The Overlooked Social Menace of Public Urination

Mike Lemense


It has occurred to me that I made an inconsiderate, selfish, and infantile decision by urinating on the massive twenty-five story Watterson Towers. In my misguided and presumptuous mind, the lack of people, clothing, or otherwise permanently stainable items in the vicinity of where I was urinating ethically justified the act in question. However, upon lengthy reflection and unbiased introspection on the matter, I’ve seen reason and come to understand that by urinating on that building I may as well, by proxy, have urinated on everyone of its residents, staff, and the fine taxpaying citizens of McLean County. Living a free-spirited, Dionysian, collegiate existence seems to have given me a false sense of privilege and entitlement due to the comparatively low amount of responsibilities, consequences, and quotidian delimitations compared to “real world” existence. I now feel rather ashamed of my actions and see the dull-headedness I exhibited in believing that urinating outside, where people eat, breathe, and walk everyday, would be ethically sound.


Unfortunately for the denizens of America, my immoral act of public urination is a much more common crime than many would like to believe, and understandably so. It doesn’t take someone with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to be unsettled by the notion that the public park benches they sit on, the cement streets they tread, and the Watterson Towers walls they lean on could all have been potentially soiled with human urine in the not-too-distant past. In one case in East Hampton, New York, public beaches were not properly endowed with a sufficient quantity of public restrooms, and so beach-goers were taking advantage of the aqueous area known as the water to find urinary release. Suffolk County officials were of course quite concerned by the “up to 100 cases of people urinating or defecating in the dunes,” (Beller). Assuming this county’s reaction to this degree of public excretory release is congruent with the standard public opinion, their warning to beach visitors to “swim at their own risk,” certainly implies syntactically an inherent social fear of danger in the context of reckless urinating and defecating. So, at least from the standpoint of a Lockean social contract ethical system, in urinating on Watterson Towers I was doing my society and fellow man a great injustice. Now, this case of mounting public urination in Suffolk County would be easier to empathize with perhaps, because the environment wherein these criminals perpetrated their crimes against the state was one of sand, water, and rolling dunes: an environment that might trigger natural biological functions such as urinating or defecating due to its connotatively naturalistic aesthetic. How a more urbanite environment such as the one of uptown Normal and the Illinois State Campus would have made me feel naturally inclined to urinate seems harder to reconcile to reason, and so I would surely not pass off blame for my actions onto an external, third-party such as the environment or temporary insanity. In his biopic of his old track coach, Laurel Lee, Vagabonding writer Rolf Potts depicts her phantasmagorically as having been involved in “hallucinogenic drug use and public urination,” (Potts). If you examine my case file here at Illinois State, I think you’ll find an incident of Lysergic-Acid Diethylmine consumption went a-rye (get it, rye bread, it’s organic chemistry…) towards the tail end of my Freshman year here. If there’s any sort of reasonable correlation between the “consciousness-expanding” influence of drugs such as LSD and disrespect towards certain statues of local legal conduct, than perhaps this could be an explanation for why I behaved the way I did so carelessly and disrespectfully. Again, this is by no means a justification; just a suggestion of a potential sociological trend that may develop between Hippie-culture/psychedelic drug use and indifference towards otherwise widely upheld and respected maxims of social conduct such as “Thou shall not urinate outside unless it is in one’s own backyard”. Property, that’s what this seems to come down to, and after hours of reflection upon my actions and what I might have been thinking in a mad attempt at justifying such aberrant, pathetic behavior as my own, I’ve realized that what the Night Ops worker who accosted me for my peeing outside told me still holds true in trying to sort out a moral: “Would you like it if someone peed on your car? On your property?” I believe I said I wouldn’t mind, but he said he would, and he seemed like a good guy, so I think I get it.


There are some fair counter-arguments levied in the name of public urination, but as I am by no means attempting to justify my own actions or evaluate the actions of others, I will proceed to present them in a rather objective, detached manner. In Seattle in 1993, after a new bill was passed to up the penalty for public urination from a-ticket-and-sending-on-the-merry-way to a financially punitive misdemeanor charge, people wondered “Critics wonder where homeless people are supposed to ‘go’,” (Boucher). Now, this critique, though fair and righteous under the Christian notion that all human beings are equal regardless of material wealth or possessions, seems valid and defendable. However, it doesn’t apply to my specific case, as I was indeed a temporary resident of Wright Hall, Room 412, which one could certainly assert to be my “home”, or “domicile”, or “crib”. The crib metaphor seems swimmingly applicable here as I indeed did behave like an infant, incapable of controlling my own urinary urges for the sake of public discretion and respect of property.


What is it about the prospect of being exposed to fellow human fecal or urinary matter that makes us shudder with mirth so? This is a philosophical query I posed to myself during my meditative reflection on my brash act. If one were to step in geese dung in a park say, they would certainly be slightly off-set and perturbed by such an inconvenience, probably to varying degrees based on a direct exponential relationship with the price of their shoes. There seems to be something darkly haunting about the personal nature of human feces, the conscious acknowledgement of it as poop from another human. We have personal associations with each other that run far deeper than those we have with say geese. Dog feces seems to be the second most-disturbing sort of feces other than human feces, this may also be due to our somewhat affectionate, emotive relation to our canine friends. Geese flop? Barely registers as a putrid stench. So, I feel the underlying principle here seems to be derived from a feeling of impersonal carelessness in considerate human decency by exposing others directly to my urine, and also an issue of property (as discussed in the previous Geese poop shoe analogy) wherein the tax payers of McClean County pay good money to maintain the structural, aesthetic, and sanitary quality of Watterson Towers.


Works Cited

Beller, Peter C. “On L.I., a Move to Enforce Long-Ignored Beach Rules”. The New York Times. Aug. 19, 2005.

Boucher, Tim. “Pissing In Public In Seattle”. Big Elk Web Radio Interview. February 21, 2006.
Potts, Rolf. “Remembering Laurel Lee.” Vagabonding. Aug. 18, 2004.

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