The Urine Filled Streets of Johannesburg

Ok, so I don’t want to disparage any place, but there’s a lot of human urine on the streets of Johannesburg. You’ll be walking and suddenly a whiff of really masculine ammonia filled air will just hit you in the nose. Not quite zooey but not quite trashy either. I mean there’s a definite smell to this stuff. Most places we’ve been to rinse the sidewalks at the start of the morning, maybe in an effort to clean off the waste left behind the night before. This is not so in Jozi.

So I started thinking, apparently there’s just a lot of homeless men who need to pee on the streets at night. But no, I started to look around me and began noticing a “thing”. Normal traffic, broad day light, men standing in a really odd position sort of turned away from the action but also sort of not. Arms bent with hands looking as if they’re being thrust into some trouser pockets. Again, they’re not.

What they’re doing is holding onto their penis while peeing on whatever surface is available. I have seen this over and over again while I’ve been here. “Hey, that guy in the jumpsuit looks like he’s…oh yep, he’s shaking it off. Just peed on the street corner and is now going back to selling his newspapers with his dick fingers”.

And so, this past Saturday night, we found ourselves in the trendy Maboneng neighborhood of Johannesburg to watch a movie. Holy shit! There were gobs, loads, hoards of people out in the streets, most of them men. I didn’t think that this would lead to multiple pee sightings but it sure did.

Not actual men peeing

Not actual men peeing

As we arrived back to our car, I noticed a group of four men approaching it. One of the men slowed down, did the now ubiquitous hand motion and sort of slunk his shoulders a bit toward the wheel well on the passenger side of the car. I was close enough to really see what was about to happen.

“Hey,” I yelled, “that’s our car”. A bit sheepish for being called out, the rather large and drunk guy turned toward me and said, “I just need a pee”. “Yeh, I get that, just don’t do it on my car”. He started toward me and I noticed he still had his dick in his hand. Luckily, he hadn’t started peeing when I saw him, so he just found himself at the next available car on which to relieve himself.

Ok, I know we’ve all done this. Had to pee super bad and just pulled down our trousers or hiked up our skirts to have a go somewhere where we shouldn’t. Some of us have even had to shit on the street (no judging). But I have never in my life seen it as just a matter of course that I will likely see some penis or some peeing while I am out and about running errands, any time of day.

I don’t tell this story to put you off about Jozi or even to make you uncomfortable. I tell you this story because in all my travels I have never been to a place where it’s so common to relieve oneself out in the open. I tell you this, because it’s funny, and I can’t believe I’ve seen that man’s penis coming toward me on a Saturday night and countless others in broad daylight on the side of the road.

One thing that strikes me is that I’ve not seen one woman pulling down her trousers or hiking up her skirt to pee on the side of the road. I’m not saying this doesn’t happen but I didn’t see it. It strikes me as a social commentary on how comfortable the men feel in this world versus the women. Men feel like it is their right to use anywhere as a toilet whereas women seem a bit more reluctant. Sure, we have to bare more in order to relieve ourselves and thus tend to be more discreet. But what if we acted like these men? What if we decided to just relieve ourselves whenever and wherever the need struck. I remember a lawsuit over the fact that some city put in a bunch of urinal like stalls around the city but didn’t do anything for women. A woman sued and she actually won as the policy was deemed discriminatory. It seems there’s a lot of inequality in going to the bathroom on the streets and off.

Side Note: Zac and I had a conversation about my reaction to the guy trying to pee on our car and how I called him out and whether or not I felt unsafe in so doing. Honestly, I was totally taken aback by how I reacted. I mean, I could have just opened my door while he stood there peeing and let him go on his way. I probably shouldn’t have called him out, but I did a quick assessment and thought he was too drunk to be of any harm, and the streets were filled with people. He had his dick in his hand so I knew he couldn’t quickly grab a weapon. Maybe all this is why I thought I could say something. Although, I think it was just pure reaction and I couldn’t stop it if I tried.