As a father of three small children, I understand the sanctity of the common bathroom: It’s often the only room in the house where nobody can disturb you. It has the only lock in the place that nobody can question. Privacy guaranteed, disturbances can be curtailed with a simple “Use the other bathroom!” Done! Complete! Problem solved, and now you can go back to solving that pesky Sudoku problem.
Then the solace of the only private room in the house meets the problem of the public restroom. A haven of solitary confinement meets a massive public. How do you act when your alone time is shared with complete strangers? I compare this to the problems we’ve been having in movie theaters. Have you noticed that it’s harder and harder to go to a movie without somebody talking/texting/playing games on their phone?
I assume they spent as much money on tickets as I did, so you would think they would actually turn off their phone as per instructions, and watch the show! I mean, who wants to shell out that much money to text “OMG, math was sooo hard! 2 stpid 4 words! When would anyone use fractions?” and then turn to their friend and say “What just happened?” You see, I have a theory behind this. What has happened is that people think that, despite being crammed into a room with hundreds of complete strangers in a totally alien environment, they think they’re still at home watching Netflix, so they act that way. The movie comes on, the lights dim down, and they do what they normally do, and start multitasking. And annoying the crap out of everyone around them.
The public bathroom is no different. Whether you are at work, at a sports arena or at the theater, it seems like people believe they are in their own bathroom even though there are now four more toilets and (in the case of the men’s room) urinals. I don’t know about your bathroom, but mine doesn’t even have stalls. And if it did, I’d still lock the rest of the family out.
At work, this can be really awkward, because you have to work with these people every day, so it gets worse. In a professional environment, it’s hard to treat that sales guy straight in the face in the hallway when you have heard him closing on a deal on the porcelain throne. Closing a deal on the phone, I mean. Whew, that sentence could have gone really badly.
Bathroom Etiquette tip #1
The phone has no place in the bathroom. Really. I would find it slightly embarrassing if I was on the phone with my mother and she said “Hold on just a minute… flush!… Now, what were you saying, dear? Just talk loudly because I have to set the phone down to pull up my pants.” Why, then, is it OK, for the teenager working in the telecommunications department to gossip about how unfair her boss is in the next stall over, or have a supervisor discussing policies with the general manager before zipping up? It doesn’t matter how important that call is, before you walk into the bathroom, you have a coin to flip: the conversation or your bodily functions. One of them has to win out over the other. Multitasking is nobody’s friend here. And if I hear you in the next stall talking on your phone, I’m going to become extremely loud. I’m going to flush three times and make comments on my performance.
Not to mention, a lot of phones have all of these functions now that don’t belong in a bathroom. I don’t want to hear anybody scanning a QR code on the commode, or, as one of my friends heard, a woman was in her stall talking to a friend on her phone and said “Let me just grab a picture of this, and I’ll send it to you.” Does anybody really want to know what she grabbed a picture of? Would you want to be the recipient?
Bathroom Etiquette tip #2
Unisex bathrooms are from the devil. I really never believed these existed, but more and more blog posts have been coming out about people finding them in some up-and-coming work place that have sold their soul for about 30 cubic feet of extra office space. What really gets my goat is that, in every blog post I have read regarding unisex bathrooms, it has been the perspective of the guy walking in, seeing a woman at the sink and she gives him the “What are you going to do?” shrug. I tell you what I’m going to do, I’m going to get out of this sanity forsaken idea from the pits of doom and find a bathroom that has a dude prominently portrayed on the sign. And women especially should be against this idea. If a thirteen-year-old boy finds his way into that bathroom, you should just take it for granted that he’s going to peek into your stall.
Bathroom Etiquette tip #3
The bathroom is not a conversation hub. Now, I don’t know what you women do when you have to go to the bathroom in droves. Being male and having all of my faculties, I’ve never personally required assistance, and my wife never asks for a helping hand at home, so I assume it’s some social thing. But for the rest of us, we don’t need a Chatty Cathy to run streaming commentary while we are doing our business. We came in for one purpose, and it wasn’t to find out what’s going on in your department. Not to go into too much detail, but the other day, I was in one of the stalls, minding my own business, when two maintenance guys come into the bathroom in mid-conversation, and keep it going throughout the whole experience. I wanted to scream out “I know what you’re doing in there! And talking about clogged plumbing isn’t helping matters!” There are certain things that can kill a conversation forever, and the mental image of what they are doing during the conversation is one of them.
You may have heard the fact that men have a unique etiquette when it comes to the urinal. If you are unfamiliar, let me run it through for you.
A guy walks into the bathroom to take care of some business (Diagram A). There are three urinals to choose from. If he is a Real Guy, he will ALWAYS choose the far left or right urinal. This will be explained in a moment.
Real Guy number two comes into the restroom with similar business as Real Guy number one, he will head straight to the farthest urinal away from Real Guy number one (Diagram B). To also be explained in a moment.
Here comes the X-factor. He has the same needs as Real Guys numbers one and two, but we’re just not sure what he’s going to do (diagram C)
Now, if he’s a Real Guy, he’s going to the regular sit-down stalls and conduct his business, or at as a last resort, wait by the sinks until one of the other urinals taken up by Real Guy one or two finish and give up their spot. This makes the middle stall the “Buffer” stall. It’s a safety measure. I mean, it should be so rarely used that you could put a “Out of Order” sign on it and have no ill-effects on the wait time during rush hour.
Now, if the third man in doesn’t abide by the same rules as the first two, we’ve all got a problem. The buffer is the center of the men’s room. It’s the very heart of being a guy for this one moment. It keeps anybody from seeing, smelling or experiencing anything they would rather not. Nothing commands “Eyes front!” louder than someone ignoring the buffer urinal rule. And it’s not a self-confidence thing. Well, not entirely. Nobody wants to know if the tattoo of the guy in the next stall actually says “Welcome to Jamaica, Mon. Have a nice day.*” but in reality, the buffer urinal saves the same purpose to save the urinators the fate of anybody who gets stuck on an airplane next to the person with too much to talk about and not enough to say. If you ever notice how much men spend adjusting, touching or just ensuring their “man parts” are still present, it becomes a very personal time when you are forced to expose yourself in public and suddenly the guy next to you wants to strike up a conversation. Now it’s not just annoying, it’s something you should talk to your therapist about.
This brings me to my point: I don’t care if you think you’re at home or in your office or whatever. You are now in the one place where the world goes for privacy away from children, parents or siblings. You are here for privacy, not a conversation. There is a certain amount of acceptable things you can do in a bathroom, but feeling this awkward should never be on that list! Even George Costanza figured that one out**! Despite what everyone thinks, there is not a phone call, business meeting or conversation between friends that can not wait for this business to be over.
Now, if you don’t mind, this Sudoku puzzle isn’t going to solve itself.
* Extra points if you know that joke.
** Double extra points if you suddenly found yourself singing “Down Town” when you read about George Costanza not going into the bathroom after his boss.
What is your take on Bathroom Etiquette?