Aim, please

It was in Singapore a few months ago that I saw a poor bee stuck on the urinal of an upscale mall. Of course the next thing to do was to aim at the poor bee, but what else is one supposed to do? Then I got a little perplexed, the bee was not falling off. I looked closer; it seemed stuck on the porcelain wall. I looked across to the next urinal; the pot had a bee as well. Finally it dawned on me that it was painted on and meant for a purpose.

Curiously, after I got back, I found a chain mail in the inbox with the same storyline. And I discovered that it was an age old practice, lasting until the 19th century, after which it was discontinued. Some others who had done years of study on this opined with great wisdom that the early inventor found a bee stuck in his creation and put a bit of extra glaze on it. The mayor’s handbook at Wigan UK confirms the point - The Town Hall building also boasts an intriguing facility of another kind, two Edwardian gents’ urinals. These have a small picture of a bee etched into their glaze at a point which indicates where men were supposed to aim in order to avoid splashing their spats. The idea became popular and continued as a standard for a while till I guess some men started getting alarmed that the bee may fly out & sting!

Probably, men decided at that period that their aim was better or that urinals were better designed and all that and did away with the bee, but their aim started to get wild since then, splatter guards and cleaning expenses increased, the urinal cleaners union protested and so on…and the bee started reappearing in public urinals like at Schiphol, JFK and even in dorms such as at Duke. Many public schools have also been implementating the idea since then.

Goodmagazine states - Do they work? Since the bugs were etched into the airport urinals, spillage has decreased by 80 percent. Straightdope adds - When given a target, it seems, men instinctively aim at it. Side effect: Folks who've seen these urinals never again utter the cliché, "I wish I were a fly on the wall."

But I found out that the concept was even older in origins - When the Romans invented the first public urinal, they put a little target on it, so that the obvious temptation was to aim for the centre (or was it the martial mind working overtime?). And but surely, in the centre they put a little picture of a bumble bee. The Latin for bee is ‘apis’, hence the phrase that continues to date 'I'm going for apis'. Pis or Piss (now pee) is slang for urination.

So why a bee? Probably it also symbolized the message ‘as straight as a bee’s flight’ or ‘make a bee-line’…He made a beeline for the girl, bar, buffet, food etc – are usages derived from the straight lines that bees fly to reach an intended food destination. "There is no disagreement among scientists that returning foragers dance in the hive. Everyone also agrees that once a forager locates a good food source, she will be able to fly directly to and from that flower patch. That is, she flies a straight line (a bee-line) to the food patch from the hive using local landmarks and the sun for orientation." So the idea of showing the bee would have been to shoot straight like a bee’s flight (See my previous article on waggle dance, bees and Zigbee).

One manufacturer I believe added this text under the fly

We aim to please. Will you aim too, please?

Duke bee pic – Flickr , other pic from the web - google images


calicut said…
Great post! Not to forget the P-spot, 'the area directly above the urinal in public washroom that men stare at, knowing a glance in any other direction would arouse suspicion' (Sniglets: Richard Hall)
But the art of male micturition has transformed so completely after the Kingfisher revolution - not only do you lean over and look at your neighbour, you also use one hand to demonstrate how to curl your tongue when a seasoned Kingfisher fan says :'OO LA LA LA LA LE YIOU'!!
Where on earth do you FIND this stuff? "Apis" itself was its worth in gold!
harimohan said…
the bee is no mere flea
you see
it even helps you pee
Jennifer said…
Maddy, Have to say that the first few paragraphs actually made me not want to read more.. but then I got intrigued. The way in which you write and connect the dots and find some interesting cultural and historical factoids and tie them all together- is simply amazing and an enormous talent! This takes a creativity not many of us can pull off as so effortlessly as you do post after post.

So to that I say- Maddy's Ramblings? No way- this is not a blog of ramblings- this is a blog of coherently connected thoughts with a definite point :)

Thanks for sharing your creativity with us!!
gauri said…
Hahaha, that was interesting! I'm sure they'll make a pee line for it.

Wonder if it will bee called 'A pee-ary'?

Nice one!

amreekandesi said…
Nice one.

I cant recall seeing any bees in urinals lately, but now i have a new mission in life!
maxdavinci said…
nice research, A lot of ppl aim at the naphthalene balls that are found in most indian urinals.
Happy Kitten said…
Keep forgetting that it is a universal problem while scolding our ever busy son, who dashes in and out of the bathroom like a streak of lightening. But then I never knew there are such innovative ideas to train the pee.

Even I was put off by the picture of the urinal itself but then you have a way of holding the interest of the reader in your unique style.

Hats off to you!
Maddy said…
thanks CKR - ah! yes, the kingfisher revolution...josco in calicut and all kinds of things pass by in these thoughts..

thanks narendra & cynic & hari - glad you liked this.

Thanks Jennifer, Gauri and HK..Sometimes the mind takes off in strange tangents and well, you see these results. I am indeed heartened that it is all taken by readers in the right spirit. there is more on the way later...

Amreekan desi - you will see more of them as organizations strive to reduce costs with the recession. probably bee painters will get some jobs now!!

Maxdavinci - that was a good once - i had forgotten all about the napthalene alls...
Ashvin said…
Really, I am amazed at the topics that you write about and the research that goes into all this... maestro...

Reminds me of the time a few years back when I was displeased with Housekeeping in a very luxury hotel I was working in at the time, about the condition of the lobby washrooms.... the Executive Housekeeper turned around and told me "Mr. Kumar, I shall ask the Training Manager to conduct some classes for all you men on how to aim"... shut me properly I can tell you.