Once on a business trip from Boston to Stockholm, I had a brief morning layover in Amsterdam’s Schiphol International Airport after an all-night flight over the Atlantic. Bleary-eyed and sleep-greasy, I stepped into the men’s lounge to freshen up a bit and lounge. While I was in the process of lounging, I was surprised to see a fly in the urinal. Actually it was a picture of a fly in the bottom of each of the urinals. There was something oddly amusing about this. Why would they put a fly there? Of course, human nature being what it is (okay, man nature being what it is) I couldn’t stop myself from leaning in that direction. Hey, that fly was looking for trouble.
The Dutch are the most sensible, straightforward people in the world. There must be some reason for this display, and it must have to do with its magnetic attraction on nearby downpours. I thought about taking a picture of the urinal… but didn’t. And I have since regretted not taking that picture, because it’s a funny little story.
Still, if the 21st century has taught us anything so far, it’s that you can find anything on the web. So it is with the Fly UI. This link is to a weblog that looks at the urinal’s design from a user interface point of view, and includes the feedback of several honest-to-goodness Dutch industrial designers.
As long as we’re on this subject, I have to mention the mysterious pre-flushing Japanese urinals. Japan, like many other countries, has lots of infra-red triggered self-flushing urinals. No need to touch the hardware… do your business and walk away. But I noticed that many of these automatic urinals in Tokyo flushed briefly just as you stepped up and got comfortable. I couldn’t figure out why they’d waste the water until I realized it subtly encouraged the priming of the pump. The little splash and whoosh gets the ball rolling sooner (à la Pavlov), fights stage fright in a self-conscious country, and probably increases crowded bathroom throughput by 25%. That’s my theory, anyway. Anybody out there know better?