Sorry, It’s Occupied

There are many things that can be said about working in an office. For better or for worse, you are forced to interact with people on a daily basis that you probably wouldn’t choose to hang out with on the weekends.

But at the end of the day, you smile and nod because you know that unlike family, at least you’re getting paid to interact with these people. What you’re not getting paid to do is become knowledgeable about their bathroom habits, but  that comes with the territory.

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My office is small in that we only have about 20 people who work there, with nine women on my end. There is a bathroom for each sex located towards the front of the office, and each bathroom has two stalls. Every time someone goes into the bathroom, you can hear the door open and shut and the light and fan go on simultaneously.

This is an important detail to my story.

You see, there are certain unwritten rules, at least with the women’s bathroom. Despite the fact that there are two stalls, every woman who uses the bathroom goes in and locks the main door. (And for some reason, I also lock the stall door when I go.)

Anyway, if I walk by the bathroom and light is shining under the door, I know that the door will be locked and that someone is in there. No one ever goes and leaves the light on when they leave, because that would signal to the outside world that someone was still in there. That results in someone (me) pretending to walk somewhere else and do a lap around the office just to keep an eye on the door.

When new people come in, they must be initiated to this process.

As I mentioned above, if the light is on, one does not proceed. However, if the light is on for an inordinate amount of time, suspicions arise and one (me) must investigate. Reaching for the bathroom door and finding it unlocked when the light is already on makes me suspicious, and when I enter and find no one in the tiny bathroom, I continue to look around as if they’re hiding in the cabinet under the sink.

It’s just not natural, and I think in the four and a half years that I’ve worked there I’ve only been in the bathroom with another person once or twice. I also believe that was during a tornado warning.

At any rate, with that unwritten rule established, I feel compelled to add in a few more of my own, as I’m sure there are a some things that apply to all office bathrooms in some way.

  • Despite the fact that there are only nine women in the office, it seems that whenever I head for the bathroom, someone else will be headed there at the same time. This results in the “No, you go ahead” back-and-forth that is both tedious and awkward. You want to go, but you don’t want to be rushed. You want to be polite, but you’ve gotta go.
  • Related to that, I hate being the “next” person to use the bathroom after someone has completely disrespected the toilet and any olfactory senses. The air freshener really does nothing but make it smell like shitty “Country Meadows,” and when I come out (after holding my breath and quickly doing my thing) to find someone else waiting, I always want to point out that it wasn’t me. I don’t do this, but I want to.
  • Finally, although the general level of cleanliness is far greater than that found at the gym, there are still times I wonder if someone completely emptied a hairbrush or decided to give themselves a sponge bath in the sink. Plus, it’s kind of amazing how people will go to great lengths to NOT replace the toilet paper, hand soap or paper towel, leaving one small square or drop for the next person to handle.

I suppose if I left the door unlocked, I could catch them in the act. However, I’m not willing to break that rule.

Sorry, it’s occupied.

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20 responses to “Sorry, It’s Occupied

  1. I don’t get the locking the main door bit if there are two stalls. Seems like long ago some rude person with a bathroom OCD started that habit and everyone just figured that was the rule from then on…. that person may not even be there anymore.

  2. I agree with every point.

    I would also like to add (my office bathroom has two stalls and a shared double sink):

    When two people are in the bathroom and exit the toilet stalls at exactly the same time and head to the double sink to wash their hands, conversation is best avoided. I don’t want to discuss the weather, or how cold the bathroom is or even say hi, because I just heard you pee OR WORSE. It’s really, really awkward, people.

  3. I don’t get locking the outer door either, and it would seem a good idea to leave the fan running after leaving a stink bomb. Everybody poops. But it is awkward to have to look people in the eye after doing so.

  4. I agree on all points. This whole locking the outer door if there are two stalls makes no sense. What are these people doing in there that they have to take over the entire bathroom. You can’t use two stalls at the same time. And, if they can, then that’s a pretty good trick. If I were you, I’d start charging admission.

