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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

A Tall, Uncool Shake of Water

(Science may be strong, but this week’s Secondhand SCIENCE is all about the WIMPs. Beef up, get ripped and check it out.)

Being tall is hard.

I understand being short is hard, too, but overall that’s an easier kind of hard. I’ll explain.

If you’re short, you pretty well understand the troubles you’re in for. Hopping to reach high shelves. Getting turned away at carnival rides. People singing Randy Newman at you all the time.

I’ll admit, that sounds godawful. Subjecting people to Randy Newman against their will should be a hate crime, for starters. But these are heightcupational hazards for short people. They’re no (pint-sized) surprise.

We talls, on the other hand, have more subtle problems. Less predictable. Sneaky.

Take office peeing, for instance.

I work in a small company, and occasionally find myself overhydrated on a workday. We’ve got about fifty people in the office and (so far as I’ve been told, anyway), just the one mens’ room. So with eight-ish hours in the workday and twenty-four or so of us “going” throughout, there’s a fair amount of cross-traffic in the lavatory.

“He who ignores the lessons of Ghostbusters does so at his own peril.”

(But no “cross-streaming”. He who ignores the lessons of Ghostbusters does so at his own peril.)

This single mens’ room has one stall and one urinal, the latter of which has been designed by — or at least installed by — someone of the lower-to-the-ground persuasion. I know this because when I stand in front of it — I, who is “tall” but not “holy god, are you in the NBA? tall” — the top of the urinal is below my belt level.

Now, I won’t delve deeply into the biomechanical implications of using this mis-heighted urinal. I’ll only say this:

Most of the time spent in front of this urinal requires a bit of extra concentration, but is relatively low-risk — at least for someone with a fair amount of practice in these situations. And I didn’t just fall off the urination truck yesterday, as they say.

Or they would. If people ever talked about these things. You know what I’m saying.

The problem, as with most things in life, is in the dismount. There’s an old schoolyard proverb about not “shaking it more than twice”, which is excellent advice. But the unspoken rule implied therein is that you’re going to want to “shake it” at least once. It’s kind of important.

And that’s fine when the urinal is in your sights, dead ahead. But when the porcelain ends way down below your six (o’clock), that shake’s a little more dangerous. And in that situation, it’s possible — nay, from experience I’ll tell you that it’s incredibly freaking likely — to “water” the top of the urinal itself.

They don’t train you for such situations in Tall School. They should, but they don’t.

And what they should really teach you is what to do when you’ve thus sprinkled the top of the communal office peeing apparatus, and you look over your shoulder to see a company executive waiting behind you to use it.

(Not only that, but a much shorter company executive, who’s less likely to have considered the physics of the dilemma at hand — but much likelier to notice it. Because it’s about to be literally right under his nose.

Because he’s short. Is what I’m saying.)

I’m certain Miss Manners has something to say about the proper etiquette in this situation, but I haven’t read it. I came up with a couple of options for what to do next, neither very good:

I could wipe the offending fluid off the porcelain with my hand — or maybe my shirt, or the leg of my pants. But counterpoint: ew. I’ve spent the better part of my life desperately trying to prevent getting pee on myself or my clothes, so why the hell would I throw that out the window at this point?

I mean, I like my job and all. But not that much. Even Hugh Hefner’s not that invested in his work.

Or I could warn the exec to “stay there!“, walk past him to the sink for a paper towel, walk back to clean the urinal and then wave him in to do his business. On the plus side, that seemed fairly responsible.

On the minus, it felt like something that would make the situation look more suspicious than it already was. Like, what the hell was I cleaning up over there, exactly? And there’s just no good-sounding rationale for an emergency urinal wipedown. None. It unexists.

So I went with Plan C. I shuffled away from the urinal, nonchalant as I could, as though nothing was disgustingly wrong, and let the exec take his place. I quickly washed up, dried my hands and grabbed an extra paper towel. I sidled back over while he was still “in progress”, reached around to the top of the urinal with the towel and said:

“Here, lemme just get this for you.”

I figured, he’s short, so I wasn’t in his way, exactly. I didn’t want to delay him, but I felt like I should clean up my own mess. It’s pretty much the most graceful way I could have handled it. Almost certainly.

So anyway, I’ll be looking for a job soon. Or at the very least, another bathroom to use since I can never, ever step foot inside that one again.

(And it’s been a problem for years now. So maybe that’s not such a bad thing.)

Like I said, being tall is hard. But being tall, clumsy, socially backwards and unsupervised in public is goddamned impossible.

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