Thursday, October 27, 2011

My (Mildly) Roaring 20s: Corporate Bathroom Etiquette

There are a lot of tricky things to navigate in the corporate world, but a lot of it seems to be unspoken common knowledge. Like never being that person who takes the last cup of coffee in the morning and who doesn't make a new pot. But when it comes to corporate bathroom etiquette, it seems that anything goes.

In my mind, bathroom time equals private time — there's really no need for anyone else to know what's going on in your stall. Of course, everyone knows what's going on in your stall because everyone goes to the bathroom, so it's mind-boggling to me when some people act like they don't know. In my experience, I've known these people to come in two types: the conversationalists and the lingerers.

The conversationalist is the person who happens to be headed to the bathroom at the same time you are and who strikes up a friendly conversation. If the conversation ended as you entered the bathroom, it wouldn't be so bad, but the conversationalist will likely keep it going even after you've both entered your respective stalls. And then will keep it going... as she flushes she washes her hands ... as she fixes her hair ... as she waits for you to come out so you can walk out together. Why does the conversationalist do this? It's awkward, and I wish the conversationalists would stop.

The lingerers like to linger, and lingering in the bathroom is no different. Now, there's a time for lingering — like over dessert or the sweet words of a lover — and there's not a time for lingering. Like in the bathroom. If lingering in corporate bathrooms was encouraged, I would expect there to be plush couches (like the ones Nordstrom has in their bathrooms), but these are always nowhere to be found. Lingerers, true to their name, pull out all the stops. I once worked with a bathroom lingerer who had an entire 10-minute process she'd go through of flossing, brushing her teeth, and gargling with Listerine for a full two minutes. In these situations, the silence is deafening and distracting, and you almost wish you had a conversationist in the room.

Sometimes though, neither the conversationalist nor the lingerer is to blame for awkward corporate bathroom experiences. Sometimes it's the fault of those who constructed the bathroom. In my current office, one of the bathroom stalls has gaps between the walls that are so wide, I once looked through it while in the stall and made eye contact with someone else waiting on the other side. Eye contact. Think about that for a second.

I used to think it was just me who had these issues, until I told a friend who said that she can't go to the bathroom at all if there's even one other person in the room. If she really has to go, she'll go to a Starbucks because all of their bathrooms are the same and single stall.

I know everyone's different, and I definitely know some people who have no problems whatsoever using multi-stall corporate bathrooms (although these people are usually conversationalist). Once I saw a woman so comfortable with the bathroom that she actually placed her bagel and cream cheese (albeit on a paper plate) on the stall floor in front of her. I guess that's true corporate bathroom liberation, but I haven't gotten there yet.

What about you? Do you have issues using bathrooms at work or are you a conversationalist or lingerer?

(Top image from Lonny; second image source unknown)


Briel79 said...

LOL I love this entry! I am neither a conversationalist nor a lingerer. I get in and out as quick as possible. There are four bathrooms here at work. One has three stalls, two have two stalls and one is a single. The ones with multiple stalls all have those annoying gaps that make it possible to look in. Why do they make them like that!? Who thinks that's a good idea? I try not to use the bathroom if there's already someone in there or if someone has just left (there are some nasty people up in here. lol) Luckily we have a lot to choose from. :)

As for that lady who put her plate on the floor while going...EWWWWW.

This also makes me think of all those teen movies and books where the new kid or outcast always goes to eat lunch in the bathroom. I never understood that! It seems so unsanitary!

Sobrina Tung said...

Hahah, that’s so funny. I’m glad to know it’s not just me! Also, I never understood that in books either!

Karin said...

This post about corporate bathroom etiquette is long overdue! Several experiences I've had in recent memory:

1) Someone in a phone meeting on her cell phone in the stall, which continued on after she flushed, washed her hands, etc.

2) A lingering cleaning lady. I guess she was done with her other duties and I was taking longer to come out of my stall than she expected, but when I looked up, I saw her with her body splayed against the wall next to my stall PEEKING IN at me. When I said "Excuse me???" She said "Oh, I just wanted to see if you needed more toilet paper in there." WTF doesn't even begin to describe it.

I think there needs to be more discussion in the public domain about this topic!

Sobrina Tung said...

Oh my GOODNESS! What an invasion of privacy! This just proves my point that anything goes in the crazy world of corporate bathrooms! haha

Kristina said...

You're funny! :D

Stacy said...

Bwahahahaha!!! This is hysterical. I laughed so loud my roommates came to read this post over my shoulder. I have to admit, I might be a conversationalist. Sometimes. I like to think that this is only the case when I know the person, but I just can't say for sure.

I also really hate it when I'm trying to go at the same time as a boss or manager. I freeze up and then get even more intimated by the lack of sound I'm generating. It's a lose-lose.

Siv Kouth said...

LOL....I laughed all the way to the last sentence. Too funny and true!

Lyndsay said...

Our work bathroom has 6 stalls. It drives me CRAZY when I'm in one of the stalls and somebody comes into the bathroom and uses the stall RIGHT next to me when all the others are open. Is there not an unspoken rule that you should try to maximize the space between people?

Sobrina Tung said...

Lyndsay, YES -- I totally agree that that's an unspoken rule! It would drive me crazy too!

Sashee said...

"Eye contact. Think about that for a second." Haha!

Great post!

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