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Fly in Urinal at Schiphol Airport

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Netlore Archive: Viral image shows a restroom urinal in Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport with a fly etched in the porcelain to improve users' aim and reduce "spillage."

Description: Viral image
Circulating since: 1997
Status: True (see details below)

Example: Email contributed by Sandy S., Sep. 19, 2005:


Click to Enlarge


Analysis: The story is a bit dated — it has been floating around the Internet in various forms since 1997, with the earliest variant attributed to an article in the Wall Street Journal — but it's true. Most recently the fly-in-urinal concept was touted by engineering professor Kim Vicente in his book, The Human Factor (Routledge, 2004), as a prime example of "human-friendly design."

"If you go to the men's washrooms at the Schiphol airport in Amsterdam," Vicente writes, "you may notice there's a fly in the urinals. So what do you think most men do? That's right, they aim at the fly when they urinate. They don't even think about it, and they don't need to read a user's manual; it's just an instinctive reaction. The interesting feature of these urinals is that they're deliberately designed to take advantage of this inherent human male tendency."

Still, one can't help but wonder whether a plain black dot mightn't work just as well, and, if not, what precisely does that reveal about masculine psychology?

Sources and further reading:

Urinal 101
The Straight Dope, 9 May 2003

The Human Factor (Book Review)
Eye Weekly, 16 October 2003

Urinal Innovation
Pasta and Vinegar (blog), 11 July 2005

The World's Best Ideas
Whole Earth, Spring 1999

Last updated: 09/21/05

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