Literally Too Close for Comfort

If you're a man suffering from paruresis (bashful bladder syndrome) or claustrophobia, you'll probably want to avoid the public washroom at Celestial Heights in Ho Man Tin.

Cramped washroom

Image © SCMP

That's a wee (pun intended) bit narrow. The developer felt that stuffing eight urinals into an area just 2.5 square meters, about half of what it ought to be, was enough to comply with the law. The only problem is when the washroom is busy men will stand shoulder to shoulder and their backs will be in contact with the backs of the men facing the opposite wall.

Awkward.

They violated one of the most fundamental rules of bathroom design. Guys don't want to be touching another dude while taking care of business, and the farther apart they are, the better. For example, if a wall in a public washroom has five urinals, when a man enters he'll often head for one end. If another man enters while an end urinal is occupied, he will usually visit the opposite end. If a third man enters he will head for the middle urinal, and so on until there is no choice but to stand next to someone else.

But this washroom leaves roughly six inches of space between urinals, and only about 3.5 inches for the one on the end. The vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Toilet Association said the layout "resembled some still found in the railway stations of backward regions." Ouch. Worse yet, the developer didn't even bother to install so-called 'modesty boards' to give men a modicum of privacy. Even the military, which cares not a whit about privacy, doesn't cram its toilets this close together.

It's hard to believe that after SARS this sort of thing could happen, never mind that many men would find this psychologically disturbing. But in Hong Kong the motto "it's easier to get forgiveness than permission" is almost axiomatic. Now that the fan has been hit, so to speak, the developer will probably be embarrassed into fixing the problem.

Better them than the poor bloke who's about to burst but can't go because others are too close.

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