This isn’t so much a restroom story as the distilled wisdom of countless restroom battles. And I see people making the same mistakes over and over. I’m here to help.
First off, I should point out that I recognize ladies may have a different set of rules for restroom combat. I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again, that the less I know about what goes on in the ladies’ room, the better. But there’s really no more important or primary rule for the no-holds-barred warfare that is the workplace men’s room than this:
Seriously guys. We are an army of one. A lone sniper or dive bomber. Is this that hard to understand? So, if I’m heading into the loo and you’re behind me, what do you do, hotshot? What do you do? That’s right. You peel off and head back to the surface and see if you can get a few of those TIE fighters to follow you. Er, I mean, just back off, man! (When you can get more than one movie reference into a single paragraph, don’t you have to do that? Oh, and that makes three, though this last one was obscure and oblique. Obsblique, you might say. Gene Hackman, BTW.)
Anyway, you have to step off. Of course, I don’t trust you, so it’s not going to come to this. In my building at work, we’re well equipped with fish-eye mirrors at most of the corners, and the area with the elevators and restrooms is especially well appointed. I can tell if anybody’s within twenty yards of the restroom when I’m headed there.
Interestingly, the duty of the leading and trailing man here is the same: Walk away. If you’re the trailer and you’re within sight of the other guy hitting that door, you walk. If you’re in the lead and can see someone’s on your tail, you bail. It’s really not that difficult.
I know you’re going to object, "But Mr. Handwasher, I gotta go bad!!!" And I respond in the bronzed words of my dearly departed fourth grade teacher, Mr. Hellenga: "Dolezal, turn around!!!" Oh, I mean, "I never knew anyone who had to go good!" (He just said the other one so often that it stuck in my memory. Dolezal was my best friend, BTW.)
Of course, on my logic here, there’s a statistical chance that nobody gets to go to the bathroom. Well that’s the breaks, kiddos. Until we learn to space ourselves properly, we probably deserve a few prolapses. So figure this out!
Now that I’ve given you the Bad Cop routine, let me soften the blow somewhat.
Just because you peel off and give the other guy some space doesn’t mean you have no options. First, you’ve gotta ask yourself a question. Do you feel lucky? (Now you know I couldn’t resist that, right?) No, seriously, the question is, did he see you? And now I need to explain.
The main thing we’re trying to avoid here is what I like to call Mutually Aware Dumpage/Drainage. It’s akin to Mutually Assured Destruction, except in a more worklife/social context. So it’s fine for you to know who else is in the restroom with you. It’s just not fine for him to know that you know. And especially for you to know that he knows that you know. And so on, world without end, amen.
I guess it’s worth pointing out now that this chiefly concerns the arena of the stall and not the stand-upper. Yes, pee-shyness is a real problem, but it’s not as bad as the other nightmare scenario.
The bottom line is this: You don’t want to put a face with what’s going on in that other stall. And you don’t want your face attached to what’s going on in yours. Trust me on this. Because while you may be the world’s worst at remembering names or placing faces, there are things you cannot un-experience, and you remember the people who put you through them.
Now you may think it doesn’t really matter, but just remember to think of this next time you’re giving a presentation at work. While you’re up there talking about Eliminating Time-Wasters at work, do you want someone in that room who’s intimately familiar with just how much waste you’ve eliminated lately? Didn’t think so. You haven’t considered this before. I know. You regret your past misdeeds. Go and sin no more.
As Dumbledore said to Hermione in The Prisoner of Azkaban, "You must not be seen."
So if you don’t think you were made, you can hit that door and assess the situation, trying to keep yourself anonymous, keeping in mind that someone may be trailing you without your knowing it. Is it secret? Is it safe? But maybe that guy in front of you is at the stand-upper. Maybe you’re taking a stall. It’s all good. (By the way, you must examine your own conscience to decide if taking a urinal next to another guy is allowable. I can’t make that decision for you.)
And this leads me to the final, albeit quite obvious concluding question:
"Mr. Handwasher, I’ve failed and now I’m in the restroom and I’m followed closely by another, or I’ve just followed somebody else in."
