Who pissed on my balcony?

A special investigation.

Who pissed on my balcony?

On Boxing Day, the day after my girlfriend’s dad’s curling partner revealed that he’d contracted COVID, subsequently putting us all at risk of a festive holiday exposure, I was isolated back at home in Vancouver, alone, staring at what appeared to be a stream of frozen piss on the balcony of my third-floor bachelor suite apartment. Whose piss it was, I did not know. It hadn’t been there before I’d taken my ritual post-lunch nap, but once up, I’d gone to the window to watch a Dark-eyed Junco pick away at the suet block feeder, and a shimmering yellow flash caught my eye.

I opened the sliding door and did what any reasonably curious person would do: I got on my hands and knees and smelt the frozen piss. Unfortunately, this didn’t give me any answers; its aroma had frozen off like a frostbitten toe. My index finger edged close to the piss flow’s solid outer edge, where the yellow was darker, more potent. Would knowing the texture of this icebound mystery discharge help identify who or what had done this? Likely not. I pulled my hand back, its flesh goosepimpled from the cold.

Here, in my own home, where I’d been hiding my potentially COVID-ridden body from the rest of the world, a mystery was unfurling, and I now had something to do. Could it have been the birds? House sparrows, starlings, bushtits, chickadees, Dark-eyed Juncos, and even the occasional crow will frequent my feeders, often shitting all over the place. But I hadn’t known them to take leaks, especially ones of such volume. “Do birds piss big?” I asked Google.

“Birds and mammals produce nitrogenous waste products that must be excreted from the body. A byproduct of this waste in both, is ammonia. Mammals, including humans, convert the ammonia to urea, which is excreted in urine. Birds convert the ammonia to uric acid, which appears as the thick, white paste we commonly think of as bird poop.” Canada’s public broadcaster explained.

So if it wasn’t the birds, who could it be? Being on the third floor makes my balcony nearly impossible to access unless blessed with the gift of flight or a ladder or dexterous little rodent claws. Perhaps a squirrel? It seemed doubtful, as I hadn’t seen one on the balcony in my decade-plus of living here, but you never know. “Do squirrels piss big?” I asked Google.

After watching a nearly seven-minute YouTube video titled “Gray Squirrels Mark Territory With Pee,” I concluded that while squirrels can piss pretty big, it didn’t seem like it was big enough to match the frozen piss pond on my balcony. However, I did learn, thanks to a Washington Post “Answer Man” column from 2012, that “Squirrels are among species—deer are another—where the mother uses her mouth to carry her offspring’s poo and pee away from the nest. This is to protect her litter from predators.” Okay!

By the next day, I had reached an impasse. Who or what else could be the culprit? Should I be worried? Was there some Jack the Pisser type out there letting it leak all over town? I FaceTimed my girlfriend and held the phone centimetres from the frozen urine. “I don’t know!” She shouted as I begged for solace.

I hung up and inspected the snowfall on my balcony closely. It was pocked by hard to decipher bird tracks. Their paths were twisting, reverting on themselves. Indecisive. Second-guessing. The anxious ambling of the guilty. If only birds pissed big.

Then I turned to the dividing wall separating my balcony from my neighbour’s. They were new, and I had yet to run into them in the hallway. All I knew is that they received as many as three packages from Amazon per day and that they loved The Tragically Hip. I’d heard them sing along to the entirety of the album “Road Apples,” even quietly joining in during their rendition of “Twist My Arm.”

That was all suspicious, but unfortunately for my investigation, the piss fjord on my balcony was too small to be the markings of a full-bladdered Hip fan. I’d run into another wall. Was this a mystery wee I’d just have to live with? Its memory an ever-present yellow stain as its perpetrator remained on the loose, whiz instrument in hand or paw, ready, waiting to defile.

The following day I woke to a FaceTime call from my girlfriend. Her dad had tested negative, which meant we were likely also in the clear. The sun poured through the balcony window. I opened the sliding door and felt its warmth. Then I got to my knees and pressed the small button on my phone to turn its camera around.

“The piss is melting, do you see? Can you see it?” The phone centimetres from the liquid as it began to extend towards the front of the balcony, tracing a new path forward.