The worldwide media were in an absolute frenzy a few weeks ago when French actor Gerard Depardieu, erm, uhum, relieved himself, in the aisle of a commercial airplane. Even CNN’s seasoned and debonair anchor Anderson Cooper dissolved into a veritable “giggle fit” while reporting the incident. (Check out the video – and we dare you to keep a straight face while you do).
But, alright, while Mr. Cooper pulls himself together, all jokes aside: this fiasco has us asking, what’s the deal with public urination in Europe?
In the U.S., peeing in public is usually confined to the wee hours of the morning in rundown areas or outside of college bars. For the (often inebriated) individuals who are caught by law enforcement officials, their PDP (Public Display of Peeing) earns them a pricey fine – at least. What’s more, peeing in public is not generally accepted as tolerable or socially appropriate behavior. Cities across the country have adopted zero-tolerance policies on this particular crime against hygiene by increasing penalties.
Europe is a different story, though. Odds are, if you’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting one of Europe’s breathtaking capitol cities, you’ve likely had the misfortune of encountering PDP yourself. For decades, American tourists have been utterly baffled by the sheer frequency of PDPs, while their European counterparts appear all but apathetic to the sightings.
But in recent years, city officials concerned with image have launched anti-PDP campaigns across Europe. In an effort to curb the frequency of public urination, particularly on buildings in historically significant districts, some cities have simply upped the fines. Others have taken more creative approaches to meeting outdoor urinators halfway:
The Amsterdam Public Urinal
Although Amsterdam is famous for tolerating otherwise unseemly behavior, the city has attempted to push pee-ers into privacy by providing partially shielded urinals. (Note: Most PDP-ers are men, anyway.)
Parision Public Toilette
Throughout Paris and other European cities, you can find what at first appear to be large telephone booths. For about one Euro, a passerby can use the locked stall, complete with a folding toilet that is completely steam-cleaned and sanitized when the user is finished. Unfortunately, the price is a disincentive, as is the risk of being sanitized yourself if the exit is not speedy enough. They’re also ugly.
London Loo Locater – There’s an App for That?
Oh, yeah. London-based blogger IanVisits has mapped over 947 public “loos,” and organized them all on an app called “Toilet Map: For the times you need to find a loo in a hurry.” Public loos range from those available in museums, tourist traps, and even their own version of the Parisian-style outdoor stall. Brilliant, really.
The Retractable Commode
This isn’t a joke. As a solution to the eyesore that is the Parisian toilette, cities in Europe and Canada have actually installed “hide-away” toilets underground that emerge from sidewalks with the assistance of hydraulic lifts and peak PDP hours (read: last call at the bars).