These things happen, my friend. They shouldn’t, but they do. Just tell me you didn’t hold the door for him. Because that’s just not cool. It’s not cool in the downstairs lobby, and it’s especially not cool in the Smelly Confines. Seriously men, we all come equipped with two perfectly good arms. Let’s let each other use them!
Sorry, I digress. There’s no choice here. You came in to wash your hands. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for. Move along.
Get me? Whatever urgent business brought you here is now on hold. You step over, wash your hands like your momma taught you (be a good example even if it’s just for show), and walk. There’s no other way.
I hope I’ve helped someone. May you be blessed with many anonymous evacuations.
I know I haven’t posted in a long, long time. But since my domain lapsed, I just haven’t been able to drum up the passion needed for a solid rant. But now I’m experiencing outrage, so I’m going with it.
One of the Nine-Hundred-Eighty-Seven Rules of the Men’s Room is “Thou shalt zip thy lip.” Actually it’s Rules 2 through 987. Rule 1 is, of course, “Thou shalt not pair up” (the Buffer Urinal Rule).
I’m not sure if I’ve discussed, in the past, the Hot Zone rule, whereby one’s choice of a urinal depends on how recently used your preferred choice was. Lemme check. Nope. Anyway, there’s something yucky about stepping up to a urinal that’s just been flushed. Because there’s still the Vapor Problem. (Especially if the guy before you either drinks a lot of coffee or not enough water.)
And this is where you can legitimately take the Middle Urinal (though in a perfect world, it’d be Junior in the Middle). In which case, you’re forcing everyone who enters after you into pairing with you. And this is acceptable assuming there are partitions between the Stand-Uppers.
So today I was in that situation. All right, I admit it, I took the Middle even though someone was at Urinal A. Partition, though. I don’t take the Littlun unless it’s the only one available. Rules are meant to be broken. Except by other people.
So anyway, I’m in at Urinal B. And I hear an approaching conversation. And I know it’s going to be carried into the Smelly Confines. And it’s a coffee day, so I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. Sure enough, they carry the conversation in with them, take Urinals A and C, and continue talking through me. I very much wanted to add some, er, punctuation to their conversation, by way of interrupting and issuing a poot-test protest, but I had no ammo. Try not to be surprised by this.
Am I wrong here? I’m fine with a carried conversation, assuming there’s either only one guy at the urinal and the other guy veers off to the sink or something. But don’t talk through me. Pairing is required.
I have a really hard time believing this, but it’s apparently true. All Nippon Airlines is asking its passengers to make sure they’ve voided their bladders before boarding flights.
I fully understand that full bladders weigh more than empty ones, even if the difference doesn’t really amount to much even when multiplied by the number of passengers on a flight.
I also understand that the reduced weight would save some small but perhaps measurable amount of fuel, and that the lower use of the lavatories would be a good thing just in terms of waste management.
However, exactly how many people does ANA think are just bursting to use the loo on an airplane? Is there something even close to alluring to those locker-sized dumping grounds? And who, in these days of needing to get to the airport two hours early, doesn’t avail themselves of the facilities while waiting the interminable period between check-in and boarding?
I guess I’ve been being green all this time without knowing it.
(In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that airports tend to have some of the best-designed public restrooms around. So I’m all about using the good ones.)
Mrs. Handwasher alerted me to the existence of some pretty funny Gas-X commercials. I particularly love the trombone music in the background of these:
You admire me. You know it to be true. How could you not? Who else provides you the same perspective on life, inanity (insanity?), and the pursuit of hygienic restrooms?
And you want to give back. But what do you get for a guy like me? Well, this:
I’m trying to pull together a full list of all the non-combatant characters you might find in the course of your battles with the forces of Oblivious Dumpage. I had a close encounter with one the other day. The Toothbrusher.
Now, I’ve met a few of these in my time, and let me just point out that, while I’m a fan of oral hygiene, I find that at-work-toothbrushers tend toward a bit odd and a bit over-the-top. Is it really crucial to get an after-lunch brushing in? Or a 4:15 one?
I have floss at my desk. I generally only use it after consuming a peach or another hand fruit prone to tooth-stick-betweenage. But occasionally I feel especially hygienic, so I whip out the floss and do the whole spiel. Then I leave it on someone else’s desk. That was a joke.
