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.
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.