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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Office bathroom ettiquette

On the floor of the building where I work, there are two women's restrooms, two men's restrooms and two unisex/handicapped bathrooms. Each of the women'srestrooms have two stalls. I can't speak for the men's restrooms because I've never been in there, though now I'm a little curious...

Anyway, I was in the ladies' room closest to my office, when I heard someone else come in. I knew by the gait and by the shoes it was one of my co-workers. (I won't say who because I do have to work with these people.) As I was washing my hands, she stood behind me, waiting for access to the lone sink and said in a silly voice, "I broke one of the bathroom rules!"

"What bathroom rule is that," I asked.

"I came in here when someone else was in here."

"That's not a rule," I told her. "That's just a courtesy."

To be clear, there are no posted bathroom rules, though I think it might be a good idea. But after working in the same office for nearly five years, I've noticed the evolution of certain practices that could be included in a short set of "office bathroom etiquette" rules, or guidelines if you prefer to be softer about it. They would look something like this:

Office Bathroom Etiquette
  1. If you happen to be headed to the bathroom at the same time as someone else, remember the boss gets the stall closest to the sink. The business manager prefers the one furthest from the sink.
  2. The above should not really be an issue because if you are headed to the bathroom at the same time as someone else, it is courteous to go find another bathroom. That way you don't have to listen to each other pee.
  3. If you have to go #2, please choose one of the single-seater unisex bathrooms. That way no one has to listen to your, um, activity. And you avoid offending anyone's olfactory senses.

At least one person in my office would take issue with #3, saying that it's ok to go #2 in the community bathroom if it's not going to be "grody" (her word, not mine). My contention is that you don't know if it's going to be grody until it's too late and isn't all poop grody by default?

I'd be all for a posted sign instructing people to avoid emptying their bowels in the community bathroom if at all possible. Or perhaps a more subtle approach would be to just put a picture of Winnie the Pooh on the doors to the unisex bathrooms, indicating that it is an acceptable "poo" room.

Anyway, back to the etiquette...I'm undecided about the acceptability of talking while peeing. If being in the bathroom at the same time as someone else is unavoidable (refer back to etiquette rule 2), should you quietly and quickly go about your business? Or should you initiate conversation so as to drown out the sound of pee? I suppose it depends on whether or not you know the person in the next stall over.

And of course, it should go without saying that one of the cardinal rules of bathroom etiquette is washing your hands afterwards, singing the ABCs twice for good infection control.

Have I forgotten anything? Is there anything else you would add?

For more office antics, try this fun game.


Shelley said...

If you have to go poo in the community restroom, a courtesy flush is a must, unless you have a bottle of Poo Pourri in your pocket or purse. It really works! Amazing stuff.

"Spritz the bowl before you go, and no one else will ever know" is their tagline.

I am not an advocate of talking to co workers while peeing. If you happen to be in the same community restroom at the time and find the noise of peeing indelicate and immodest, you can always flush and then pee furiously to get that last l'il bit of tinkle out before the sound dies away. Or have a fake coughing spell. Or turn on your iPhone and play some music. I recommend "Proud Mary."

Momza said...

Hmmm. Well, Amy, you're a pioneer today aren't you? lol
Preach On little sister, preach on.

Rebecca Jo said...

Bathroom etiquette is so touch & go... I know in our office bathroom - we have one women's bathroom - that has one toilet - & its in the KITCHEN!!! UGHHHHHH!!!!

We have one lady who has "issues" 3 times a day (like clockwork) & wowwwww... its rough....

varangianguard said...

Wow. One of the last subjects I would have expected to read here. ;)

Nice that your officemates care enough to have an informal etiquette, though.

The floor I work on has a single restroom for each gender. The Men's Restroom has a single handicapped-accessible stall, seven standard stalls and six urinals.

I asked two female co-workers (who couldn't agree on a total, btw) and they said the Women's Restroom has a single handicapped-accessible stall and somewhere between 7-9 standard stalls.

