After many years of self-employment, it’s been hard to go back to work in a corporate environment. I’m no longer my own boss, my privacy (if any) is restricted when I’m at the office, looming deadlines lurk behind every project and of course, I have to deal with the myriad of personalities, mood swings and turf wars from various co-workers. It has been quite the adjustment. But the biggest challenge for me has been something totally unexpected. It’s not something that most people think about but it’s something, unfortunately, I can’t avoid: the men’s restroom. You’re probably thinking this time my thoughts have really gone down the toilet, if only that was true.
When I owned my coffee shop, I had single bathrooms so I didn’t have to worry about the company of other men during my private moments. Of course, the same was true when I worked at home. I think most of us would agree that when it comes to using the bathroom, we prefer to be in solitary confinement.
I have friends who avoid using the restroom at work. They wait until they get home or search for single bathrooms. Some have privacy issues while others cite sanitary ones. It’s a big deal for them and only recently, I can see why.
I know that there are big, if not capacious, differences between men and women when it comes to toilet etiquette. Some may disagree but men, for the most part, have little etiquette, if any at all. As a man who now has to use a bathroom shared by at least fifty other men, I can testify to the lack of consideration. Let me clarify, I work in a professional office and the bathroom is on the second floor. It’s not a truck stop or a gas station john that’s only accessible with a key attached to a plank of wood or a used hubcap. It’s a large bathroom with three stalls and three urinals. A bank of faucets lines the opposite wall underneath a large one-piece glass mirror. All in all, a decent bathroom.
Some women may find similarities in some of my observations but most I have spoken to agree that women are quite reserved when they are using the bathroom. They prefer not to be seen or heard if all possible. Here lies the biggest difference: men are very vocal when they are using the bathroom. When I say vocal, I’m not talking about conversations in between stalls or on the phone but exclamations or orgasmic yelps such as Oh My God!, Fuck!, Wow! or I Can’t Believe That! These are just some of the exultations I have heard. Each time I have to suppress a snicker, if not an outright guffaw. What are these men thinking and what kind of bathroom experience are they having? It’s as ridiculous as those Herbal Essence’s commercials. For those men who can’t control their excitement, here’s my advice: Learn. Most men are not keen on sharing this experience with you.
Secondly, men, it seems, must get bored very quickly. Evidence of this is the plethora of newspapers, magazines and brochures that sometimes line the bathroom floor. Men bring in reading material when they know they’ll be occupied for some time. That’s understandable. But what I don’t understand is that they leave this stuff scattered all over the floor. With the aim or more appropriately, the lack of one, of some of these men, I can see why some want to put newspapers down but the problem is that the stench of soiled newspapers is quite atrocious. Imagine the smell of newspapers that have been slept upon by a homeless person who has not bathed in a couple of weeks. Yea, you get the picture.
Thirdly, men with all their ingenuity have a hard time comprehending one word: Flush. More often than not, men like to leave behind presents. Trust me when I say, it’s not a gift I, or anybody else, wants to receive. If you don’t want to touch the handle, use your foot. It’s not difficult. I cannot begin to comprehend why someone would think not flushing would be appropriate. It also makes me wonder if they do this in public, what stockpile they are hoarding at home.
Lastly and this is probably the most puzzling, why men throw trash in the urinals. I have seen gum, candy wrappers, paper towels, mints, combs and yes, even tooth brushes. The item bobbles up and down helplessly in the vortex caused by a flush, unable to penetrate the plastic guard that usually houses a large scent tablet. Anybody can see that these items would never flush down the drain, yet men, continue to dispose of garbage in these urinals. What also makes me fume is the fact that a trashcan is not even a foot away. I don’t know if it’s because men are lazy or immature, but whatever the reason, it’s stupid.
I know I can’t stop using the office bathroom. I don’t have the ability to hold it like some of my more skillful friends. The only thing I can do is to treat it like an expedition to an uncivilized country and to do what all explorers have learned to do: expect the unexpected.
September 21, 2009