Friday, December 12, 2008

Unspoken Transgressions

So about a month or so ago when I was down home-ways for T-giving, I went over to a good friend's house for some traditional night-before-Thanksgiving, homemade pizza. The food was delicious, the company was wonderful, a great time was had by all.

While there, the guests had a fascinating discussion on sharing a bathroom with your superiors at the office: the awkwardness, the oddity, etc.

I should note here that I did not introduce this topic of conversation and am somewhat offended that you would leap to that conclusion. Shame on you.

That said, I did relay an awkward experience of my own. Please feel free to stop reading if you're not interested in proper urinal etiquette.

The mens room in my office features six urinals arranged in a row as such:


Now, as any man will tell you, there is a correct order to the use of these urinals. The first fellow should take one end, the second the other, the third one of the middle ones and -- since there are an even number -- the fourth fellow might be better off using a stall or perhaps a sink rather than sidle up right next to someone who's already there. (fn1)

A few days before thanksgiving I happened to enter the bathroom immediately behind a coworker. And there was already one man at the urinals.

The first problem was that the current... occupant (I guess?) had already committed a small violation of etiquette, he had not gone to one end but rather was one urinal in from the end (fn2):

o o o o 1 o

(I'm using "o" to indicate empty as the Blogger software seems to not like spaces used as spacing.)

But this can be regarded as a strip of 5 urinals and there are two fellows entering, so easy solution, right:

2 o 3 o 1 o

This is what any sane person would do: go to the end, esp. realizing that the person who just walked through the door behind you is headed for the urinals as well.

But no.

This guy, in what was the most appalling disregard for the unspoken rules of life I think I have ever witnessed, instead went for the urinal one in from the other end:

o 2 o o 1 o

Yeah. So now I was left in the unenviable position of having to choose one of the fellows to buddy up with or else, perhaps, wave off and hit a stall or pretend to wash my hands or something.

But you know what? This guy, number 2 in our example, had set me up for this. And so I figured: screw him. I went right next to him. I was tempted to have bad aim and leave him with a wet leg but decided not to take it that far this time:

o 2 3 o 1 o

So that was then. It was a bizarre break with what I would have expected were the accepted norms in, at the very least, American mens room behaviour but there it is.

So today I happen to be headed into the bathroom to wash my hands (for real, actually, it was lunch time and I like to eat with clean hands) and a coworker walks in behind me and hits the completely unoccupied urinals. And chooses as such:

o o 1 o o o

What the hell? Am I living in bizarro world? Is this guy some kind of alpha-A-hole (he doesn't seem the type and, really, most actuaries don't...) who is expressing his dominance by trying to take over the whole "watering hole" (so to speak...)?

Unfortunately my ability to remember my younger male coworker's names and faces is such that I don't know if this was the same jackass from my previous encounter but it could be. Either way, it's unacceptable.

fn1: These rules obv. do not apply in crowding situations such as at a ballgame or other heavily attended event. These are for your ordinary bathroom uses, which is to say largely empty ones.

fn2: At the dinner-party discussion of these events the point was raised that the fellow who was in there first might have had good reason for choosing his spot based on the use of the other urinals when he entered. I am willing to acknowledge that it is not impossible but find it highly unlikely. The only acceptable scenario would be every single other urinal was taken and that was almost certainly not the case.

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