn't move on subsequent visits, either, and I became almost obsessed with getting rid of it, especially as more time passed. How could a dead insect, I wondered, cling so successfully to the smooth wet surface of a urinal, especially amid the torrents of urine aimed its way? Perhaps it had been smashed somehow against the urinal wall, and would disintegrate when its exoskeleton at last dissolved.

Finally one day I saw a male coworker -- probably one of the few people at work with whom I could discuss such an odd subject -- heading in the direction of the men's room. "What is the deal with that fly in there?" I asked him. "It's been stuck to that urinal for two weeks now. And you know every one of us has tried to blast it off of there."

"I know," he said. "But the thing is, I don't think it is a fly. I think it's some kind of decal. And the weird thing is, I saw one in the fourth floor bathroom, too."

Sure enough, the next morning I entered the men's room in question when the morning sun was streaming in through the windows from the east, and could detect the round transparent disk of the fly decal. I've recently begun wearing reading glasses and seeing clearly close up without them has become a problem -- plus, I wasn't likely to lean into a urinal to examine a fly. So, problem solved, sort of -- it was a plastic decal. But why?

I'll admit that I can easily be drawn into conspiracy theories -- I'm still not entirely convinced that Bush didn't stage 9/11 just to build public fervor so he could invade Iraq, and don't get me started on the Kennedy assassination and the second shooter -- so of course I began to suspect some sort of corporate agenda here. Was it a tiny microphone designed to pick up conversations revealing brand mutiny or career changes whispered over the urinal cakes? Or could it even be some sort of micro camera analyzing the urination habits of white collar American males?

So just as I was about to blog about this perplexing situation, it occurred to me to google -- since even the most inconsequential information searches are now launched this way -- the words "the fly in the urinal." Immediately I was directed to http://www.urinalfly.com/, an actual product that's been discussed at length on NPR and in numerous blogs, aimed, if you'll forgive the pun, at improving the cleanliness of men's room floors by providing a target to shoot for. The idea apparently originated in Amsterdam, where so many better ideas started, like tulips and legalized brothels and hashish counters. The Urinal Fly goes for $9.99 for a box of 12, which seems a tad expensive. I'm surprised my company sprung for such a thing, but then I'm sure they somehow managed to get a discount.

And yes, the image at the top of this post is really used in the marketing for this product, with the tagline, "Are your restroom floors clean enough for her?" To which I would respond, if a woman finds herself lying on a men's room floor beneath the urinals, she probably has larger issues to address than household cleaning.

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