For all of the flaws of corporate America (e.g. the use of sweat-shop labour, pollution, the depletion of natural resources, etc.) the design of the toilet stalls is the worst sin of them all. Instead of a door that reaches from floor to ceiling and a lock that clicks to ‘occupied’, you get a door that extends only from mid-shins to above head height. The logic goes that you know the toilet stall is occupied because you can see shoes under the door frame. Surely a locked door would give you the same information without having to watch for the convulsing shoes of your low-fibre peers’ battle with constipation?
Nothing can be less conducive to a nice relaxing poo than being surrounded by other people having a nice relaxing poo. Worse still, an office ID card attached to your belt loop can be seen from another cubicle as you drop your pants, identifying you to all who pass matter next door.
This happened recently: his badge was staring up at me from the trousers by his ankles. How can I possibly poo when your picture is smiling at me as you poo next door?
A bowel movement in a public bathroom is not without its behavioral quirks. Firstly, many of us will have developed the small cough or throat clearing as someone enters the room, such that they are aware not to push on your stall door. It is unnerving when the lock rattles from a would-be intruder’s push. I practically shit myself. A second quirk is to wait for the flushes of others before straining with full force. If you can empty as much of yourself in those few seconds then no one need hear your windy noises. Of course, there always a slight risk of firing out a kidney or spleen under such intense contraction.
There are two tricks to the office poo; the first is timing. Generally speaking, the later in the day you leave it, the worse the state the toilets are in. If you choose to lay a cable at 5pm you’ll leave the toilets less clean than when you entered. Urine on the toilet seat is a later-day hazard so try and learn the schedule of the toilet cleaners; your dry-cleaners will thank you. The second trick is location, location, location. Toilets on higher floors are usually cleaner, no matter what the company (except maybe a mineshaft). Head to the floors with the lowest worker occupancy, avoiding anything near a foyer, seminar room or staff canteen, perish the thought. Once in the toilets opt for the privacy of the disabled cubicle at the far end of the room.
I have yet to figure out how to use paper toilet seat covers or why I would want to. I cannot imagine how Neolithic man survived without toilet-seat covers, which are clearly a marker of a truly civilized society. A truly civilized society that is capable of making origami animals with its buttocks.
Take great care with collars and shirttails. Your colleagues won’t soon forget when you spent an afternoon with poo-sleeves and no amount of scrubbing or sleeve-rolling can hide that unmistakable smell of your career going down the toilet.
Men’s toilets pose the additional hazard of the urinal, which are awash with more than social convention. In urinals as in life, most men are aimless. Urinal etiquette dictates that a man maximises the distance between his urinal and any other man, buffered by a free bowl whenever possible. Conversation should be kept to a minimum and eyes should stare at the horizon or straight down; lateral head movements are not allowed.
Following suit from the office poo, an earlier wee is always better; the problem is the errant squirt, which may adorn the wall, floor and occasional shoe. As the day wears on and the floor becomes more sprinkled, the next user chooses to stand further away from the bowl, increasing the probability of a wayward jet. The cycle continues until everyone is forced to stand so far from the bowl that as much goes in as misses, in which case the whole toilet affair breaks down into a urinary sprinkler system.
Still, as bad as a large toilet is, with plopping sounds filling your ears and nose from every point on the compass, the small office toilet can be far nastier. In an office with few people there maybe only one toilet for everyone. What crueller fate can there be than when a colleague of the fairer sex needs to spend a penny straight after you have splattered the bowl with a toxic slick of semi-digested curried guano?
I know what you’re thinking. Perhaps I should change my diet.