A blog experiment by Brad Mills.


Bathroom etiquette

I work in a building with several floors. On each floor there are two bathrooms, one for men and one for women. Pretty typical setup. The men's room has four urinals, two stalls, and three sinks — along with the usual various hygiene products. I can't vouch for the women's room, but functionally, I'm pretty sure it's similar. Except I think they have a couch.

A certain etiquette comes into play in a shared workplace restroom. Like most etiquette, it's an emergent phenomenon. There's no master list of rules, no paperwork to sign or anything like that. There are just some things you do, and some things you don't.

And some people just don't follow the rules.

There's one guy in particular who comes to mind there. He comes in and gives a hearty hello to whoever is in there, regardless of what they're doing. His favorite entrance line is, "Hey, what's going on in here?" What are you supposed to say to that? Oh, nothing, just peeing. At least he doesn't ask how it's hanging.

Next, he steps up to a urinal and immediately starts flushing. At this point he hasn't even done anything requiring a flush, but he does it anyway. Then the whole time he's standing there, he flushes the thing every once in awhile. For those of you who aren't aware of how this normally works, one flush of the urinal is plenty. Engineers have studied this very carefully, and they've calculated the perfect amount of water to get the job done. There's no need to try to outthink them. It's science, man.

Awhile back the urinals were all out of commission, and everybody had to use the regular toilets. A whole different protocol emerged. The main premise seemed to be optional flushing — a blatant rules violation. So, I hung a few signs up in the bathroom to remind the violators how things were supposed to work. That took care of it for the most part, though a few people added their own commentary to the signs, mostly along the lines of the urinals needing to be brought back into service.

When they were, all the handles had been replaced with automatic flushing gizmos, thus ensuring a perfectly engineered single flush every single time. Just one problem: Each one has a button to allow manual flushing. So the frequent flusher still does.

Maybe I should hang up more signs.

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