To get men to refrain from drunk driving around the Fourth of July holiday, the state of Michigan is installing 400 talking urinal deodorizing cakes in 200 bars and restaurants. The $21 products, which are waterproof and activated by motion, were purchased with federal traffic safety funds, and each “Interactive Urinal Communicator” (IUC) lasts for three months, Tom Greenwood writes in an opinion column in The Detroit News.
As Wizmark, the Crownsville, MD, manufacturer of the IUCs, says in a press release, in business, location is important, and most locations where a business can place an ad do not guarantee that they will get a customer’s undivided attention — or even three seconds of their time. Wizmark writes:
Wizmark is based on one unwritten rule of men’s room etiquette; when using a urinal, never stare at the person next to you. Every male knows that when he is using a urinal, he can look any way he wants, except left or right. […]
The large anti-glare, water-proof viewing screen is strategically located just above the drain to ensure guaranteed viewing without interruptions.
Greenwood notes that: “The state also took into account that the last stop most guys make before leaving a bar is to the men’s room.” He writes:
Actually the cakes offer a message that is short, sweet and entirely nonjudgmental: ‘Listen up. That’s right, I’m talking to you. Had a few drinks? Maybe a few too many?
‘Then do yourself and everyone else a favor: Call a sober friend or a cab. Oh, and don’t forget to wash your hands.’
Michigan is not the first state to use a urinal cakes campaign against drunk driving. In a February 11, 2007 article for Yahoo! Voices called “Pee-S-A: Latest Drunk Driving Defense Talking Urinal Cake,” D. S. Ploshay wrote that the state of New Mexico bought 500 of the talking urinal cakes at that time to distribute to bars across the state with messages suggesting inebriated men call a cab or a sober friend for a ride home.
The urinal cakes in Michigan’s campaign apparently deliver several variations on the message. In an article entitled “I must be drunk. The urinal cake is talking to me,” on Timesunion.com, Tim O’Brien provides an audio clip of two of them, with the following caveat: “Warning: The language on the second message is not something you’ll want your co-workers to hear.” The messages are spoken by an assertive sounding woman with a smoky voice.
This news item has sparking a lot of jokes and discussion online. For example, in a comment below The Detroit News article, Mike Janz writes: “I think I would quit drinking if a urinal cake talked to me.”
Here is a video posted in 2010 by an Ohio TV station, WEWS-TV, of a talking urinal cake:
Image by Wizmark, used under Fair Use: Reporting.