Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

Restroom Strategery: Watch your six!

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:

NO WINGMAN!

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.