But the Toothbrusher I recently encountered is so beyond all other inappropriate restroom conduct that I’m sure some won’t believe my retelling of the experience.
He brushed for a full four minutes before I left the loo. And he was still going strong.
I actually washed my hands and stared at him to see if he was spookable. Nope. Impervious, invulnerable, invincible, unstoppable. I then proceeded to pretend to need tissue for my impressively-large nose and pretended to really work at my nasal passages for several minutes, all while trying not to laugh. I failed.
Finally, I gave up. He may still be there. Here’s the thing, though. Have you ever seen those commercials about how “our brand of toothpaste is far superior to the other brands while using the same ingredients”? Notice nobody in those commercials ever seems to be actually, you know, using actual toothpaste? Where’s the foam?
It’s running down this guy’s hand and onto his forearm. I AM NOT KIDDING!!!
I’ve actually seen this guy in there before but not reported on it, so I noted that as he approached the sink with toothbrush and toothpaste (in a sealed, brand-new box – I think he used the whole thing), he rolled up his sleeves. Good thing, too. Because the foam was covering his hands and running down toward his elbow!!!
My current theory is that this guy isn’t trying to clean his teeth. He’s actually using a wire brush and planning to put on a new coat of paint soon.
Now, I classify this guy as a non-combatant, because he never enters the stall. And he’s really just using sink space. True, he’s a deadly danger to Secret Agent Man, who will wait until everybody’s gone before he exerts himself. And it’s possible he could throw off your Exit Strategy, because even his vigorous brushing doesn’t provide quite adequate Cover Sound. So if you don’t want to be busted by him (even though he’s in an advanced vegetative state as near as I can tell), you’ll have to wait him out. Which means another Stall Patron might wait him out. Which means the Other Guy might want to Leave When You Do. So you could be busted by Other Guy.
I guess Toothbrusher really isn’t a non-combatant after all. He’s actually more of a Freak Earthquake That Damages Both Sides. Emphasis on his being a Freak.
Oh, right. Other characters. They’ll have to wait for later. But here’s a partial list:
- The handwasher (they actually exist)
- The face/hands/feet washer (knew a Muslim guy once who did all these)
- The hawker (yeah…ew)
- The Janitor (use him against Secret Agent Man if you know his schedule)
- The hairdo/shirt-tuck/ensemble checker (usually faked when there’s a Full House or Inadequate Buffer)
Maybe I’ll hit them sometime on the blog. But they’ll definitely be in the book.
Well, it’s once again the time of year when I start wearing sandals, which always brings about a rude awakening:
Urinal spatter is detectable.
Yeah…ew. I mean, I know it happens all the time anyway, but there’s just something different about it when it’s hitting your bare feet.
Of course, I have a purpose for writing this. If anyone reading this is involved in Restroom Design, please make the urinal partitions bigger. Floor to about five feet would be just fine. Floor to ceiling would be even better.
And then at least I’d know whose spatter it was.
Pardon me while I bask in the glory of the subject line I just created. It’s a thing of beauty. It’s actually one of the things I enjoy most, coming up with great titles. For instance, when my mother was thinking of hanging out her shingle as a lactation consultant, I told her she should try these taglines: “We bring out the breast in you!” and “You’ve tried the rest, now try the breast!”
Moving on. I’ve decided to reveal another character name. After, that is, I report that I took one M.K.’s advice on dealing with a Ringer. Hmm…I suppose this is a character name I’ve not previously revealed. Oh well. He’s not a major player.
So, the Ringer is a guy who talks on his phone in the bathroom. This particular guy evidently carried a conversation into the Smelly Confines and took a Stand-Upper. His technique was impressive, however, as he didn’t say a word for a full two minutes. And then he started in at about 70dB. I laughed out loud, then took my friend’s advice.
I flushed. Repeatedly. This was easy, as I was only in the stall to change clothes. I also coughed really loudly as Mr. Ringer took to the sink for his requisite fake handwashing. I hope he appreciated my efforts.
