Wednesday, April 21, 2010


So, this past weekend, I went to see the movie Kick Ass. As I was leaving the theater, I made a stop in the restroom. I entered the stall to do my business and the guy in the next stall was barking out orders. "Hurry up!" "Come on!" "Let's go!" "GET OUT!!!!" At first I thought he was yelling at me. After a few moments, I realized his instructions were directed at someone (or something) in his own stall. Did he have small child he was trying to get to finish? Did he have a sex partner...whom he was trying to get to finish? After sneaking a clandestine peek under the stall and seeing only one pair of feet, it dawned on me. He was talking to to his ass!

It's been a few years since I've had an uncomfortable situation with someone carrying on a conversation in the adjoining stall in a public restroom. At that time, I wrote about my experience for the publication The Scene. For those of you who missed it, here it is.


There's an old saying that goes, "Manners are for the poor and plain. The rich and beautiful can do as they like."

Having neither Ross Perot's money nor George Clooney's looks (or vice-versa, for that matter), I have always felt compelled to try to observe proper etiquette. However, I recently found myself in a situation so perplexing it would have had Miss Manners turning over in her grave if, sadly, she weren't still alive.

Before I get to the story of my protocol predicament, I need to tell you some pertinent information about myself.

For the last dozen years or so I've suffered from an unusual medical condition for which, as far as I know, there is no cure. While this infirmity is enduring, it is not terminal. And while it causes me some inconvenience, it thankfully causes me no pain. And what is the nature of this medical malady? Well, whenever I'm in a library or bookstore, within 10 minutes, without fail, I have an urgent need to use the restroom!

Proper decorum prevents me from being too graphic about which bodily function is triggered by the proximity of a large number of books. Suffice to say, being surrounded by thousands of volumes that are tightly bound causes me to become loosely bound, if you catch my drift (and if you were in the adjoining stall, you almost certainly would).

I don't know if this condition has an official medical name, since I have never consulted a professional. Who would I see, a gastroenterologist, a proctologist, or a librarian? However, I've come to refer to my ailment as chronic “biblio-rhea". I think the Latin term is Ex-lax Ex Libre.

Now that you know my dirty little secret, I can get back to my question of etiquette.

A few weeks ago, I was perusing periodicals at Barnes and Noble in Appleton. (Actually, it's in Grand Chute, in the same plaza as The Dress Barn. What next, The Panty Silo? But I digress...) Predictably, after about five minutes, the biblio-rhea kicked in.

I made my way to the men's room, found an empty stall and put it to its intended use. A few moments later, I heard the restroom door open and another person enter. He went to the second stall and began doing the same thing I was doing, only much more loudly. Suddenly, amid the grunts and splashes emitted by my noisy neighbor, there came another sound, cutting through the air like a knife. It was the ringing of his cell phone!

My comrade of the commode turned out to be the type who speaks into a phone so loudly his caller would have heard him just a well using two Dixie cups and 10 miles of string. As a result, I couldn't help but eavesdrop as he answered, "Oh, hi! I'm at Barnes and Noble. I’m sitting in the café having a latte!"

Sitting in the café having a latte? I’ve heard a lot of euphemisms for what he was doing in the next stall. Copping a squat. Pinching a loaf. Dropping the kids off at the pool. But I’ve never heard it referred to as "sitting in the café having a latte."

Ok. He was just too embarrassed to admit what he was really doing (but apparently not so embarrassed that he didn't just leave the phone in his pocket and down around his ankles). Far be it from me to begrudge this guy his little white lie. But he unknowingly put me in a tough spot.

You see, I had just finished my "paperwork" and was ready to move on. This left me faced with an etiquette question worthy of Emily Post (or more appropriately, Emily Com-Post). What do you do when you are finished using the toilet but the person in the next stall is still in the middle of a phone call?

I seriously doubt this thought ever even entered Miss Post's proper little head...or Alexander Graham Bell's for that matter. In the days before cordless phones and cell phones, about the only place you could carry on a phone conversation while using the toilet was in an expensive hotel. (Remember what I said about manners and the rich!) But in today's world, talking on the toidy isn't even considered rude. It's just "multi-tasking".

So what could I do? As I saw it, I had three options, none of them ideal.

1) I could continue to sit in my stall, unintentionally listening in on his private conversation. This certainly didn't seem like proper etiquette. 2) I could quietly skulk out of the stall without flushing, leaving a couple of "kids in the pool" for the next user to deal with. I was certain this was not the well-mannered thing to do, Or 3) I could flush, the sound of which would most assuredly make the person on the other end of the phone realize that his friend was not really "sitting in the café having a latte" but rather squatting in the bathroom brewing up his own pot of "crap-puccino." This option seemed not only impolite but downright mean.

But what could I do? When faced with three options, none of which are viable, you have to learn to improvise. And that's just what I did!

I stood up. Pulled up my pants. Zipped my zipper. Buckled my buckle. And flushed the flusher! Loudly and proudly, over the "whoooosh" of the swirling toilet water vortex, I yelled "Sorry our espresso machine is so loud!"

It not only seemed like good etiquette. It was the least I could do for a fellow biblio-rhea sufferer!

No comments:

Post a Comment