Posted by: Bill Tracy | January 27, 2010

Enduring Mysteries

I’ve been trying to figure things out all my life. Early on I learned that I couldn’t trust most of what people told me, so I pretty much stopped asking. As you get older it gets easier to figure things out because you have a lot more experience to test theories against. At this age, I’m pretty good at figuring things out. I always thought this would make me a hell of a detective, but it’s a little late to try that on for size. Anyway, there still are things I can’t figure out – real enduring mysteries. One of them is why I would see a five-dollar bill in a urinal I was using one evening.


This is not the mystery urinal, but it is representative of the type.

There was a time when I was married. One of our little rituals was to go to a pizza restaurant in Moreno Valley, CA on Friday evening. This celebrated the end of the workweek and it was a baptism for the newly born weekend. I don’t recall the name of the place, and it’s out of business now anyway. They did have the best vegetable pizza I’ve ever had, at least until they began putting rotten tomatoes on it. Sort of lost my zest for it after that.

So, one Friday evening we’re there having a pizza. When most of the pie has disappeared and my frosty mug of root beer is nearly empty I head for the men’s room. It was a basic commercial one-holer. You went in alone and locked the door. There was a toilet in the corner, no stall, and a urinal along the back wall. I don’t know about most people, but I tend to get started on the relief aspect before doing any sightseeing. So, I’m peeing away when I look down into the urinal and see it. There amid the freshly flowing pee, the snow-white urinal cake, the chewing gum blobs and soggy cigarette butts is a crumpled up five-dollar bill. The old “Candid Camera” TV show immediately came to mind. When I couldn’t find anything that looked like a camera aimed my way, I dismissed the possibility. The immediate question, naturally, is what do you do?

Once you’ve finished your customary urinal business do you now get into the business of urinal dipping? Pull the bill out, wash it off and pocket it? Leave it there as simply too disgusting to touch? If it’s a restaurant where a bad tip is in order, you could grab it with a paper towel or wad of toilet paper and take it out to your table, enjoying the delicious idea of a bad waiter thinking he has a bonanza. In my case, the service there is good; they know us as regular Friday night customers and they cultivate our business. A bad tip is not in order here. Now at this time in economic history, the five is more than a third of the cost of the pizza we still have to pay for – not bad for a quick pee. So, what to do? Even with the leisure to contemplate that a locked door provides, I don’t think about it for long. Sorry, Charlie. I can’t do it. So I leave it there, and ever since I’ve been trying to figure this one out.

How does a five-dollar bill get into a urinal? Surely the restaurant isn’t paying you in some perverted way to pee? That’s a business model no banker would ever fund. I’ve developed a few theories over the years. Maybe you can add to the list:

Inattention. Was a guy holding his change in one hand while doing his business with the other, and it just slipped out when he turned away? Was he putting money in his wallet while standing there, and it fumbled away without notice? These are remote possibilities, I guess. They did serve alcohol in this place so inebriation could have been a factor.

Anger. Did a ten-year-old boy ask his parents to buy him a pair of $100 sneakers, and the Dad, in a creative parenting moment, gave the kid the five and told him it’s a down payment on saving for the sneakers? The kid was so angry at not getting what he wants immediately he tossed the bill in the urinal to get back at his parents? It probably makes more sense for him to piss it away on video games, one quarter at a time, but anger can have a self-destructive element.

Research. Is there a psychology student in the restaurant, and this is part of his doctoral thesis? He checks the urinal after each person and then has a talk with the one who takes the five? Why doesn’t he interview the ones who don’t take it? I was not interviewed.

Crime or other mental defect. Was the bill used to sniff cocaine, and the user is paranoid the police are coming to get him? Not likely, but drug addicts will do odd things. If you don’t believe that, go to a meeting or two of Narcotics Anonymous and listen to a few stories!


This is not the actual bill that was in the urinal.

Message from God. Perhaps the price for your thoughts has gone up — no longer a penny! Am I the prophet who is supposed to spread this good news?

There are a thousand other possibilities, I’m sure. Over the years I’ve come up with at least that many. Nothing has ever made complete sense. Just another of life’s enduring mysteries. If you really have this one solved, please let me know. The wonder of it all does wear off after a certain number of years.

Next time you see me looking off into the distance and wonder what I’m thinking about, this will give you a little insight. Yep, I’m looking for the really big answers in life! Maybe one day I’ll write about what I actually have figured out.

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