Keeping One's Cool in the Men's Room

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I don’t think we’ve ever discussed the practice of putting ice in the urinal in restaurant bathrooms. No, I’m pretty sure we haven’t.

For most of you women, this may be the first you’ve heard of such a thing. Might be a first time for a lot of you guys, too, because it is a practice rarely seen anymore. But I was reminded about it recently when I stepped into the men’s room at Le Bernadin in New York. There the urinals were filled with sparkling ice cubes. I found it to be just a bit odder than usual.

I’m not certain how this practice ever started, but I have a theory. I think the reason is two-fold. In some restrooms, older ones, mainly, the flush valve was similar to a faucet handle that one had to turn to cause water to flow to the drain. It’s not something most men would take the time to do, frankly. In even older establishments there might not be any valve at all.

So putting ice in the bottom of the urinal had two purposes: the constant melting of the ice created a steady flow to the drain; and, the coolness prevented the room from stinking up too badly.

That makes sense in older restaurants, but Le Bernadin? It’s one of the most elegant restaurants in Manhattan, and the plumbing works just fine. And the air conditioning keeps the air moving.

So why are the urinals packed with ice? My guess is that it is now seen as something classy, though I don’t know a lot of guys who have the opinion that the act of relieving one’s self needed some classing up.

Whatever. It does provide one third purpose: it’s a game of sorts to see how much ice can melt in one standing. Probably best not to challenge the guy at the next urinal to a melting match, though.

When was the last time you saw this? And do you have any alternate theories? Leave a comment below.

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