Thursday, June 18, 2009

Urinals in Schiphol

Warning: This post is not for those who have Victorian mores of propriety

Recently I passed through Dharavi...oops! sorry, I meant Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. Contrary to what you may have heard, it's a perfectly modern and sparkling airport, with one difference, from all others. Every urinal has an image of a fly etched into it, near the outlet. All nit-pickers will now want to know whether I went and checked all of them. Well, no, but I did actually check a few, (hopefully when nobody was looking) and indeed they all had it.

Of course, as it turned out, this is not new. The net, as I have found with many other things, even has pictures of these. (Did you check out the site name?) The idea being, in case you haven't guessed it, that it psychologically works to improve the, er, aim. (Or simply put - if a man sees a fly, he aims at it). Authorities at Schiphol claim that the flies etched on the urinals "saves us a lot of money on cleaning" and reduces "spillage" by 80%. I would take the percentages with a grain of salt, but there you have it.

As one of my colleagues recently reminded me, in college we used to have signs which said, "We aim to please, You aim, too". This is merely the graphical version of this admonition.


Abi said...

"Nudge", a recent book by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, uses this very "feature" as an example of the successful implementation of "libertarian paternalism".

Rahul Basu said...

Jeez, there's a name for everything these days....

AmOK said...

Now that you told all, next time I won't try so hard. Trained flies, I thought.

Venkataraman said...

I once passed through Schiphol. I even remember using the urinal there. I couldn't recollect seeing the fly after you mentioned it, but after following the link, the picture seemed strikingly familiar. I never bothered to find out the significance of the fly. Thanks for enlightening us.

I must admit that I would aim at the fly, but, regarding cleanup costs, I would take it with a grain of salt. Here is my theory of spillage: More than 50% of spillage occurs when pressure drops, and the individual is maintaining a safe distance from the urinal. When pressure drops, it IMPOSSIBLE to aim... gravity rules.

I like your inquisitive nature. No wonder you are a scientist.

AmOK said...

Not to nitpick or anything but what effect do you think the fly has on certain life-loving segments of society who would not hurt a fly? Would these wide misses not cancel out the focusing effects for the carnivores?

Also -- does it give new meaning to the Schiphol slogan "See Fly Buy"?