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Category — Reader Mail

Revisited: Seat Up, Seat Down

Angry ICBE reader John writes the following:

Really?

You forgot to mention the situation where there may be three men in the house … and three bathrooms …. the one most familiar to the woman being out of commission because she made it that way (renos) … and getting to the other one not generally used by the boys means walking down some stairs … But .. the woman always expects the seat in the guy’s bathroom to be down at all times!!

Really?

And she doesn’t lift the seat after she finishes doing her thing (because we are all so considerate of her needs … when we remember) to make sure the guys don’t piss on it (we forget to lift it sometimes) and when she goes …. we have to all face the wrath of a woman calling us assholes because someone didn’t lift the seat.

Really?

Really John? Really, do I have to take a quote from the ICBE’s own page describing this subject:

Listen, this isn’t about logic, or statistics, or minimizing global effort or anything other than etiquette and doing what’s right. It’s right to leave the seat down, because women prefer it that way.

I think that sums it up pretty nicely. So my advice to you is to suck it up, put the seat down and get over it.

Really.

PS: But I will admit that name calling the woman is doing isn’t very nice!

October 24, 2012   No Comments

Who wants to bare-ass it on a public toilet?

That’s a great question, and in fact it comes from fearless ICBE reader Ryan. He writes in full:

I love your site! Keep up the good work! I refer friends often…

Can you please address those unfortunate places where they do not provide toilet seat covers in the bathroom? Being accustomed to living in CA, I automatically go for the seat covers that are “provided by the management” when the need to sit down arises (this should be deferred whenever possible!)

However whenever traveling out of state I have noticed an unacceptable number of places where this is not the standard! Now a need for creative toilet paper folding is necessary and this is time consuming compared with my standard compliment of 3 toilet seat covers strategically placed on top of one another.

Anyhow, thought it would be a great topic for your site – not exactly etiquette as it relates to others, but definitely a hygiene topic and a common courtesy for businesses to provide to customers… After all who wants to bare-ass it on a public toilet!?!?!

The first thing that I wondered upon reading this email was whether California had enacted some kind of law requiring that establishments provide such toilet seat covers. It turns out they have not, but there are certainly some rumors out there suggesting they might have.

In any case, just like Ryan I happen to live in Southern California these days and the majority of places do provide toilet seat covers. Which means that it’s time for a shocking confession: I never actually use them!

Don’t worry, I’m not bare-assing it, but I just always use toilet paper even if those covers are available. I suppose I’m just a creature of habit, and since I can’t rely on those covers I use good old TP which is always present (or I’m not taking a poop!).

Sadly, I don’t have much worthwhile advice. You could try to petition government to enact such a law (they flirted with the idea briefly in Maine), but I probably recommend getting comfortable with the idea of the toilet paper tent or the hoversquat. Budgets are tight and I’m imagine seeing fewer places with toilet seat covers in the future, not more – even in sunny California.

October 23, 2012   No Comments

Bathroom Sex, Bathroom Sex, Bathroom Sex


Image borrowed from Derek Dubois’ post on public sex

BS (yes, the guy asking about bathroom sex has the initials BS) writes the following:

Just wondering if y’all could promote the nooner in the office loo as an entirely acceptable way of spending our lunchtime break from the daily grind. I was actually fired, along with my paramour, in the early ’90s for having a routine carnal meet and greet in the comfort station on the 9th floor that provided just the right motivation for the remaining hours of the daily grind. There needs to be an advocacy for the rights of the oppressed office chump to engage in the best form of recreation that a lunch hour can provide, without the fallout from the uptight ruling class.

Ah yes, the eternal struggle of the oppressed office chump against the uptight ruling class. Except usually that doesn’t involve quite so much bathroom sex. I hate to say it, but bathroom etiquette is all about not bothering other people. And you know what bothers people at work? Other people having sex in the bathroom. No, I don’t think this is creepy in the same way that masturbation in a public bathroom is, but it’s still not something that is generally okay – especially not at work.

Sorry to rain on your parade!

PS: Obviously this guy has cleaner work bathrooms than I do!

September 26, 2012   No Comments

Toilet of Doom Part II

You know that awesome bathroom I wrote about the other day? Well, things have gone from bad to worse. Actually, maybe that’s not fair. It could in fact be that the toilet disappearing completely is in fact an improvement over the previous situation

My on-the-scene reporters were not going to just let this story be, and waged a length campaign to track down the missing toilet. You know, they looked in the shower. Yep, there it is…

I wish I could have listened in on the though process that ended with yeah, let’s just put that darn thing over there in the shower!

September 18, 2012   No Comments

They Just Keep Adding More Towels

A few days ago a couple of ex-coworkers of mine sent me a few pictures of the toilet in the women’s bathroom where they still work, with the caption being simply “they just keep adding more towels“:

While admittedly a little gross, I thought this was a reasonably amusing situation that would get resolved within a couple of days. Toilets leak and people fix leaking toilets all the time, right?

