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When Urinals Attack

Talking urinal cakes are enough to drive a man to drink.


How does a drinking man know when it's time to reconsider his spirited hydraulic hobby? Is it when you wake up feeling like a flock of woodpeckers is pulling a double-shift inside your skull? Is it when you are disappointed to find out that Denny's still doesn't offer a breakfast beer? Or is it when toilets start talking to you? Well, buck up, Otis—the toilets are talking, and it's certain to be a sign of the apocalypse.

Let's rewind a bit here and revisit the source of all my problems. No, not the time my brother jammed a steak knife through my stuffed bear and hung it in a noose from my bedroom ceiling. Recently, I went to one of these faux-neighborhood pubs with the brass banisters and the fake ivy—I think it was called AppleBenniRubyFriday's—and ordered myself the latest novelty sandwich. I excused myself and went to the men's room to pressure-wash the porcelain. As I stepped up to the piss-trap, I couldn't help but notice that the traditional little cake was most non-traditional in that it had words on it. I also couldn't help but notice it talking when it got wet.

This little urinal cake seemed bent upon delivering me a message to change my ways, promising me that if I drink and drive, I lose. A valid message at any time, but hardly applicable to the tall tumbler of iced tea I had been drinking. The cake made no distinction between used tea or booze, however, so I was forced to determine whether or not I was going to lose on my own. The cake even made a joke that Rodney Dangerfield could appreciate; it concluded its sermon by reminding me that the "future is in your hand." In reality, I have a sneaking suspicion that what was in my hand had actually already seen its best days.

But I digress. Some eggheads in Santa Fe have determined that a talking urinal cake is precisely the kind of technology that will alleviate our state's drunk-driving problem. To reinforce this enticing message, the bathroom also had a poster over the sinks that showed a loser breathing into an ignition interlock device, and on the back of the door yet a third opportunity to learn about the dangers of drinking and driving. At this point, I felt like a needed a drink, because I hate to see all this doggedly determined information going to waste. Being an enlightened soul, I just went back to my table and got all hopped up on Orange Pekoe instead.

But after I paid my bill and over-tipped my bubbly under-aged waitress (I will wait for you, Amber. . . or Erin. . . whatever. . .), something struck me with the force of an empty Bud Light can thrown from the window of a 1977 Ford F-150 on the highway. It was an empty Bud Light can thrown from the window of a 1977 Ford F-150 on the highway, but that's what it took for me to realize the magnitude of social injustice I had just observed. The vocal little urinal cake, while amusing and unassuming, had just delivered its message to me in English. As in the King's English, an exclusive idiom of Anglophiles. A student of cultural relevance such as me immediately realized how disrespectful this was of our unique bilingual New Mexico constitution of 1912.

Spanish is a huge part of our state, both historically and culturally, so much so that I can struggle my way through a conversation thanks to the labors of many frustrated Spanish teachers. I actually like the fact that voter ballots are in English and Spanish in this state, and that nearly every communication, official and non-official, is rendered in both languages. That's why I take issue with this impish little deodorant pellet and its monolingual worldview. Does the fact that it admonishes whizzers only in English imply that only English-speakers are irresponsible drinkers? This will come as a great relief to law enforcement, which can now limit their traffic stops to drivers who understand English. Or is the purpose even more sinister—has the state decided to turn its back on the Spanish-speaking drunks, leaving them to their chemically dependent lifestyles, content to ignore the minorities? Prejudice is an ugly thing, and if our urinal cakes can ignore the Spanish-speaking population and only share
knowledge with the English speakers, then we got big trouble in River City, neighbors. In fact, all the posters were in English, too. Coincidence?

Let's not get too flippant about drinking and driving; it's a big problem in New Mexico, and needs to be treated seriously. As an accomplished drinker of some experience, I don't have much patience for drunk drivers because I prefer to practice my craft in the confines of my own chateau. The drinks cost less and I get to choose the music. But talking urinal cakes are just a novelty, and given their specific targeting—English-speaking males—somewhat offensive. How about those laughing boys in Santa Fe dial back on the party tricks and re-allocate some of the funds to law enforcement and more programs that work, like promoting the new "#DWI" citizen hotline and sobriety checkpoints?

If we really need to have talking urinal cakes in New Mexico, maybe we can reprogram them to deliver more valuable information, like the waitress' phone number or the ballgame scores. Then we could finally have a little piss and quiet in the bathrooms again.


Henry Lightcap goes to the little cowboys' room in Las Cruces.


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