Anyway. Have you ever been in the stall, changing clothes, when you realize that, after all, the throne is right there, and you haven’t gone in a while, and I mean, now’s as good a time as any…
Me neither. But if it had happened, I’d have noticed a subtle shuffling of the Old Fishwrap in the stall next to me. That’s right, I realized I was dealing with (and again I must ask you not to scream):
He’s a formidable enema enemy. Because he ain’t goin’ nowhere. He’s got him some serious perusing to do, and ain’t nobody gonna kick him out. Now, maybe you’ll get lucky and he’s just got the Sports section. But if it’s baseball season, he could decide to pore over every box score from yesterday’s games. Face it: he’ll be a while. You have choices here. You can:
1.) Bail. There’s no shame in this. He’s a toughie, and if you’re not prepared, he might make you cry. Besides, if you’re worried about him popping out of his stall and catching you washing your hands (and putting a face to what he just heard you do), don’t be. He has to fold that paper up. It’s a thirty second job at the least. Plenty of time to give your hands a thorough cleaning (if you’re into that).
2.) Destroy him. Okay, so we’re actually talking about defeating him when he’s not really in the game. Actually, he’s not really thinking about you in the other stall at all (like, say, Secret Agent Man is). He doesn’t care that you’re there. He’s reading, and will continue to read until such time as he stops, er, continuing to read. Basically, he’s unpredictable. So don’t do this unless you’re prepared. And by prepared, I mean armed with a medium-length novel or similarly lengthy reading material. A Kindle will do nicely, too. You’re not guaranteed to win just because you’ve got more pages, but at least you’ve got a shot at it.
One aspect I just thought of is that Newspoopers are known to follow certain schedules. Which means you can use him against Secret Agent Man if you want to. And by that, I mean forcing SAM to stay longer than he perhaps wanted to, while allowing you to hand-off the domination of Mr. Agent Man. If you can hold him in there until NP arrives, you can make Secret Agent Man’s life just that much more difficult. And that’s always worth doing. Maybe I’ll think about this angle a bit and blog more on it later.
Okay, now I know that at least one of you out there (Dad!) is already laughing at the potential interpretations of “Musical Humor.” Believe me, it was an accidental and fortunate combination of words. But there’s actually music involved.
By the way, insert obligatory “Sorry I’ve been away so long” post content here. Like you noticed…
Seriously though, I’ve got a topic all lined up for a post for Friday. And a new Character Name will be revealed.
But for today, it’s about the music, and about the humor. “Scrubs” humor, that is, from the “Scrubs” musical episode (which I didn’t see on tv, but still found the best part). Enjoy.
Yesterday I had an experience that highlights the need for my book. I encountered one of the most fearsome and loathsome creatures in the Restroom World. And in this post, I will reveal his name. I must ask you not to scream when I do. Although laughter would be wholly appropriate.
At some point yesterday, it occurred to me that it was time to hit the stall. Being a wise and prudent Workplace Restroom Patron, I first obtained reading material. This would be a major factor in what transpired.
I hit the restroom, noting that the far stall was taken (the spacious, handicapped-accessible stall with the broken latch). Let’s call it Stall C. Going with the standard Buffer Stall, I took Stall A (the one bordering the urinals and containing The Drain). All was well.
And then the Great Silence descended. Now, I’m a guy who likes some Cover Sound, and the Great Silence, as you might imagine, is somewhat lacking in Cover Sound. Fortunately, a friendly-neighborhood Stand-Upper came to the rescue, flushing both before and after doing his bidness. Cover Sound obtained.
So there I was, basically ready to leave, but I thought a bit more recon was in order. The Great Silence descended again. Then, another stall occupant appeared. Took Stall B. We were now at Full Capacity. And within ten seconds, I knew we were dealing with Mr. IckBerry. Good…you didn’t scream. Because this isn’t even the guy I was telling you not to scream about. This is the guy who feels that the restroom is the perfect place to catch up on some emails. He’s the long-lost-brother of Phone-Guy (pronounced in a manner similar to “Fungi”), who talks on the phone.
(BTW, bonus strategery courtesy via my friend MK: “Flush!” Mr. Phongi can’t handle the flushing when he’s trying to carry on a conversation. Now go kick his unclothed backside!)
So there’s IckBerry, pecking away on his stupid contraption, and still not a sound from Stall C. It was then I realized who we were dealing with:
Please try not to faint.
It was Secret Agent Man!!!!!