To say the least, your type of etiquette wouldn't work so well here.

Two observations. One, I always thought women heeded the "herd instinct" imperative when it came to restroom visits. Guess not. ;)

Two, I have long thought that large restrooms would be more comfortable if the building piped in sounds of gently running water, just loud enough drown out all but the most expressive personal noises. Or, place a wall of falling water fountain in the restroom for real sounds of rushing water (which would help move the air around as well).

Kitty said...

Pet Peeve: If there are multiple stalls and one is obviously occupied, don't take the one right next to it! Space at LEAST one empty stall between you and the next person, I don't care what your business is.

Nancy C said...

OMG, I used to work with a woman who would do such evil to the toilet RIGHT NEXT TO MY CLASSROOM that the walls would bleed.

Michelle said...

"Or perhaps a more subtle approach would be to just put a picture of Winnie the Pooh on the doors to the unisex bathrooms, indicating that it is an acceptable "poo" room."
You made me laugh out loud. Thanks!

Beth Zimmerman said...

Poo Pourri? Oh My Goodness! And I never in my life heard of a courtesy flush until about 6 months ago! Not sure I have been able to poop without thinking of it since! Certainly not in public!

And why are there 2 or 3 stalls in the Ladies Room if you should only go in one at a time?

These rules of yours could really complicate my life! I already have trouble getting to the closest bathroom on time without having to worry about whether or not I should go to one further down the hall! :) I think joining someone in the bathroom beats wetting my pants hands down!

By the way ... I liked to you today here:

Beth Zimmerman said...

linked liked ... whatever!

Cat said...

I'm working in a 80% male environment, so I'm lucky that all the bathroom issues are on their end, lol!

Amy said...

I was a little bit worried that this topic might be too much for public discussion. You guys proved me wrong.

@Shelley -- PooPourri? Never heard of it, but I'm totally gonna check it out just out of sheer curiosity.

@Rebecca Jo -- Maybe someone should anonymously suggest PooPourri to your co-worker?

@Varangianguard -- Love the idea of a wall fountain. Maybe you should pursue it. You could make a fortune!

@Kitty -- Someone on my FB page said the same thing. Definitely think that should be added to the rules.

@Beth -- You ask a good question. I hadn't considered that.

@NancyC -- Bleeding walls are never good.

Anonymous said...

LOL. Hilarious post today. Thanks for the laugh.

I don't have bathroom etiquette issues here at work. There are 3 of us in total. I have my own bathroom and the "boys" have theirs.

Toronto, ON

Beth said...

No talking while going to the bathroom. I'd really just rather pretend that nobody else is in the bathroom with me!

And can we extend this topic to bathroom etiquette at home? It includes replacing the toilet paper, aiming properly, etc.

Mrs4444 said...

Oh, that's funny! How about wiping off the seat if you pee on it, LADIES! Man, I hate that!

Anonymous said...

I know I'm late to this post, but somebody linked to it on FB.

Very funny!

I would add another rule - please don't talk on your cell phone while in the stall doing your business (whichever it may be).

What phone call could possibly be that important where you couldn't call this person back?!

Anonymous said...

I'm very late to this party - I just happened to stumble upon your blog today and couldn't help but read this entry.

I work in an office with 20 women and 3 single stall bathrooms. Usually one is always available, so we don't have much of an issue there. The thing that I'm always cautious of, however, is not going in right after someone comes out. I hate when I'm coming out and someone just happens to be coming the way of the bathroom and then uses it! Makes it awkward, as if there is some type of "smell" left behind, they immediately know the culprit. Awkward!

Just my (#)2 cents! :P

Twin Cities janitorial said...

I never knew that ladies have so much bathroom etiquette. In the men’s bathroom, some do not actually care if the sound of their pee is being heard all over the room. It is something that most men think is okay, but is a little out of manners for me. Anyway, I did enjoy reading your post.