The office bathroom at my last job was where I went to relieve myself. Not just from the seventy ounces of coffee I had per day, or the healthy lunch that I’d packed and eaten but already negated by getting myself a McGriddle on the way to work. It was where I got tiny, fleeting moments of relief from my job. From my miserable, nothing job — that I worked at solely because I needed to, you know, live — and an unhinged boss who regularly fired people on a whim and who I once watched make a grown man (and recovering addict) cry. Check that, weep. He wept.
Sometimes I’d go into the bathroom and just sit for a little while. If that wasn’t an option I’d stand at the urinal and read my cell phone. I just needed a few minutes of peace. The work was boring but the environment was insane. My work day was like being drugged to sleep and then electrocuted awake with a cattle prod. Over and over again. All day. The bathroom was where I’d go to regroup whatever was left of my sanity at any given moment.
Sometimes, though, even that relative oasis was disrupted. By one guy. Some man in his mid-50s who treated the building’s shared office bathroom like it was his home bathroom — in a home he lived in alone and never invited anyone else into.
I never did catch his name. I hadn’t heard him mention it while he was in the bathroom, talking on the phone and pooping, which was a thing he did with baffling regularity. To the point where it seemed like he portioned out parts of his day in his planner to do both, together. (3:00 p.m. – Call with Fred + BM.)
All I knew about him was that he usually wore sandals to work and had so little shame that it was a wonder he wasn’t just peeing in a bottle under his desk and taking dumps in his office’s break room trashcan.
I didn’t hate this guy, though. He didn’t ruin my little sanity/bathroom breaks. If anything he brought some much-needed levity to my day. He was a ridiculous man, after all. I enjoyed wondering who he could possibly be. More specifically, what could possibly be so important for some guy who wore sandals to work, at his office in a dumpy office building, that he needed to discuss it on the phone while taking a dump. (None of his calls ever sounded important, by the way. You better believe I was eavesdropping.)
He was not quiet while doing his (bodily) business, either. The only possible explanations for why he frequently took calls while on the toilet were that he was so good at whatever his job was that the people he was speaking to just had to deal with it, or that he had the quickest mute finger in Texas.
One day, though, this guy even caught me by surprise. Me, the person (other than his clients, I guess) most used to his bizarre bathroom habits. I walked into the office building’s bathroom for one of my ten daily breaks from hearing an adult woman and mother scream that the people who worked for her were “retards” — because they wrote an ad for a local air conditioning company that she found wanting — when I was greeted not with friendly chatter and farts, but rather a subtle brushing sound. And also farts. I was confused. Was he scratching his back?
Then, I heard a spit. Followed by a plop of water. Then more brushing. Farts still interspersed between. I recoiled in horror as the impossible truth hit me.
“My God,” I thought. “He’s brushing his teeth on the toilet seat. At work.”
Somehow, I didn’t vomit with enough force to launch myself through the ceiling. I just got out of there and went back to the office. I would’ve rather been berated like the least favorite pledge in an SEC fraternity than listen to this guy move his junk to the side so he could spit toothpaste between his thighs and into the toilet. On top of whatever else was in there. (I genuinely hate that visual more than the Taliban.) It’s the foulest thing I’ve ever witnessed in any bathroom, and I’ve been to Wrigley Field.
Office restrooms are graveyards for decency. These are the worst office bathroom etiquette rules to violate.
Talking to the Guy in the Stall Next to You
Unless you’re a spouse, a close friend, or family member, the only appropriate conversation topic to have with a person while they’re on the toilet is, “Hey the building is on fire you better hurry up.” This isn’t the water cooler. I didn’t post up for a conversation. A toilet paper request is okay too if you find yourself stranded with an empty toilet paper roll, but it better be prefaced with an apology.
“Hey, sorry to bother you, I swear I’m not the worst person on earth. I just need some toilet paper and don’t wanna have to wait for you to leave, then waddle over into your stall to get some.”
Brushing Your Teeth
Why would you bring something you put in your mouth into a public restroom? It’s an objective, scientific fact that when you do that, you’re putting everyone who’s ever used that bathroom in your mouth when you brush your teeth. And everyone they’ve ever had sex with. This is not good bathroom hygiene. You’re more likely to give your gums chlamydia than you are to prevent a cavity.
Taking Your Shoes Off
Yeah. I’ve seen it. Some lunatic dropping a deuce without shoes on in the next stall over. Letting his feet air out because the rotten smell of the Thai food he ate yesterday wasn’t enough. His stench could’ve been used to clear out a trench on the Western Front. The guy’s shoes and socks were sitting neatly next to his bare, hairy, wriggling feet. This guy gave me the same thought I have when I read about some kid being kidnapped. “Is there no more decency left in this world?!?”
If you have some sort of foot thing, I’m sympathetic. But you’ve got to let those air out in your car or something. Don’t pull the innocent into your nightmare. Really we need to do like Europe and make bathroom stall walls and stall doors go down to the floor, with no cracks. Out of sight, out of mind.
You are to workplace bathroom etiquette what Hitler is to human rights.
If I hear you eating something while you’re on the toilet I’m calling the police. You should be in jail. Removed from society. Even though this in itself is a gross breach of office bathroom etiquette, if I hear you unwrapping a candy bar I will pop over that stall wall, make direct and powerful eye contact with you, and shout “No!” at you like you’re a bad dog until you get out. Because if you do this you’re an animal.
Watching Videos on Your Phone with the Speakers On for Everyone to Hear
This is mostly rude, not gross, but it also makes me visualize what you’re watching, which puts my mental POV roughly at the level of “sitting on your lap.” I’m, uh, not into that.
Talking on Your Cell Phone
Probably unnecessary unless you’re the President of the United States or a small but dangerous town’s lone 9-1-1 operator.