How to Pee Standing Up

The simply designed Whizzy helps women take a stand


| September-October 1999



Janis Wagner cradles her head in her hands. She says she probably shouldn't admit this because, well, it might be a misdemeanor. But she has to confess—she's a public urinator. And it's fun! She giggles wildly.

We're sitting in her apartment talking about Whizzy, the product she invented so that women can "stand and urinate with ease." She unzips a plastic bag and pulls out a specially cut and folded piece of manila paper. It's a simple device, she explains; you just hold it between your legs and unfold it so that it forms a trough. It adjusts to the user's "contours and stance," says the pink instructional pamphlet, and then you just "relax, aim, and go."

"I love it, I love it," exults Wagner, a 50-year-old former dancer, choreographer, and social worker with a law degree.

With Whizzy, women finally can write their names in the snow or spray off the side of a sailboat—something Wagner has longed to do since childhood, when her younger brother got to have all the fun. Wagner insists that she isn't alone in this desire, that every woman has had the stand-up-and-pee fantasy.

But it wasn't penis envy that inspired her. When Wagner developed muscular rheumatism, simple tasks became punishing chores. Sitting was excruciating unless she limbered up for at least an hour beforehand—not possible with a bursting bladder. A "midair squat" didn't make using the toilet easier. Neither did a raised seat. Wagner—what could she do?—began urinating upright into paper cups and paper-plate gutters that she pointed wishfully in the direction of the toilet. But the cups tended to run over, and the plates leaked or missed the target. So she took scissors to paper and toyed with her own designs.

Wagner experimented with different papers and shapes, taking notes on effectiveness, ease, and comfort. The optimal design, she says, has trajectory: "You will not go on your feet. You will not go on your clothes."