A primer on restroom etiquette

The Thinker by Rodin

Yep, I am still regularly browsing People of Wal-Mart. I keep hoping they will get a better class of clientele, but evidence on the site suggests just the opposite is true.

Lately there has been a trend to show pictures of Wal-Mart customers who apparently have not mastered the art of using toilets. Sometimes there is something like toilet paper hanging out of their shorts. More often someone just made a mess down there and it is leaking through their underwear (if they have any) for the whole world to see. Sometimes it seems like they are proud of themselves and are showing off.

My biggest Wal-Mart fear is being forced to use their restrooms. Perhaps they keep them nice and clean, but it doesn’t matter. I am still leery about sharing a restroom with any of their customers, even using one of those sanitary toilet covers, should I need a stall. However, there is plenty of evidence that Wal-Mart customers can be found in public restrooms near you. Maybe that’s why I avoid them. Unfortunately, sometimes you have no alterative.

The good thing about public restrooms (aside from taking care of a chronic biological necessity) is that they are the most egalitarian place people of the same sex can congregate. The exception, of course, is executive washrooms, which, needless to say, I’m not important enough to have access to. It doesn’t matter what your age, race or income level is: we all have to excrete. I have to assume though that some people, particularly of my gender, never quite got their potty training certificate. Or maybe they figured potty rules apply only at home, although I doubt that. Anyone who can’t do their business properly in a public restroom probably doesn’t even know how to use a flush toilet. At least I hope that is the case, because it is the best thing I can say about them.

Whether you are in a stall or in front of a urinal when you are done you should religiously flush the toilet! There is this thing called a handle, which if you press down on causes a pneumatic water cycle that places your body waste into the sewage system and refreshes the commodes with clean water. It’s amazing and incredible but it works. I am constantly amazed by people who apparently haven’t mastered this important skill, or, more likely, just don’t give a crap (literally) to take two seconds to flush. Are they filled with passive aggressive rage?

Once you have mastered the business of pressing down on the handle, you might want to check to see if the toilet did its job. I get the feeling that some of you have bowel movements maybe once a week. Regardless, please assume that the next person in the stall does not want to have a close encounter with your bowels. If this happens to you please wait for the cycle to finish and flush again. Repeat until all your detritus is gone and the water is clear.

Guys, if you have to tinkle, using the urinal is definitely preferred. However, if they are all in use or you prefer the privacy of a stall, don’t stand up to pee into it. This is because, just like at home, your aim is unlikely to be perfect. Unlike at home, where your wife or significant others will bitch at you for missing, no one will complain if you do this in a public stall, at least not until after you have left the crime scene. The rule is simple, guys: if you are going to pee into a toilet in a stall, sit down to do your business. (Hint: drop your pants and underpants first!) When I encounter your residue, I recoil and immediately search for another cleaner stall, if possible. If you must pee standing up in a stall, have the decency to raise the toilet seat first so you don’t dribble on it for the next occupant and put it back down when done. Thank you very much.

Here’s another tip: every restroom I have ever been in, except in third world countries, have wash basins with soap and either paper towels or a hot air blowing machine. Use them to dry your newly clean hands and, if necessary, your stall.

It does not say so on the door, but restrooms are not places to engage in conversation, unless it’s an “excuse me” when encountering someone entering or exiting. Ideally, you want to be anonymous throughout the period. It is especially not (Larry Craig, take note) a place to find new romantic or sexual partners of the same sex. Save that for Craigslist. Fortunately, perhaps due to my strong anti Gay-dar, I have not encountered any hand gropers yet. I can assure you that if it happens and I have something sharp on me, that person will subsequently be bleeding and possibly missing some phalanges. You have been warned!

Neither is a restroom a place to have delayed social conversations via etchings on the restroom or stall wall. I don’t care about your opinions about gays or “faggots” as you call them. Similarly, I am not interested in dialing the phone number scrawled on the stall wall for some “head”. No doubt she is actually a he, in fact, probably you.

Certain bodily noises are inevitable when you are doing your business, but please to the maximum extent possible don’t make it my business too. I don’t want to hear any more flatulence than is absolutely required, and I sure don’t want to hear it accompanied by verbal expressions of how you are feeling. Ideally ventilation fans would mask most noises. Nor should you linger too long. Sometimes our plumbing wants to go slow, but bathroom etiquette demands that you minimize your time doing your business. Besides, someone with a more chronic need than you may be waiting anxiously with their knees tightly crossed.

That’s pretty much it. In short, using a restroom is not an excuse to revert to being a caveman or a brute. If you still have questions, Foothill Community College in Los Altos Hills, California has a helpful video. (Hint: in real life, please lower your pants and underwear first.)