Still okay? These guys are tough, and you need to be prepared for them, even before my book comes out (which totally won’t happen until I write it). You need to know a couple of things about Secret Agent Man:
- He makes no sound.
- He does not want to be seen.
- He’s a person, too. I think.
Basically, this is the guy who won’t make a move (or movement) or a sound until the restroom is empty. At least that’s his game. Which means his major tactic is the Wait-Out. He’ll just hang out there with his hemorrhoids until you bug out.
If you bug out.
Actually, in this case, I could’ve sworn Secret Agent Man took off. And since I was there before IckBerry, I knew it was my duty to leave first. So I did. But Stall C was still occupied!! Filled with a sense of righteous indignation, I waited until the new Stand-Upper was situated at the Vertical Relief Station, then took a peek under the stall. Same shoes. I knew I had just been defeated by Secret Agent Man. Blast!!! I left the restroom in abject defeat.
Then, inspiration struck. No way was Secret Agent Man going to leave while IckBerry was still there. So, I grabbed a drink of water and waited. The flush I heard about a minute later was from the Stand-Upper (you, too, can train yourself to recognize flushes). I listened for Mr. Urinal’s fake handwashing to conclude (which it did, and quickly), then for his exit.
And then I went back in. The nightmare for Secret Agent Man is the Shift Change, where a stall empties out, only to be immediately reoccupied. Leaving Secret Agent Man another five to twenty minutes of waiting for this guy to leave.
I’ll admit, I did have a slight bit of trepidation, that IckBerry might recognize my shoes and try to defeat me. But I had everything going for me in terms of the prospects for Defeating Secret Agent Man:
- No pressing work-related distractions.
- Reading material.
- No need to actually use the toilet.
- Fast approach of the top of the hour.
Number 1 is nice, since it meant I didn’t have to blow off any actual work to vanquish my foe. Although I’d be willing to sacrifice a little bit of work for this opportunity. Number 2 (heh) is a must-have, because otherwise this gets boring really quick. Number 3 is unnecessary but nice, and Number 4 is absolutely essential. Odds are, Secret Agent Man might have something to do at the top of the hour. Like a meeting, perhaps. It’s pressure, and it works.
I’ll admit that my resolve wavered a bit when the five-minute mark passed on my second stay, with no sound but the pressing of Biohazard Blackberry Buttons. Then ten minutes. This is where the reading material comes it really handy.
Ultimately, I won. And actually, I’ve got to hand it to IckBerry, because he hung in there, too. And he even put some pressure on Secret Agent Man. Once SAM started to stir, about three minutes till the top of the hour, IckBerry spotted him ten seconds or so and commenced his Exit Countdown. Remember that Secret Agent Man doesn’t want to be seen. It was amusing, watching him go into Turbo Mode at the sink. (I’ll give him credit for proper handwashing, SAM though he be.)
Secret Agent Man got out without incident, followed closely by IckBerry. And then by me. There was somebody at the urinal at this point, so I flushed for propriety’s sake. And I washed my unsoiled hands. Urinal Guy didn’t have any such pretentions, and went for a record-breaking Fake Washing. Of course, this was the guy whose BO emanates into the hallway from his office, so I can’t say I was shocked.
The really amusing thing I noticed while thoroughly washing my already clean hands was the new Stall Dweller. He came in while I was washing, took a step into Stall A (which had recently been my hermitage), noted the moving water, and relocated to Stall B. Clearly, he recognized Stall A was a Hot Zone. I didn’t think other people knew about Hot Zones. But I guess they do.
By the way, I didn’t mention that during the Standoff with Secret Agent Man and IckBerry, no less than three men came in and needed a walk all the way over to Stall C to realize we were at Full Capacity. The closed stall doors weren’t enough for these geniuses. Nonetheless, their lack of relief falls at the door of Secret Agent Man. You can’t blame IckBerry for holding out for the proper Exit Order. You can, perhaps, blame me for the Double Dip, and I’m willing to accept it. This is a war, and you can’t make an omelet without causing some people severe abdominal distress.
So, there you have it. I didn’t lay out the full Secret Agent Man profile or strategy, as I will in the book (actually, that chapter is already done). But I couldn’t wait for publication. This was too important. And now you know, and knowing is half the battle. The other half involves Preparation H.