So lately I've been noticing ice in the urinals at some supposedly happening L.A. locations. Not like it's everywhere I go, but you know how sometimes you see something three times in the course of a few days and you are suddenly struck by the oddity of the coincidence? And I suppose, looking back over the years, I've seen this here and there again.

The presence of this phenomena reminds me of a sad old joke about urinal mints being there for you to freshen your breath after you've done your bit. Do bartenders imagine that some folks headed back there will decide they need to chill their drinks as they attend to other business? This goes a little beyond the admonition, "don't eat the yellow snow." Or is it that they wish to give their drunken patrons something to aim at, to motivate them to not miss the intended point of entry? There is, it must fairly be confessed, some satisfaction to be gained from watching ice cubes melt under the force of that hot streaming attack, but still I am given to wonder at the motivation for decorating the urinals in this way.

But based on my limited experience in the field, and a little bit of research, here is what happens. Ice is cold. And it melts. Slowly, and steadily. This combination of characteristics comes together to provide a boon of benefits. The cold suppresses odors which typically sort of cook upwards, carried on the wafting warmth of body-heated fluids. At the same time, like refrigerating anything, it keeps down those bacteria which plague restrooms generally, and especially contribute to the aforementioned odorousness. And, as the ice melts it constantly and consistently washes out the bowl, maintaining a level of cleanliness while saving flushes. And, yeah, it does kind of look classy.

But if these benefits are so fantastic, why doesn't every establishment do this all the time? Why do most places in fact use those urinal mints, which are more costly than frozen water? Well there's something about clubs and bars (and let us not forget that even the swankiest dance club makes its cash on the liquor, and so is really simply a bar dressed in fancy lights and spaces). These locations tend to have long ice-cube-filled freezers to contain certain ingredients, and it's cheaper to keep the icemaker running all the time then to power it down when the freezer is full and then power it up and get it "cubing" when fresh ice is needed. I wouldn't be surprised if some law on the books limited the amount of time ice could be left to sit in that silver box below the bar. So, the club-type locations will simply happen to have this ice on hand, always needing to dispose of the excess -- and having a handy use for it just down the hall and to the left.

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