    • I’m actually one of those people that locks the stall door anyway. I don’t know why, but I think it’s habit and the fact that if I don’t, the damn door swings back and crowds me in the stall. We’re all lockers of the main door…

  5. We have six stalls and if anyone ever locked the front door, I would have to break it down with a wooden clog (because I wear those) out of pure survival impulse (I use the can like once an hour; they should really start charging me rent). I have to say, though, that I think I’d really enjoy having the whole place to myself. Bathroom conversations are awkward. As a general rule, nobody should talk to me about work while I’m not wearing pants.

    • But you also have a large office with many, many women. We’re small. I’m also in there once an hour, but since there’s only a handful of us, so one bathroom is usually enough.

  6. Ha! I’m laughing about wanting to clarify that YOU were not responsible for the stench in the bathroom! I am always tempted to do the same thing–and several times I’ve found myself warning the next person, “Careful, something died in there. It wasn’t me, I swear!” It’s such an awkward thing.

  7. I’ve actually mapped out which times are best/worst to go in our bathroom. I know who to avoid it after and if I can, I hold it til I can go home. Doesn’t usually work because I have the bladder of a small child.

  8. I don’t quite get why both doors have to be locked. Sharing toilets with virtual strangers is never a good experience. The post reminded me of that.

  9. Melanie The Spork Lover

    I work in a large office with a 6 stall bathroom. I have a problem with women who don’t courtesy flush. I realize everyone has to do *that* at work sometimes, but have some respect. We don’t even have the option of locking the outside door and getting the bathroom to ourselves. I also don’t like what I call the “potty buddy.” I’m sorry, but if I’m in the last stall, and you are the only other person in the restroom, why do you come in and take the stall directly next to me? Do you want to hold my hand? No! I can not pee with someone in the stall directly next to me. If I go in and it’s so full up I can’t have a “spacer” stall, I come back later.

    • I have no problem peeing with other people in a big bathroom with me, but seeing as it’s small, it’s just weird. I never would lock the big door if everyone else hadn’t initiated me to the process when I got there. I don’t remember how it starte, but I just kind of went with it…no pun intended ;)

  10. Why don’t people replace the toilet paper? I’ve often wondered that as well. It’s simple to do and makes life so much more pleasant, yes, but by NOT replacing it one is being irrationally selfish. It’s like not smiling, it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile.

  11. We have a similar set up (10ish women, small bathroom with two stalls). We never lock the outer door (actually, idk if it even has a lock). But i know EXACTLY what you mean about the smell thing — when someone stinks it up and leaves and someone else walks in I wanna be like I DID NOT DO IT! NOT ME!

  12. More women could be peeing at the same time if the door was unlocked. I can see the men wanting this system as their urination situation is much less private, but women have to go to the bathroom WAY more. But then tradition would be broken and if tradition isn’t upheld in office restrooms I don’t know what kind of hope the rest of us have.

  13. EEk, I’m eating dinner right now and somehow my lovely chicken stew suddenly stinks like poop. I think every office should have double the female bathroom than male ones, because for some reason, females go to the bathroom more and spend so much more time in there.

    Btw, I live by myself, and I still have trouble replacing the toilet paper.

  14. The only porblem I have is talking in the toilet. Do not speak to me AT ALL when I am in that place. Regardless of function, the potty is the demilitarized zone of social activity. Dudes will come in there are chatter on like teenaged girls. Shut up. I’m not ok or fine or interested, I’ve gotta do my business- SHUT UP AND GET AWAY FROM ME.

  15. It’s interesting that you and your workmates peeing is synchronized. Perhaps someone initially locked the door to break the cycle of synchronicity. As for the poo smell, light a match. This is way better than room freshener.

  16. Visiting from BPOTW.
    This story cracked me up. Seems like HR departments should provide a class during orientation for restroom etiquette. :)
    Just saying, if you are interested in a similar story from the other perspective, see “close call” at kippsversion.blogspot.com.

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