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PUBLIC RESTROOM ETIQUETTE
by: Protoclown

If you're like me, you probably spend a lot of time in the restroom at work, sitting in the toilet stall, quietly sobbing to yourself and writing blood-soaked messages on the tiled wall pleading for Satan to deliver you from the inanity of your moronic coworkers. But this brings to mind a few questions: Is it really proper to write in blood on a bathroom wall, or would the standard sharpie pen or clumsy knife etching be more appropriate? Is it considered impolite to take three-hour naps in the one-and-only toilet stall in the building, forcing your coworkers to empty their bowels in a sink or trashcan, or worse yet, run across the street to use Taco Bell's facilities? The sad fact is, a lot of people don't know how to properly behave in a public restroom. Sure, it's one thing when you're in the privacy of your home and you can urinate in the shower or take a shit in your roommate's clothing hamper all you like, but when you're in public, there are certain expectations on how you should act.

Fortunately for you, I've been carefully observing other people's bathroom behavior for years, and I believe I've compiled a comprehensive understanding of what is and is not acceptable. Unfortunately for the ladies, my observations are solely based on behavior in the men's room. I don't know what the hell you crazy broads get up to in your bathroom, but I can assure you I know all about the comfortable couches and the magazines. So I figure you can just substitute everything I say about the urinal for "fancy frou-frou bidet" or "spinning vagina pleasure brush" or whatever it is you have in there. The rest of it probably still applies. Much of this article centers around the workplace, where we are forced to spend most of our time getting to know and hate our coworkers, but this also goes for restroom usage at shops, restaurants, and other public (I almost wrote "pubic", hee hee!) places as well. And remember, these aren't hard-and-fast rules so much as guidelines meant to increase your comfort in the restroom and help you develop an understanding of basic bathroom sociology.

The Urinal

Next to the sink, the urinal is the most common place for uncomfortable social interaction in the restroom. Depending on the size of the restroom, you could have anywhere from one to twenty urinals to choose from, and choosing the right urinal is important, because if you choose poorly you'll end up looking totally gay. Never, ever use a urinal next to one that someone else is using (unless all the others are in use, and even then it's a bit iffy), because that sends off a very clear signal to that person, and that signal is that you would very much like to fuck them.

Sometimes people will try to make small talk while you're both using the urinals, which can be very uncomfortable. The important thing to remember is that some small talk is acceptable, as long as you ABSOLUTELY DO NOT make eye contact with them. Making eye contact while using the urinals is yet another signal that you're quite interested in getting to know them biblically, and that's probably not a signal you want to send. Not looking at their junk also goes without saying.

Another important thing to remember is to make sure you shake "it" after using the urinal. I can't tell you the number of times I've seen a small puddle on the floor in front of the urinal, because people can't seem to remember the simple act of shaking. The proper way to do this of course is to tightly squeeze "it" between your thumb and forefinger while gyrating your hips around in a circular motion, as if you were using a hoola-hoop. If anyone gives you a funny look while you're doing this, it's because they're obviously one of the assholes who creates those puddles in the first place.

NOTE: If you happen to be totally gay, then feel free to ignore all of this. In fact, it'd probably be fun to go out of your way to make the other people as uncomfortable as possible.

The Stall

The toilet stall provides some comfort by affording you a degree of anonymity that the urinal does not, but it's when you're sitting with your pants around your ankles that you're also at your most vulnerable. Make sure that when you hear someone else enter the restroom, you cough, grunt, or make some other kind of obvious noise to signal your presence. This will ensure that you'll avoid the possibly embarrassing situation of another person merely thinking an unoccupied stall door is jammed and kicking your door down to see you going about your business. Of course, if it turns out that person is only in the bathroom to rape anybody they find in the stalls, then coughing is actually a bad move.

Contrary to what medical "science" will tell you, you actually can get AIDS from a toilet seat, but only if the prior occupant hasn't gotten up and left before you sit down. Still, "they" say that toilet seats are often cleaner than your cubical desk, though I've still yet to see a coworker actually eat their lunch off a toilet (while I've seen many eat at their desks). The people who say that also have never worked with any of my coworkers, who evidently take great delight in leaving piss, turds, or even a dead baby smeared all over the seat. If you're going to get "messy" while you take care of business, at least have the courtesy to clean up after yourself. I know it can be embarrassing when there's only one plunger available and it happens to be in the bathroom on the other end of the building (or even the supply closet for some unknowable reason) and you have to make a mad dash back to the bathroom holding a plunger up like you're practicing for some weird low-budget Olympic event where they can only afford a plunger instead of a torch, but your coworkers will appreciate your sacrifice, after they're done laughing at you.

Many people can't actually poop if there are other people around to hear them, so it's fairly commonplace to sit and wait until the other person in the bathroom leaves. Sometimes however, you'll encounter someone who won't leave, for whatever reason, and god only knows what they're doing out there, just standing and not making any noise, and they're not even anywhere near the sink anymore and it's almost as if they're standing there specifically waiting for you to make some kind of embarrassing noise. Worse yet is when you have two people in the stalls who can't go if someone else is around to hear them. This situation turns into a contest of wills that can go on to uncomfortable extremes, until one person finally stops caring, at which point they'll inevitably make the loudest, most embarrassing noises that are humanly possible. Though I have not actually heard of this happening, it's entirely possible that people have ruptured their bowels and/or died during one of these Mexican standoffs (especially if actually relating to Mexican cuisine).

