Yeah, I went there. No, I didn’t actually go there. Maybe that guy did. Or probably that guy. But no, not me. What am I talking about? I’m talking about peeing. In public. In Berlin.
Walk around the city any time of day or night and guys are just whipping it out and peeing wherever the hell they like whenever the hell the urge comes. But I’m guessing it’s not just Berlin. I think this is a German thing. Mostly because I’ve seen non-native Berliners who are German partake in this.
Now there are lots of things I expected when I moved to Germany. Heavy food, bad weather, beer drinking…more beer drinking. But I assumed that Germany was refined, classy. That with all the beer drinking, there would be plenty of legitimate places for one to, uh, relieve, themselves. Germany prides itself on its beer–purity laws and all. Wouldn’t they take pride in the…um, disposal of it, too? Then again, Germany is known for these:
Go ahead. Think about it for a second or, ahem, two.
Turns out there are plenty of legitimate places to pee. If you count any street, bush, alley, trash receptacle, lamp post, or just about any open air space to be legitimate. Just the other day I passed by the Alexa Center, that unfortunate eyesore of a mall near Alexanderplatz, where hoards of people are going in and out all day long. Some guy was pissing right by the fence in full view of everyone. The guy couldn’t walk a few meters to the freaking toilets in the mall?! Granted, it costs 50 cents. But c’mon.
The only thing between the public and a full view of the family jewels? An angle.
I was with a friend recently and we were walking to the S-Bahn and he goes, “Wait a second, I gotta take a piss.” I looked around at the open space and immediately wondered, uh, where? But before I could contemplate a strategic location, urination had commenced. Just off the sidewalk. In broad daylight. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to try to shield any oncoming traffic, maintain normal conversation, or let him finish in silence. I never had to contemplate these conundrums before.
Me? I just can’t do it. Those who know me know I have a fear (well, loathing) of public bathrooms (My motto? “For god’s sake, courtesy flush!”). There was a time when, having no good alternative, I literally broke out in a cold sweat in a stall. And as one who hates the overuse of the word “literally,” for me to say “literally” means “literally.” And there’s that sense of dread that comes over me when I’m greeted with a trough instead of urinals. Usually bars and stadiums. Right, places where aim is often impaired.
So the thought of just doing it in a public space wouldn’t be a matter of not wanting to. It’s that I know nothing would happen. Even if my bladder were bursting.
And there have been times when I’ve been walking home and nature was calling. Loud and strong. So bad, my teeth ached! And I would keep walking, thinking maybe behind that tree way, way off the path. Or, wow it’s really quiet around here. I could just…nah. I can hold it in. Not much further to go. Of course, the more I thought about it, the worse it felt.
Hey, Paris offers free toilets around the city. And Parisians primarily just drink wine. So what is it about Germany? A shortage of public toilets or is it a self-fulfilling prophecy that they aren’t needed? Is it my puritanical American way of thinking that a normal bodily function should be hidden away? Or is it that who cares attitude that lets Germans parade around in parks completely naked?
One of the first phrases I learned when coming to Germany was, “Haben Sie eine Toilette?” Who knew it should have been “Wo ist der nächste Baum?”