Alright, sure. This may seem obvious. But hear me out: Brussels practically memorializes the practice of peeing wherever the night takes you. A centuries-old statue of a small boy taking a leak is one of the city’s most iconic—and underwhelming—tourist attractions. Le Mannekin Pis, as he’s known, appears on keychains, Snapchat filters, and kitschy doo-dads all over the city. As of 1987, he even has a female counterpart in Jeanneke Pis, a statue of a small girl who similarly avails herself on the streets of Europe’s administrative capital.
Then, of course, there’s the beer. Belgium boasts a rich tradition of brewing and imbibing beers, so even the most responsible of nights means consuming quite a volume of liquid. To its credit, Brussels has learned to accommodate some of the travails of a wandering tippler; one church, St. Catherines, is home to an outdoor, public urinal. So a quick piss here or there—who gives a damn? It’s Brussels, isn’t it?
So you can imagine my surprise when, I—again, just doing my best to fit-in and do as the Belgians do—heard a stern “Arrete” and then “Stop” as I made use of the nearest historical building. Apparently, repeating “Je suis le Mannekin Pis” does not put you above the law, even in Brussels. And, apparently, public urination can win you a €250 fine from the city.
After one of my finer moments with two friendly (considering the circumstances) police officers, I was let go, no fine, no worries. Apparently, repeating “I am so so sorry” and “I am a stupid American, please don’t make me pay money” does put you above the law, up until a certain point. We’ll just have to see how far that gets me.