SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Just A Little Craik In The Manger, Officer!
By Dave Kiffer


October 30, 2007

Ketchikan, Alaska - Recently, I attended one of those grand Ketchikan soiree's in which the food and beverages flowed quite freely.

jpg Dave Kiffer

Since the event lasted well over five hours, it entailed a few visits to the public facilities. In the old days, that would have been a pretty cut and dried process. But now since a certain prominent politician ran afoul of the law in an airport lavatory in Minnesota, you apparently need to be a little more careful about how you go about doing your "business" these days.

Never mind for a minute the fact that there is something inherently wrong about police resources being used to counteract lewd behavior in airport bathrooms.

Wouldn't that cop's time have been better used to be tracking down "real" airport "crime" like intentionally overbooked flights, extortionate prices for airport food or rampant peeping tom-ism by the Transportation Stripsearch Administration?

As usual, I digress.

Anyway, because of what has happened we now have to be more aware of how our actions in the men's room are perceived by others.

We have to be careful about "wide stances" and we have to be aware that if we drop something we should not reach down to pick it up because that could be seen as a "signal."

Oh, brother.

Isn't it bad enough that we have to contend with idiots yammering into their cell phones and "blue teeth" as we all stand at the urinal?

Isn't it bad enough that the hygiene in most airport bathrooms is itself criminal?

Apparently not.

Now we have to be on the alert for alleged lewd bathroom behavior and the attempts of the Keystone Cops to (sorry about this) sniff it out!

In the old days, you just went to the bathroom and that was it. Now we have entrapment to go along with drain traps.

Oops, I digressed again.

The problem is that in our urge to multitask, we have eliminated the last refuge of the sole function: The bathroom.

Wait, that's not entirely true. The old definition of multi-tasking used to involve using the bathroom and catching up on one's reading. I have a friend who actually has an five gallon bucket on the wall next to his potty to hold three levels of reading materials.

This goes all the way back to the Alaskan outhouse where old Sears "wish books" often performed both entertainment and cleanup duty.

But that was still a far cry from the modern multi-tasking in the public bathroom.

For example, the last time I used an airport bathroom, I heard some cretin typing away on his laptop in the next stall. I can imagine that message:

"Yeah Bob, I'm pinching a loaf right now, but if you hang on, I'll get those third quarter numbers to you right away."

And like many folks, I have been unhinged by someone talking into a headset while the rest of us are lined up at the urinals pondering the great questions of life:

"Yeah, Bob, I'm just wetting down the American Standard here, I'll get you those sales leads in a few minutes."

Once upon a time, public restrooms were a temple of quiet (except for gastric zephyrs) contemplation.

In fact, the "sanctity of the can" was so paramount that you weren't even supposed to acknowledge the fact that anyone else was in there with you. This probably seems odd to the females of the species. The only reason they ever go to the "little girls' room" is to adjust their makeup and gossip, or so I have been told.

But for men, the bathroom was a place of singular communion, even if there were two dozen other guys standing at that ultimate temple of "guydom," a wall urinal at a sports stadium.

No "hey, how about that catch" or "geeze, they are running over us" male bonding at the stadium urinal. Just go and then go. Of course, the fact that two dozen guys with bursting beer bladders are standing behind you means you don't want to dawdle. Someone might start "sky writing" on the back of your leg.

Speaking of which, I read recently on the New York Times website that officials in Paris (home of the very public pissoir!) are tired of folks using the walls of buildings to go on when pissoirs are too far away. Rather than building more pissoirs (a hole in the street with a small fence around it for "modesty.") they are experimenting with an angled building siding that would cause any "spray" to rebound on the "sprayer."

Gotta love those French.

It was in Paris that I had my first experience with a truly co-ed bathroom. I was using a urinal in a restaurant when a woman came in. She went straight to the sink which as it happened was located next to the urinal. I tried to pretend I wasn't there. She chirped some lovely, but incomprehensible bit of French at me. I continued to pretend I wasn't there.

She continued to speak French at me. Then she turned and looked right at me and gave a little laugh. Then she was gone.

It was a bathroom. I was speechless.

It must be a European thing.

When I was living in Ireland for a year, I discovered that Irish "lads" talk it up in the "manger" as they lovingly called the group urinal in most pubs. Actually, they used a certain noun to modify the word "manger" but this is a family website!

No sense letting a fine opportunity for "craik" pass by. I even heard Irish men talking to other men in the "stalls."

The Porcelain God only knows what certain airport cops in Minneapolis would make of that.


Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at

Dave Kiffer ©2007

Publish A Letter
        Read Letters/Opinions

Write the Editor

Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska