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Category — Reader Mail

Using a Random Port-a-Potty

Betsy writes the following:

And what about port-a-potties? Is it okay for random passersby to use the one in your front yard while your house is under construction? What is the protocol for evicting same passerby (timing is an issue here). Seriously, what about those guys who eat lunch right after using one?

That’s a tricky question. My immediate reaction was that using someone else’s construction port-a-potty is bad etiquette. The thing is though, bathroom etiquette is always a two way street. We’ve all been out and about when the sudden and desperate urge to go sets in. If it’s urgent, and if there are no other public bathrooms around, I think it’s okay to use that port-a-potty. But you’d better keep it clean! This is somebody else’s workplace bathroom after all.

Think of the alternatives – would you rather these passerby knock on your door for access to your guest bathroom? Oh, and the lunch thing? As long as they wash their hands Betsy, as long as they wash their hands…

November 16, 2010   No Comments

Etiquette for Lost Money on the Bathroom Floor

Brian writes the following:

I walk into the bathroom at work. I notice money laying by the foot of an occupant in the stall. What is the ediquite for notifying the unknown person that he has dropped money?

Generally, talking in the bathroom – at least for men – is strictly forbidden. Something like cash on the ground certainly presents an exception to this rule, and opens the door for the bare minimum of conversation required to convey the message.

A wrinkle though! This particular cash is at the foot of somebody in a stall. In this case, you should wait until the very last second until trying to alert the person to their mistake. Talking into a stall is different than talking to someone at a sink or urinal. So wait as long as you can because they may notice the cash all on their own when they start to tidy up for example.

Thing is, you’ve got to leave the bathroom eventually, and people can be busy in a stall for quite some time. If you’ve finished your business, thoroughly washed your hands and made sure you don’t have a wad of food in your teeth, it just might be time to say something. A simple “dude, don’t forget that twenty” will suffice (or maybe “dude in the middle stall” if there are multiple simultaneous poops occurring).

And if it’s only a dollar, or some loose change, you might want to consider not saying anything at all.

September 30, 2010   No Comments

Performing #2 in the Land Down Under

Let me assure you of one thing: Australia is a hotbed of bathroom technology and etiquette. Don’t believe me? Just go check out the ICBE’s page on Australia. Recently, Southern-Hemisphere Bathroom Correspondent Neil wrote his second in a series of communications on Australian bathroom habits.

On the subject of automatic toilets…

Firstly, one of your other Aussie correspondents reports on the increasing number of automatic toilets around Australia. One of the great mysteries to me, having used many of these in various parts of the country is why they always have the same soundtrack playing. It is always an electronic sounding version of Burt Bacharach’s “What The World Needs Now”. I’ve only ever visited these establishments for less than the length of time it takes to play WTWNN and so don’t know what comes on next. Burt must be very proud.

On the matter of using a lemon tree as a urinal…

Secondly, in your commentary on the lemon tree urinal I presented to you on my last visit to your site, you suggested that one wouldn’t want to be facing another person also “taking a leak”. Not so! We are a very tolerant society in this respect and if you have been sitting around enjoying copious amounts of liquid refreshment, such decorum is often the last thing on your mind. Sure, you want to be standing far enough away from your friend so as to keep your feet dry but front on while not ideal, is acceptable under certain circumstances (e.g. when it’s dark, for example).

Awesome Australian euphemisms for taking a poop!

· Having/taking a poo/crap/shit (fairly standard)
· Snapping one off
· Backing one out (a favourite of the trucking fraternity)
· Laying one down
· Damaging the Doulton (a famous brand of porcelain plumbing products)
· Spray painting the Doulton (used when the consistency of waste matter is somewhat watery)
· Drop a blind mullet
· Going for a hollow log
· One in the departure lounge
· Letting go a chocolate hostage
· Dropping friends off at the pool

Backing one out is something I’ve come across here in California, but many of these are new to me. My personal favorite: Dropping friends off at the pool.

Awesome Australian Euphemisms for poop residue, and a brief aside about juvenile poop-related hijinks in Australia…

That which is left behind after said activity is sometimes known as a Bondi Cigar (supposedly because sewerage floats in our most famous Sydney beach and they look like cigars) or a Polly Waffle or a Chokito. The Chokito and Polly Waffle are (were?) two Australian chocolate bars that were rough in their appearance (unlike say a Mars Bar that always looks appealing). Delinquent lads enjoyed unwrapping these bars and throwing them into public pools or swimming pools at friends parties, thus emptying the pool when people saw them. Most amusing …!

As always, a fantastic dissection of bathroom culture by our friend Neil.

September 29, 2010   No Comments

Office Bathrooms, Partitions and Talking

AS writes the following:

I’ve been doing some observing for you guys since January 5th 2009. That’s when I started my job at this office. Basically the situation is, 3 sinks on a joined vanity. To the right, 2 urinals (with partition) one handicap sized stall. This is a unique situation, because as it is at work, we often don’t have time for delay tactics. The partition is about 1m (3ft) tall (knee to shoulder) and about 0.60m (2ft) wide. I don’t get that ‘weird’ feeling when peeing next to someone. However the talking rule is still very in place. Some of the older ones have been known to ask how the day is going. In which case the proper response is a simple ‘yes’ and do not follow up with “you?”. This begins a conversation… at the urinal… while peeing. you might as well rip the partition out and get ready for some dude doing dude action at that point. If that exchange must happen in the bathroom. It must be done while one person is washing their hands, and the other is standing half out of the doorway slowly gaining distance from the talker. Then the talker must not be engaged in any conversation work related, or other. Anywhere, for 2 weeks.

My observations are yours.

