May 17, 2006 -- Guys who've had too much to drink over Memorial Day might not be hallucinating if they return from the men's room and say, "The urinal has been talking to me."
What they're actually hearing is New York's latest public service announcement for traffic safety.
The battle against drunken driving is going straight into the toilet, as New York plans to install motion-activated soap pucks, known as Wizmarks, in the urinals of 100 men's rooms at drinking establishments across Long Island's Nassau County.
When guys leave a bar, the bathroom is usually the first place they visit before they go to their cars. And now, when men step up to the urinal at participating pubs, they'll hear this public service announcement as they relieve themselves:
"Hey, you! Yeah, you! Having a few drinks? Then, listen up! Think you've had one too many? Maybe it's time to call a cab or call a sober friend for a ride home. It's sure safer and a hell of a lot cheaper than a DWI! Make the smart choice tonight. Don't drink and drive!"
The Wizmark replaces the plastic apparatus that holds a sanitizing soap puck at the base of a urinal. The Wizmark's built-in battery and microchip releases a recording that lasts through 10,000 flushes, although guys with spotty potty habits will learn that the Wizmark's motion-sensitive device doesn't require a flush to begin operating.
The Wolf Files has learned that New York's Traffic Safety Board in Nassau County -- along with state assemblyman Tom DiNapoli and law enforcement officials -- will announce this first-of-its-kind program on May 25, and they will ask local drinking establishments to voluntarily install the Wizmarks in their bathrooms.
The official announcement will come with a Wizmark demonstration at Jackson Landing in Bellmore, one of the bars participating in the program.
"Luckily, nobody will have to go into the bathroom to hear how the device works," said Cindy Brown, a spokeswoman for the Traffic Safety Board.
Urinal Advertising Hard to Miss
In what's been called the ultimate in target marketing to a captive audience, the Wizmark was patented two years ago and has since blazed a path of outrageous ads, typically targeted for young men, and has been used to market beer, liquor, condoms and radio stations across the country.
In a Wizmark ad for a Country Music Television special, men at urinals would hear a sultry woman's voice telling them, "Don't miss 'Outlaws' on CMT … You seem to miss everything else!"
"Because of the nature of how we get a man's attention, I've always felt that we've had tremendous potential to help out with DWI," says Wizmark president Richard Deutsch.
Talking urinals might add a little humor to the normally staid public service warnings, but advocates see value in the new program's approach.
"Oh, you can't help but laugh, but I'd advocate shouting from the roof -- anything -- if it gets the point across and saves a life," says Marge Lee, director of Dedicatedd.org -- an organization that raises awareness about the danger of driving while intoxicated.
Lee lost the oldest of her three children in an alcohol-related accident in 1990, and she fought for New York's Wizmark program, predicting that it could quickly become commonplace in bar bathrooms across the country.
Male drivers are overwhelmingly responsible for the majority of alcohol-related accidents. However, New York and Wizmark are already considering a new device that would bring the message of traffic safety into the sanctum of the ladies' room.