One situation where you will want (in fact, you are almost obligated) to make as much noise as possible is when someone walks into the restroom talking on their cell phone (especially if it's one of those annoying "Borg" earpieces). No one wants to imagine that the person on the other end of their phone is peeing or pinching a loaf while they're conversing, so you're pretty much honor bound to let the person on the other end know about how inconsiderate their conversation partner is being. If you can't make loud, obnoxious noises au natural, then fake farting with your hand pressed to your mouth is acceptable along with several flushes of the ol' porcelain god.

It is considered courteous to flush in the middle of your business if it's smelly enough to trigger a Vietnam flashback (particularly if you've never been to the 'Nam). However, the "convenience" of many modern self-flushing toilets often makes this impossible, or at least difficult, for in the best case scenario you often have to contort yourself into an extremely uncomfortable position to reach the annoyingly tiny little manual flush button, if you can even find it.

Some people also find public restrooms to be appropriate places to change their clothes. This can make for some very awkward situations, particularly when they opt not to use a stall, or when they stop and ask you for some help. If someone asks you to do this, it's perfectly acceptable to a) spray them with the fire extinguisher or b) spray them with your own urine. Also, some people like to have sex in public restrooms. This is usually (mercifully) done in the stalls. While you or I may not understand why some people feel turned on by the idea of making love amid other people's stink, it obviously gets some people's engines running. The best way to respond to this is to ignore them and simply go about your business as usual, but try to do it as loudly as possible to completely ruin the mood.

The Sink

The sink is without a doubt the most social spot in the restroom, where you're probably going to get roped into some kind of awkward interaction whether you like it or not. In the work restroom it is one of the most common places for meaningless small talk with coworkers, although in other public places it is still considered creepy to talk to a total stranger here unless you're going to make a brief comment about a) the state of the sink area itself, b) the mess you found in one of the stalls but assuredly did not create yourself, or c) the weather. Much like at the urinal, direct eye contact here is frowned upon, though it is considered socially acceptable to make brief eye contact with the other person's reflection only.

Many people skip the hand washing stage altogether. This is not good, as you will be labeled completely gross for doing so. Some people wash their hands, but they'll skip the drying stage, opting to either drip their way back to their desk, or they'll stand in the center of the room and spastically shake their hands as if they are covered with bugs. Many restrooms these days have automatic paper towel dispensers, which can be annoying when they jam up, and can also make you feel rather stupid for waving hello to a machine. It is also important to remember when throwing away your paper towel to actually aim in the general vicinity of the trash can, and if you do miss, please have the decency to pick up after yourself. All too often, a public restroom trashcan will have a collection of wet paper towels surrounding it, and those paper towels may as well be banana peels, because one false step onto them could land your ass on the floor.

One apparently popular sink activity is to leave a gigantic puddle of water in front of the actual sink basin itself, so that when people lean forward to wash their hands, they'll get the front of their shirt or pants completely drenched, so they have to walk back to their desk looking like they've totally pissed themselves. You can avoid that embarrassment by rapidly rubbing down your crotch with a paper towel, creating enough friction to warm (and thus dry) your pants quickly. However, if someone happens to walk in and catch you doing this, they'll either think that a) you've totally just pissed yourself or b) you're engaged in some bizarre form of masturbation. And that can be even more embarrassing than walking back to your desk with a wet crotch. One strategy to avoid coworkers noticing your wet crotch as you walk back to your desk is to cover your crotch with a strategically placed sheet of paper (just make it look natural), or to draw attention away from your crotch by pointing at the ceiling while looking puzzled or surprised.

Some people will take their cup of coffee into the bathroom with them and leave it resting on the sink (or worse yet, the top of the urinal) while they handle their business. This is a foolish thing to do, as anyone with a lick of common sense knows that as soon as you take any food (even chewing gum) into the bathroom, it is irrevocably contaminated, and you may as well just pour some mercury into your coffee too if you're still going to drink it at that point. One way you can teach those people a lesson is to make sure you move your drippy wet hands directly over their coffee as you move them from sink to paper towel. Urinating into their coffee may be tempting, but it's hard to urinate at the sink without being noticed, and coffee has a tendency to be quite hot. And believe me, you don't want your naughty bits decorated in third-degree burns.

That pretty much sums up the lesson. I've taught you everything I know about restroom etiquette. Hopefully now you'll be better prepared to deal with the inevitably awkward social encounters you'll be forced into, and you'll know what to do the next time you find someone squatting naked over the sink and pouring soap all over their nipples. Did I remember to cover that point? Anyway, from now on you should be able to do it loud, do it proud, and walk into that restroom with confidence!


If you enjoyed this piece, be sure to check out:


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