Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fly In the Urinal Makes Appearance in Tel Aviv

Does anyone need proof that Israel is a modern country?  Well, here it is.  Today we received a report from a reader that the Fly in the Urinal has been spotted in the men's room at the Ayalon Mall in Tel Aviv.

What's the Fly in the Urinal?  What's humorous about it?  What's Jewish about it?  What does it have to do with the Amsterdam airport and the Obama administration?  We take pride in the research we do before posting a story at Jewish Humor Central, and here is the result.

It turns out that about 20 years ago, Jos Van Bedoff, a maintenance worker at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, recalled that when he served in the Dutch army in the 1960s, he noticed that someone had put small, discrete red dots in the barracks urinals, which dramatically cut back on "misdirected flow."  He recommended to the airport Board of Directors that the dots be installed in all the urinals in the airport, but in the form of flies etched into the porcelain.  

Van Bedoff decided that guys want to directly aim at an animal they can immobilize. The ability to use one's natural gifts and achieve victory over the foe while standing is the key, he explained. Guys, he felt, can always beat flies. That's why flies are so satisfying.  And now, they're showing up -- at the men's room in Terminal 4 at JFK Airport, stadiums, around the country, elementary school bathrooms, and, yes, at the Ayalon mall.

The result, research has shown, is an 80%  reduction in misdirected streams.

There's even a web site called, where you can buy a pack of stickers with images of ten flies, bullseye targets, or trees, for $9.99.  Packs of 100 stickers are also available.

 The fact that introducing a fly into urinals changes human behavior was explained in a popular book, Nudge, by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, published in 2008 by Penguin.  Sunstein, after publication of the book, was appointed by President Obama as the administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which is under the Office of Management and Budget.  We haven't received cofirmation yet, but we suspect that flies will soon be appearing in the White House lavatories.

So, to get back to our original questions, we think we've answered most of them.  Oh, what's Jewish about it?  Only that you can see it on your next trip to Israel, if you are male and if you visit the Ayalon Mall, Kanion Ayalon, in Tel Aviv.
 (A tip of the kippah to Aliza Kwiat for forwarding the photo taken at the Ayalon mall and inspiring us to research this story.)

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