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The Workplace Survival Guide: Restroom Etiquette

Mark Marianelli

This is a touchy subject, but one that demands formal statute because for far too long, people have been violating certain unspoken rules due to lack of proper documentation.


It's just a fact of life, everybody poops. Because of this, offices are required to provide a space for this event to take place. It's called a restroom. While it is one of those luxuries most take for granted, it can very quickly turn into a daily inconvenience. Most restrooms accommodate around 4 - 6 people at a time, which sounds rather nice until you do the math and realize that 4-6 does nothing when you have an office building with over 200 people. The obvious (and very false) assumption is that people go at different times throughout the day. In actuality, people generally go right before and right after lunch time. It's inevitable that when you walk into the bathroom after lunch, somebody has beat you to the punch. For men, urinals are convenient for this type of situation because they encourage speed. Stalls on the other hand do not. If your office building has one bathroom per floor with 2 stalls each, that is not very accommodating for a building full of men who all just got back from a hefty lunch.

Men do not wait in a line for stalls. So if you're a man, you are left with one option when those stalls are occupied - Walk back to your cubicle with your head held high and your butt cheeks clenched, because you're going to be waiting a minimum of 10 minutes for that stall to free up, and this is assuming that when you return to the bathroom that stall won't have been taken by somebody else.

Because men cannot wait, and will most likely lose the race a second time around for that coveted stall, it is MANDATORY that you vocally express your frustration to the stall's current resident to make it clear that they are inconveniencing you. The most work-friendly and passive-aggressive way to do this without getting a call from HR is to make the opening sound of a curse word as your exiting the bathroom. It is important that this is accomplished as you are leaving so that the stall's occupant does not have any time to react and figure out who you are. It is also important that you only make the first sound of the curse word so as not to give away your voice for easy identification… And because cursing is naughty.

BE WARNED - If there is somebody standing in the bathroom who can identify you, consider this one a loss and retreat silently.


I title this section "vocalization" because there are a number of things involving one's voice which are in direct opposition to what I feel is proper restroom professionalism. Let's go down the list, shall we?

 Grunting - Here's what I'll say: If you're not allowed to do it at Planet Fitness, then you shouldn't be allowed to do it in a bathroom. We all know what goes on in a bathroom. When I notice somebody is in a stall, I know what's going on in there. Being the creative type, it is with the utmost willpower that I train my mind NOT to visualize what is happening in there. While I understand some sounds cannot be avoided, there are other sounds which absolutely CAN be avoided and SHOULD be avoided at all costs. Besides, if you're having to grunt that intensely, you should be at a doctor's office, not a corporate office.

Talking - If it were up to me, I would never say a word to ANYBODY in the bathroom. Not a friend, not a boss and certainly not a stranger... But I understand that this is unavoidable. Some people think of the urinals like Cheers, where everybody knows your name, and I'll let this slide under the pretense that using a urinal next to a coworker is akin to passing them in the hallway - it's going to be awkward no matter what, so have at it. However, there are two things which you should never speak to while in the bathroom: Your phone and yourself. Not only is it uncomfortable to be in a stall next to someone having a full on conversation on their iPhone, but it now puts you in a position where you feel as though YOU need to be quiet as well, which means you're probably holding something in for the sake of sparing the poor soul on the other end of your neighbor's phone line.

Also, does the person you're talking to on the phone know what you're doing? This goes back to visualization; don't put that in your friend's head. That's wrong. As for talking to yourself - This isn't even acceptable OUTSIDE of a bathroom. Don't do that.

Brushing your Teeth

This is a bit of a controversial opinion, but it needs to be discussed and solidified in the restroom rule books right underneath "always wash your hands". Don't brush your teeth in the restroom. To me this is no different than using your cell phone, it's just awkward. Look at it this way, there are people who become incredibly self-conscious when sitting in a stall. The only relief they have when you're in the bathroom listening to them is that unless you're performing the same embarrassing function as they are, you're not going to be in the bathroom for very long. When you decide to spend the next 5 minutes brushing your teeth, you ruin that whole bubble of safety. You're literally standing there with nothing else to do except listen to the sounds of "nature". Nobody wants a stranger to listen to them go potty. Respect your fellow man's wishes and put the toothbrush away. And let's not forget that you're occupying sink space, people need to wash their hands, get lost.

The only reason you're brushing your teeth in the first place is because you chose to eat an Onion Sandwich with french-onion dip and a side of onion rings. If you're intentionally bringing your toothbrush to work, it means you've already preconceived the idea of eating something smelly. Do us all a favor and eat your onions at home. Would it kill you to say, "hold the onions" once in a while? And on top of that, do you really need to eat RAW RED ONIONS? I don't care HOW much you brush your teeth, that smell isn't coming off of your fingers or anything else you're wearing. Just buy a pack of gum if you're so concerned.

Cleaning Ladies

The cleaning crew. There is not a worse feeling on this planet than seeing that large plastic yellow sign forbidding you entrance to the one place that can relieve that awful feeling in your stomach after that 2 hour meeting that was scheduled directly after lunch time. Every office should have both a Female janitor and a Male janitor. Otherwise you run into this issue:

You just sat down in the stall. It's going to be a doozy and you know it. A moment later, you hear a knock on the door. It's the janitor, and she has decided that NOW is the time to clean this bathroom up. You yell out, "Occupied!". She says, "Okay, take your time." and you think all is well. About 10 minutes later, you exit the bathroom to find something horrible… The cleaning lady has been waiting outside the bathroom this whole time for you to leave. You realize as she's about the enter the bathroom that you left no time to air out the situation, and she's seen your face. She'll always know what you did. When you pass her in the hall, you'll always wonder why she smiled at you… Was it a pleasantry? Or was it something much, MUCH worse…

You know how you solve this problem? GET A MALE JANITOR. No more waiting for the bathroom to be clear, no more awkward moments, no more embarrassment. He's a guy, you're a guy, all is good in the hood.

I'm realizing how one-sided all of this is to the benefit of males. Sorry, ladies. Honestly I have not one word of advice to give… Not that you'd want to listen to me give you advice on how you use the public restrooms at work. As far as I know, the Ladies Room leads to Narnia and everybody does their business in the woods. Not sure why you need to take care of that in Narnia though…

I'm sure Mr. Tumnus doesn't appreciate it.
~ M.

Keep in mind, this is all strictly satirical - If you're actually taking workplace advice from a guy that makes video games about 'Rock Paper Scissors', then you probably shouldn't be working in an environment where your actions impact an actual business. Okay? Good? Let's all laugh and make the most of our daily grind together.