Wrong. This is the picture I received about a week after the first one:

Yikes! Not only has the toilet not been fixed, it has quite literally disconnected itself from the wall and is now lying on it’s side on the floor. But here’s the real kicker: it’s not even officially out of order! The bathroom is so neglected that there isn’t even a warning sign. And yes, that is water that you see in the bowl.

No word yet on how many people have tried to use the toilet in its current state, or how successful they have been…

PS: I thought about naming names here, but decided against it. The ICBE isn’t really out to publicly shame any person or organization (feel free to go through our archives to see how consistent we are with that one), and I’m going to optimistically hope that this is the result of budget cuts and lack of facilities staffing as opposed to sheer contempt for the employees.

September 11, 2012   1 Comment

Public Bathrooms, #2 and Locking the Door

Concerned reader G.W. writes the following:

OK – I have read through your site and I have run into a question on bathroom etiquette I haven’t yet seen addressed anywhere.

Scenario:
At work
The men’s bathroom has one stall and one urinal.
The men’s bathroom door locks.

Here is my thinking…

Acceptable multiple person use: (Reason to leave the door unlocked)
I am going in to do #1 and am the only occupant, I use the urinal, leaving the stall open for use.
I am going in to do #1 and the urinal is occupied, I use the stall and try and take long enough for urinal user to wash up and leave before heading to the single sink.
I am going in to wash hands only.

Situations for single use only: (reasons to lock door or leave and come back later)
I am going in to do #2 and am the only occupant, I use the stall but have locked the bathroom door so that no one else can enter the bathroom.
I am going in to do #2 and the urinal is occupied, I go to the stall and try and take long enough for “setup” that urinal user has time to wash up and leave before I get down to business. (someone with good etiquette would lock the bathroom door behind them so no one else is subjected to nasal collateral damage upon entering.)
I am going in to do #2 and the stall is occupied. The user is not practicing good etiquette. I lock the door for them and come back later or head to the other bathroom in the adjacent building.

So the reason I am writing is that I am taking flack for locking the door in the above situations. Am I out of line?

I don’t think I am and here is why…
When I lock the door I know what I am going to be doing in there. I don’t want company and believe me, they don’t want to be that company. Nothing about it is a bonding experience nor something I care to share. The same goes for when I walk in and someone is in the locked stall but the bathroom door is unlocked. I am instantly angry! Why? Why did you leave the bathroom door unlocked and assault me with your stench? Why couldn’t you have just stopped me outside the door with the simple press of a door handle button lock? Did you know what you were going to do when you went in there?

I won’t be offended that the door is locked. I am happy you spared me the disgust and revolt of having to have smelt what you have dealt!

Thank you very much!

(My hat is off to you, this stuff is complicated!) Keep up the good work

I’ve got to say, this is one of the most interesting and most difficult questions I have ever received. First of all though, I want to address this issue of the locking door. I’m surprised it’s possible to lock the door for another person. Wouldn’t this result in the potential situation where you lock the door, leave, there’s nobody in there and thus the bathroom is locked up with no way to enter it? Is this a pseudo-lock like you often find in homes which can be easily opened with a paperclip? It just seems like a very unusual setup for a public bathroom.

But let’s forget about that, because it really isn’t crucial to the question. We know the bathroom has a lock, and let’s assume that it is used perfectly and the door is never locked with nobody inside. The real question is, should somebody lock the door when they are doing a #2? Well to answer that we have to get to the root of what etiquette is all about.

Etiquette is about being concerned with other people.

In the context of a public bathroom, this generally means trying to minimize the negative impact your actions are having on other people, because let’s face it – there aren’t a lot of positive ways you can affect somebody by going pee or poo (unless the #2 mitigates a gassy afternoon at the office, but that’s another story for another time).

So let’s consider this action of door locking from the perspective not of the person doing the #2, but of the other people.

Positives:

  1. Nobody has to listen to the sound of you doing a #2, which can be pretty gross
  2. The impact of the stench is abated

Negatives:

  1. People have to wait to use urinal and/or sink

But which of the above is most important? Do the positives outweigh the negatives? Clearly for G.W. they do. He’s a proponent of locking the door because he feels people are better off waiting outside for him to finish his business. The thing is, by his own admission G.W. is “taking flack for locking the door”, which implies the other people aren’t impressed.

And I think that’s really the bottom line. Despite his best intentions, G.W. is taking flack for his actions, and so the people have spoken. People would rather be assaulted by the stench than have to wait a couple minutes to go pee.

The flip side of course is that G.W. himself would rather wait. So the ideal circumstance is that he leaves the door unlocked, but that other people lock the door if they think he’s going to need to go pee, but it’s impossible to predict when that will happen.

And speaking of the stench, it’s hard to know how much it helps to not be present during the actual event. Most public bathrooms don’t exactly have great ventilation, so I’m not convinced that it’s any less stinky to go pee right after somebody finishes going #2 than it is while they are actually going #2.

