Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Potty talk

Alright so I had a post idea in my head today that was of a slightly serious nature. It is a subject that I am eager to discuss and share even though it is something I feel I should be guarded about still. As I was weighing whether or not to actually blog about this I realized I had a much more urgent thing to blog on; public restroom behavior.

Yes I really just wrote that. I am going to blog about the potty. You have been warned.

I work in an office and have for most of the last decade. I also went to public school and in general spend a good amount of time out in the world where public restrooms are a necessity. I was never one of those people that had phobias or issues with public restrooms. Actually if you ask my mom she will tell you that when I was little I would insist on going and checking out the restroom any time we went out to eat.

I have noted though, that there are a number of people who act very strangely when faced with being in a public restroom. I mean some behavior is seriously weird and some is just a little quirky, but honestly it is something that sort of sticks with you. I am not actively trying to pay attention to what other people are doing, but sometimes you can't help but notice it.

There are the normal odd things you see. There is the talker. This person will talk on their phone, they will talk to their friend who walked in with them, they will talk randomly to the stranger in the stall next to them, and they will talk through the entire experience. It isn't unusual to talk to someone when you are in the sink area but once you are in the stall there should be no further discussion.

There is the flusher. These women will repeatedly flush the toilet to cover up any sounds that are coming out of the stall. Its not like we don't know what the flush is covering up. Also very bad for water conservation.

There is the nervous giggler/hummer. If you have never experienced this person you are lucky. They seem to get nervous at the awkwardness of a public restroom and will hum to themselves or even giggle for no apparent reason. Trust me it is disconcerting to hear laughter coming out of the stall next to you. 

There are the people who will touch nothing. The flush with their foot, they use paper towel to open every door and turn on the sink. The use toilet seat covers or perfect the art of hovering. Might I just add that it is normally the act of hovering that causes issues for the rest of us.

Then there are people who are just weird. You come across people doing things that are just outside the realm of even just odd. When I leave the restroom asking what just happened then there are issues.

Take today for example. I was heading to the restroom just before lunch, and as I walked in another woman was entering right on my heels. I held the door for her, she smiled and thanked me. It was all fairly cordial and normal. I went into the stall to do my thing and she...well she just stood there.

There were plenty of empty stalls, she could have chosen any of them. If she was one of those people who like to have at least one empty stall between them and another person she had the space. Still she was just sort of milling about outside the stalls. She wasn't close to the sinks or the mirrors. She was just there.

As soon as I exited my stall she swooped into one of the other stalls. Of course now my interest is piqued and as I go about washing my hands I can't help but to pay attention to what she is doing. Well she wasn't doing anything. She was just standing there waiting for me to leave. It was all very strange.

A few weeks ago I ran across another woman with strange habits. I was sitting there when a woman entered the stall next to mine. The first thing she did was flush the toilet with her foot. I only know this because I could see her foot under the wall, but also she lost her balance and nearly fell down. All the shaking as she hit the wall caught my attention.

This in itself wasn't really strange. Lots of women flush with their foot rather than touch the handle. I think it is odd but it isn't unusual. Also I have known a lot of women to flush before use. Sometimes there is something lingering. I am not sure really what difference it makes, but it matters. I admit I always flush if there is anything left over from the previous occupant. So far the only notable thing really was her falling into the wall.

Then I can hear her pulling out toilet paper and wiping off the seat. Again not really weird. She wipes it down and again flushes with her foot. Then she does it again. In fact she repeats this process five times in total. Fresh toilet paper, wipe, flush with foot. Five times.

Ok so now I am actually paying attention. Totally weird on my behalf, but you know I am a captive audience. I hear her wrestling with the toilet seat covers and finally gets around to the job at hand. I politely ignore her as best I can. I mean her pre-potty ritual was weird but no one wants to listen in on the actual pottying*.

Afterwards there is the flushing with the foot again and then the seat wiping ritual again. Yes another five times. After that I am fairly sure she pulled out toilet paper to open the stall door and go to wash her hands. I should note that she actually washed her hands when she came into the bathroom in the first place. She obviously had germ issues.

I could hear her wash her hands, wipe down the sink, dry her hands and then the awkward moment at the door where she uses a paper towel to open the door but then has to prop the door open with her foot while she leans back in to throw the paper towel away.

I mentioned this to a friend who is also a coworker and she said she had experienced the same thing on a few occasions. We are guessing it is all some sort of OCD ritual. Still it is the strangest thing I have come across in a public restroom.

I am sure in some ways it is awkward or wrong to be talking about this. I am sure I have just broken all sorts of unspoken rules. I don't really care. I mean we all experience this sort of thing, some of us more often than others. It can be weird and certainly noteworthy.

*Ok so I totally get that there are people who do, but I am SO NOT ONE OF THEM!!!


  1. I have totally given up on trying to understand OCD rituals, I promise you, it will drive you equally crazy just trying to understand. With that being said, I just can't wait to hear what the next blog is about, :)

  2. funny as all get out... mainly because it's so true ... some weird things go on in the 'porcelain room' .... kind of makes you wonder if they are that strange at home...