The City Walls That Splash You Back

“Necessary? Is it necessary for me to drink my own urine? No! But I do it anyway, ’cause it’s sterile and I like the taste.” —Patches O’Houlihan, “Dodgeball” (2004)

In A Nutshell

Maybe thermal imaging to identify drunks will take care of the problem someday, but until then, government officials in some cities are fed up with drunks (and sober people) engaging in public urination. Amsterdam has had free public urinals for decades, but there was a public backlash against open-air urinals in Gold Coast, Australia because of the locations and odor. However, Gold Coast is now considering the solution used in Hamburg, Germany: hydrophobic paint. Developed by Nissan as a water repellent for cars, hydrophobic paint used on walls is the paint that pees back.

The Whole Bushel

Public urination by drunken partygoers and pub visitors is a big problem in many cities. Maybe thermal imaging to identify drunks will take care of the problem someday—at the University of Patras in Greece, two scientists have devised algorithms to identify drunks with thermal imaging.

The first algorithm compares pixel values scanned from different areas on a person’s face against a database of drunk and sober facial scans. Drunks usually have more dilated blood vessels on the surface of their skin, so that may be one way to identify them. However, the researchers need to make sure the data collected through the scanner is accurate.

The second algorithm plays off the first one. Basically, the scientists map out the alleged drunk’s face for warm and cool spots. For example, a drunk’s nose is usually warmer and his forehead cooler than that of a sober person.

The scientists believe this is a less embarrassing and more accurate way for police to identify drunks. However, there is the issue of whether someone’s privacy is breached if a police officer takes a scan without their knowledge or permission.

Until thermal imaging moves from theory to reality in identifying drunkenness, there’s a need for a more immediate solution. Government officials in some cities are fed up with drunks engaging in public urination. To combat the problem, Amsterdam has had free public urinals for decades, especially in busy neighborhoods like the Red Light District (RLD) that have a lot of bars and beer drinkers. Bars and nightclubs in this area often charge patrons to use their bathrooms, so the public urinals provide a free alternative.

Gold Coast, Australia also tried open-air urinals, but there was a public backlash because of the locations and odor. Business owners want Surfers Paradise to be a classier destination for tourists. Public urinals just don’t create the right ambience. “Who wants to have a pee while other people can stand around looking at them?” asked Russell Murphy, a business owner in Surfers Paradise for 23 years. “I think it will encourage voyeurism.”

Fences and shadecloths were installed temporarily, but Gold Coast is now considering the solution used in Hamburg, Germany: hydrophobic paint. Developed by Nissan as a water-repellent paint for cars, hydrophobic paint used on walls is the paint that pees back. It’s a splashy way of trying to get people to behave better in public and to eliminate urine odor.

In Hamburg, this special paint is used on walls in the St. Pauli nightclub district that are especially prone to public urination. There are also some signs that say: “Don’t pee here. We pee back.” However, not all of the treated areas have signs. So a public offender is playing Russian roulette if he decides to test a wall without a warning sign. If the person does urinate on a treated wall, his urine will splash back on his pants and shoes.

Show Me The Proof

Wired: Algorithm-driven thermal imaging could scan for drunks in public
Amsterdam: Urinals in Amsterdam—An unusual tourist attraction, of sorts
Gold Coast Bulletin: Surfers Paradise open-air urinals to be flushed away after major backlash from community about location and odour
ABC: Pee-repelling paint to deter public urination being considered by Gold Coast council
Engadget: Hamburg is pee-proofing its public places

  • No shit?

  • Azeael

    Q: What’s fun about being sober?
    A: Nothing.

  • OldBoris

    Then don’t pee against a wall. There are plenty of trees about, and if not you can always pee in a bin or against a bicycle.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofeThQBp6mA

  • Note to self. Don’t pee on walls. (wait don’t I already not pee on walls so never mind)

  • Hillyard

    Pissing outside is a time honoured German tradition. Pissing on a wall will usually result in splash back with or without special paint. I try to find a bush or a tree. FYI never pick up anything off the ground at a truck stop/rest area.

  • Exiled Phoenix

    When I’m drunk I just whip out El Capitan and piss. Besides it gives the ladies a view. I rarely go home alone!