Interesting observations AS. As you so rightly point out, while partitions may allow two adjacent urinals to be used in good etiquette, they certainly don’t make talking at the urinals acceptable. Of course since this is at work, it’s hard to simply ignore somebody – especially if they are your superior.

I also like the idea of a cooling down period after a breach of bathroom etiquette. Good luck avoiding anybody at work for two weeks though!

September 17, 2010   No Comments

I don’t get the stall hatred

Joe writes:

I don’t get the stall hatred. I just don’t see any shame in it. So what if someone shoe checks you out for a stander? As long as you don’t shut and lock the door you’re fine. That shows that you respect a brother’s privacy, but you take it casual enough to treat the stall as a de facto urinal, with no extra effort. It may be environmentally incorrect, but it’s how the world works. The only trouble you might encounter is if someone isn’t looking out an walks in, but that’s on his shoulders.

I’ve got to admit, Joe’s got me a little confused here. Stall hatred? That sure doesn’t sound like us, in fact we advise heading for the stall on many different occasions. In fact, we’ve even advocated the shoe check before.

I don’t get Joe.

August 3, 2010   1 Comment

I have nightmares about bathrooms like this

You may have seen this image floating around in an email titled Contractor of the Year Nominees. It’s the kind of thing that sends chills down our spines (or occasionally icy fear into our hearts) here at the ICBE – disaster urinals.

What exactly was the person that designed this bathroom thinking? Were they 1 short of their urinal installation quota for the month? Do they simply not know how urinals work? Are they the evil arch-nemesis of the ICBE?

Thanks to Vfor the pic

June 24, 2010   No Comments

Bathrooms on the USS Midway

I recently had the pleasure of going aboard the USS Midway (Wikipedia), an aircraft carrier currently serving as a museum ship in San Diego. Aside from being a generally super-cool museum, the Midway contains something that you will not be surprised was of interest to me: bathrooms.

I managed to capture this picture of what I believe to be the bathroom for some junior officers – please don’t mind the “artistic” angle, I had to reach over and around a sheet of plexiglass to make the shot. Overall, some fairly nice facilities for a boat not designed with luxury in mind.

Fantastic ICBE reader Andy went one step further, procuring two shots of the bathroom in the Midway’s brig.

Click for larger

Click for larger

While I certainly expected a step down in the accommodations, I didn’t expect you’d have to actually stand in the toilet to use the sink. Ouch!

May 26, 2010   No Comments

Inappropriate Songs for the Urinal

A colleague of mine used a urinal the other day. Nothing unusual about that. In the midst of his business, a second person took the adjacent urinal – it’s okay though, there’s a significant partition between the two.

At which point the second person began to speak quietly:

It’s hard. It’s hard. It’s hard.

As you can imagine, my colleague was a little distressed by the fact that a man mere inches away from him had his package in hand and was pontificating about its relative stiffness. Until, out of the corner of his eye, my colleague caught a glimpse of the headphones. This, in fact, is what he really heard:

And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard.

In this day of iPod all-pervasiveness, we must take care to listen to songs appropriate to the present circumstances. That includes not listening to A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall at the urinal.

April 19, 2010   No Comments

Lift and Lower That Seat With the Johnie-Lift

Here at the ICBE we get a lot of email from people who seem to have missed the concept of the site entirely and want us to enter into a wholesaler agreement to sell bathroom fixtures. So it’s a real treat to get an email about a product that’s actually relevant to bathroom etiquette.

As you probably know, the ICBE’s official position is that the toilet seat should be left down. The one thing about this is that, especially in mixed male/female environments, this involves a lot of raising/lowering the toilet seat.

Enter the Johnie-Lift, a small handle that attaches to the seat to minimize actual contact with the (hopefully not too) germ-laden surface. Paul writes the following:

The discussion on whether to leave the toilet seat or down wages on, however I believe in leaving it down. My wife has me well trained and it makes sense to me anyway.

Back in 1963, my In-Laws made a small handle for the toilet and won approval from Sears & Roebuck to carry it, but they did not have the resources to make the injection mold.

Now, after some 46 years, my wife resurected the product, including upgrading the look to be decorative in order to blend in with today’s bathrooms. We used the same name that my In-Laws came up with way back.

Our product is the Johnie-Lift – a decorative toilet seat handle that installs instantly and provides a more sanitary way to raise and lower the seat, eliminating any direct contact. While this a small step in the overall germ prevention program, combined with other simple ideas will make a big difference. It may also reduce the incidence of arguments.

We are a small, family-owned company located in Thousand Oaks, California and we need help in getting our message out. Please let me know if you could help us.

Well, I’m not really sure about the marketing power of the ICBE, but we’re happy to try. Head on over to the Johnie-Lift site to check them out, and order a few. At $2.95 a pop they are nothing if not reasonably priced.

February 28, 2010   3 Comments

Up or Down? A Male Economist’s Manifesto on the Toilet Seat Etiquette

We talk about seat position a lot here at the ICBE. As we say on our dedicated page on the matter, proper etiquette dictates that the seat be left down, with a couple exceptions. Here’s an important passage from that page that bears repeating:

…this isn’t about logic, or statistics, or minimizing global effort or anything other than etiquette and doing what’s right.

So when reader Michael D. emailed me a link to a statistical analysis of toilet seat positions and efficiency, I wasn’t that impressed. From the paper, by Jay Pil Choi:

I find that the “down rule” is inefficient unless there is a large degree of asymmetry in the inconvenience costs of shifting the position of the toilet seat across genders. I show that the “selfish” or the “status quo” rule that leaves the toilet seat in the position used dominates the down rule in a wide range of parameter spaces including the case where the inconvenience costs are the same.

Let me repeat: This isn’t about efficiency. This is about etiquette!

February 22, 2010   1 Comment