I’ve started and stopped this article the way a 13 year-old boy, or anyone for that matter, dials (or texts?) a number in hopes of a first date. This is a difficult conversation that can no longer sit on the sidelines. I know you’re waiting for me to make the first move, but let’s break the ice with easier topics first:
- Remember when you were seven and your hamster suddenly stopped getting nowhere fast on his wheel? Your parents lied when they told you he went to a rodent resort and spa.
- On December 25, if a red-suited, overly-gregarious man enters your house via chimney, he is a drunk burglar. Give him the mace, not milk and cookies. It’s not a question of naughty or nice.
- Only our moms truly believe we’re special. Everyone else finds us average-to-moderately unannoying.
Now, onto the subject at hand. It’s as uncomfortable for me as it is for you, so let’s never have to revisit this topic. Wipe palms on jeans. Deep breath. And…
The office bathroom is not a phone booth, dentist office, speakeasy, or makeup counter at the mall. It’s probably the one place where we’re truly focused on getting down to business. Please burn the following to office etiquette memory:
Personal Calls in the Stalls
A couple weeks ago we discussed tricks and tips for keeping personal and family fodder from becoming cube farm fertilizer. I didn’t think I’d have to say this, but based on feedback it looks like some of us need a reminder to take your “friends and family plan” out of the potty. Kudos for giving a new meaning to multi-tasking but no one wants to hear how annoyed you are with your mother-in-law at mid wipe. You are going to drop your cell phone in the toilet. If you’re using a hands-free device I’m unsure if that makes you more bothersome, efficient or both.
A Courtesy Flush Shows You Care
Shun what you see in air freshener commercials. There’s not enough aerosol on the earth or in the ozone to make anyone believe they’ve walked into a “rain forest breeze” or “apple cinnamon orchard.” (A side note: those automated scent sprayers in some public bathrooms— well, they tend to startle the crap out of me). We applaud your healthy colon and we already know it’s you in there because we can see your shoes. A courtesy flush goes a long way in making the world and work a better place.
Don’t Dilly Dally
This is not a joke: part of the reason I went to work for myself wasn’t so I could be my own boss. It was so I could sit on my own throne. I like my oatmeal, Clif Bars and caffeine in the morning. Digest these together and you’ve got the ingredients for a perfect storm. Everyday at the office laid me at the feet of fate when nature came knocking.
“Dear all that is holy, please let me have the ladies room to myself.”
When you gotta go, you gotta go. Did you ever experience sweet relief only to have it hijacked seconds later by someone who decides to come in, brush their teeth, floss, gargle, re-apply eye shadow, clip their fingernails, write a novel, and do long division? You’ve given them the “clue in” courtesy flush (a form of courtesy flush to reassert your presence and need for privacy). Can they not hear your thighs burning from the squat and squeeze (hovering over the toilet while straining to halt proceedings)? God forbid the automatic scented sprayer goes off and you lose your concentration.
I used to work at a dot com where every morning around ten one of my co-workers would roll The Washington Post under her arm and make a bee-line for the bathroom. At first I found it disconcerting. I didn’t need to know what her immediate future entailed. Now I understand her genius. Just as the middle finger thrust up and into your face means “I feel displeasure towards you,” my co-worker’s display of interest in current events while picking up the pace to the potty said to our department, “Leave me in peace. I prefer to take this brief biological journey alone.”
The Soap is There For a Reason
I used to have a co-worker who obsessively monitored perpetrators of the flush and fly (failure or refusal to make an effort at hygiene). The offenders instantly became the Hester Prynne’s of the marketing department. The only thing spreading faster than the news about the non-handwashers were their germs. It made working lunches distracting. Instead of brainstorming we were watching to see what they touched on the cold cut spread from the deli downstairs.
So, wash your hands because your nosy cube neighbor is listening. And also because your co-workers have better things to do on their sick days besides be sick.
Here’s an easy way to remember this advice:
Upon finding yourself near ceramic thrones
It will serve you well to get off the phone
If the room goes quiet from a gagging hush
Be kind enough to courtesy flush
If you sense someone’s straining, keep your business brief
Leave the lavatory and allow them relief
Flushing and flying is not only gross
It’ll turn your career and reputation to toast
Let’s never speak of this again. Next week we’ll return to our regularly scheduled “Life Down on the Cube Farm.”
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