The current season of Curb Your Enthusiasm has really gone down the drain.
It’s not a matter of diminishing returns for the pioneering meta-cringe series, but creator and star Larry David’s interest in designing urinals. With a subplot about flushable tech spanning multiple episodes this season, the show has lately plunged into daring new depths of toilet humor.
Like much else that happens on Curb, the urinal redesign comes from a place of spite. The season’s longest-running arc finds our curmudgeonly hero opening a coffee shop next door to his nemesis, Mocha Joe (Saverio Guerra), in an effort to siphon off business. In the lead-up to the grand opening of the spite shop, Larry David (or his alter ego, anyway) has to deal with staffing issues, coffee bean sourcing, and of course, restroom layout. This being Larry David, however, the restrooms couldn’t just contain your garden-variety conveniences. Instead, they have to be porcelain vessels for Larry David (probably not just the alter ego) to air out some bathroom grievances.
First and foremost, there’s no #2. Larry-style men’s rooms only have urinals, and his women’s rooms only have a urinal as well.
With the men’s offering, the user stands in snowshoe-like structures on the ground, intended to keep their footwear from touching the floor. Sensors signal a trapdoor to lift on what Larry calls the Pee Cube, which also adjusts up and down to crotch height. Afterward, the device whooshes away the waste and the door closes. Easy-peasy.
On the women’s side, Larry has created what looks like a prayer toilet. Notches are carved on either side of the base for women to kneel into while facing the wall. There’s also a grab bar to hold onto, so as not to tumble backward. The set-up does not look especially comfortable.
In order to determine whether these designs have any merit, Fast Company spoke with Tim Schroeder, president of Duvarit, one of the top brands in bathroom fittings.
The verdict? When it comes to toilet design, Larry David should stick to comedy.
“The whole idea behind urinals is hygiene, ease of use, and ease of maintenance,” Schroeder said over the phone recently. “And all of those topic points are a contradiction to the design of Larry’s urinal.”
The impracticality of the Pee Cube
While Schroeder gives Larry kudos for making his urinal contact-free, otherwise he only sees . . . holes in the design.
“To have an adjustable height is just gimmicky, it makes no sense,” he says. “It just turns what should be a very easy fixture into a very complicated one. I’m not sure how the evacuation of the urine from his trapdoor works, but if it were to adjust in height, I suspect it would have to be waterless. Otherwise you have to imagine a valve that also has to adjust in height, which is pretty technically complicated, and would be very difficult to get approved by the codes and standards bodies.”
What’s most galling about Larry’s urinal is that it does nothing to solve the problem that inspired its creation: the splash factor. The well is at standard depth, the type of surface a streaming projectile could easily ping off of, while the snowshoes meant to protect pants and boots from floor moisture are still just part of the floor. They’re as much petri dishes as the tile in front of any urinal.
“Splash is a real concern, and his design doesn’t address it,” Schroeder says. “Urine is benign; it’s the least of your worries in a public bathroom, to be honest. Nevertheless, it’s messy, and if people are careless, it’s just gross. At Duravit, we have what’s called a target fly. We take a graphical representation of a regular housefly in black, and we put it at the precise sweet spot of the urinal to effectively reduce the splash. A urinal with a target has been proven to reduce sanitary maintenance by up to 70%. If you give me something to aim at, I will.”
Larry David’s splash-reduction measures are pitiful in comparison.
The women’s urinal is not as crazy as it looks. But almost.
Just how far-fetched is Larry’s urinal-for-women concept?
“There are actually products like this in Europe,” Schroeder says. “They’re not as sculptural as the one on the show. And they don’t have a grab bar, because you want it to be contactless. Basically, imagine the trough of a urinal, but elongated. So, the user can just kind of straddle it and relieve themselves without making contact. It’s a great product, but it’s never really been a fixture in the United States.”
The design for Larry’s she-urinal is based on the assumption that women would rather squat than sit. It’s also based on the laziness of not thinking the design all the way through. As Larry’s friend, Fred Funkhouser (Vince Vaughn), notices right away, the women’s urinal has no space for lowered pants to go, a concern Larry literally waves away.
While Schroeder echoes Funkhouser’s observation, he agrees with Larry about women’s desire not to sit in public restrooms, if it can be avoided. (Two female Duravit staffers also on the call anecdotally confirm the veracity of this claim.)
“In Larry’s design, the problem is that it’s floor-mounted,” Schroeder says. “The version that I’ve seen has just got an elongated trough with space underneath for pants. Unfortunately, the female urinals have just not caught on as a fixture of choice in North America. It’s a real luxury for men, to be able to use a urinal. Men clearly have a better deal.”
So, in the end, Larry David’s ergonomic nightmare toilets may not be entirely without merit. They’re just a little half-assed.