March 4, 2012   4 Comments

Public Bathrooms and Children

One of the subjects that is coming up more and more is that of accompanying children in public bathrooms. When a mother accompanies her daughter, or when a father accompanies his son it’s pretty straightforward, but when it’s mother/son or father/daughter things becomes a little more complicated. The main rule when taking your opposite-gendered child to the bathroom is this:

You go to your bathroom, no theirs. Fathers take daughters to the men’s bathroom, mother’s take sons to the women’s bathroom.

The tricky question is how old does a child need to be for this practice to become inappropriate? Though honestly that’s not the real question, the real question is how old does a child need to be before they can safely be allowed to go to a public bathroom alone? Because as a parent myself I can assure you that safety will win out over impropriety every time.

That’s a question that I don’t intend to answer right now, and is going to vary from child to child, parent to parent and situation to situation (not all public bathrooms are created equally). What I will say is that I’m a big fan of family bathrooms and one person bathrooms which eliminate these problems and concerns.

Now alert reader Roger recently asked a related and very important question:

What is the proper thing to do when you enter a public restroom, a man is at the wash basins with a young daughter, and the urinals are close by. Do you step up to the urinal or wait until they leave? This has happened to me several times.

That’s a tricky one. When the man and his daughter entered the bathroom, there could have been men at the urinal. When they exited the stall (presumably the father and/or daughter went pee in a stall in this case) there could have been men at the urinal. So while possibly a little uncomfortable, there is certainly precedence for men to use the urinals while the daughter is present. But should you start to use the urinals while the daughter is at the sink, especially if the sink is close by?

In general the answer is no. There are obvious exceptions, like the urinals and sinks being in virtually separate rooms, but as a general rule if there is a female child using the sinks in the men’s room, and the urinals are close by, you should wait. The time spent at the sinks is almost always very short, so in this case it’s best just to play it safe and bide your time until the father and daughter have finished up and left.

June 19, 2011   3 Comments

John Just Doesn’t Get Bathroom Etiquette

Annoyed reader John writes the following:

I’m not going to be hateful here. But just what are you really afraid of? That’s what does etiquette thing is really all about. What’s bad or horrible thing will happen to you in that brief 60 seconds of your day standing next to someone else? Seriously of all the challenging things in life, is this really one of them? Put some genuine thought into that.

Obviously everybody is more than welcome to our own thoughts and opinions on bathroom etiquette, but to suggest that I, the President of the International Center for Bathroom Etiquette hasn’t put some “genuine thought into that” is, well, rather silly. My job here at the ICBE consists of pretty much nothing but thinking about bathroom etiquette, and let me assure you I am good at my job.

So the answers to your questions John:

Q: What are you really afraid of?
A: Nothing, it’s just nice to have some proper behavior in the bathroom.

Q: What bad or horrible thing will happen?
A: Nothing, it’s just nice to not have to pee right beside somebody else.

Q: Is this really a challenging thing in life?
A: Heck no!

Here’s something for you to put some thought into John: Bathroom etiquette isn’t about you, it’s about everybody else that you encounter in the bathroom. It’s about taking their feelings into consideration, and adjusting your behavior to make other people happy, not just yourself.

May 29, 2011   1 Comment

Buckshot and Bathrooms

ICBE reader John writes the following:

I was reading what and what not to do in a bathroom . Last year I was in my bathroom and saw a buck out my bathroom window , yes I took the shot while I did my business. Would that be a do or no do ?

I have two trains of thought here. First of all, this sounds like something that happened in your own home, in which case it’s perfectly fine for you to more or less do as you please, since you aren’t disturbing anyone else. With the possible exception of the buck, who unfortunately for him doesn’t really count in terms of bathroom etiquette. That said, I would not condone this behavior for a public bathroom.

I am however moderately confused by the process. Did you have the gun with you in the bathroom? Did you rush out mid-stream to find your gun? Presumably you had to open the window too. Did you wash your hands before you touched all these things? There are some logistical issues which would need to be sorted out in a case like this.

March 2, 2011   No Comments

Meeting Bill Gates at the Urinal

The wonderful GigaG submitted an interesting story about some Excite employees meeting Bill Gates at a urinal while visiting Microsoft way back in 1995.

what is the appropriate bathroom etiquette? I had a massive internal struggle. Do I reach over the urinal barriers to extend a handshake to Bill? What would he do if I did?

Augh, no! It’s bad enough that a conversation with poor Bill was started, but shaking hands at a urinal? Come on, is there anybody that thinks this is a good idea?

I had complete urinal performance anxiety. I had not been able to pee up to this point. Nothing was happening in the presence of the man who brought us greatness like Microsoft Decathlon and the Blue Screen of Death.

I’ll bet! I hope Bill had better luck peeing after being interrupted this way. At least Microsoft apparently has the bathroom savvy to install urinal partitions…

November 18, 2010   No Comments

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