By Ryan Murphy
Most men are completely unaware of the intricate rules of decorum that govern this common space.
There are few human activities more pleasurable than relieving yourself. In the words of King George V, "Always go to the bathroom when you have a chance."
1. Leave a space between urinals
The urinals at the extreme ends of the bank tend to offer the most privacy. If, however, one or more of the urinals are in use, bathroom etiquette becomes more complex.
Men should try to maintain a buffer zone of one urinal. If this is not possible, take your place next to your fellow man and keep your communication, eye contact and general acknowledgment of one another's presence to an absolute minimum. Anything you have to say to one another can wait until you're done.
2. Leave a buffer between stalls
You should bear in mind that the same bathroom etiquette that governs urinal spacing also governs stall spacing. If there is an available stall for you to use as a buffer, you should do so. If you are alone in the bathroom, you should pick a stall that allows other men a buffer as well. That means avoiding the middle of three empty stalls and taking refuge in the stalls at the far end of the bank instead.
3. Don't pee in a stall
There are few activities that bring a fellow's masculinity into question more than peeing in a bathroom stall, particularly when a perfectly good urinal is available. That's why this highly suspect activity should only be engaged in when you find yourself in an extremely busy bathroom or one in which it appears as though the urinals haven't been cleaned since the end of the Paleolithic era. If you must pee in a stall, the door should be closed and the act has to be performed standing up -- there's simply no excuse for peeing sitting down.
4. Don't look
Under no circumstances is it acceptable to glance at your neighbor. Just ask George Michael. The British pop star was arrested in 1998, after an abnormally long glance. The incident resulted in an $810 fee and 80 hours of community service, which were presumably not spent cleaning washrooms. Although Michael's case is an extreme one, the lesson here is clear: Keep your eyes to yourself.
5. Tip the bathroom valet
Many finer establishments employ men known as bathroom valets. These valiant sink jockeys receive a small wage in exchange for dispensing fresh hand towels, cologne and a kind word to male patrons. Although you may not feel it's necessary to use their services, decorum states otherwise.
If you don't agree with this time-honored practice, then the onus is on you to wait until you return home to use your own facilities.
6. Don't take too long
It has been said, "How long a minute is depends on what side of the bathroom door you're on." Naturally, there are times when you can't control how long you'll be on the throne, but you should never delay other patrons when they're clearly depending upon you to vacate the premises. Look out for your fellow man and avoid using the bathroom as your personal library.
Remember: Just because you have a mandatory 15-minute break, it doesn't mean you have to spend every second of it in the bathroom.
7. Always flush
Flushing is as much of a given as washing your hands. The advent of digital toilet and urinal sensors has mercifully made the issue of flushing a moot point in most bathrooms. If, however, the bathroom you're using has not caught up with this technological advance, it's up to you to flush immediately after use.
Of course, flushing is just one part of keeping your area tidy. It's important to treat a public bathroom with just as much care as you treat your bathroom at home. If you can't do that, perhaps you should be conducting your business outdoors behind a maple tree.
8. Don't conduct business
Contrary to the belief of some office workers, a public bathroom is not a cubicle with a toilet. Therefore, don't use this very specific space to conduct business, make phone calls or send e-mails on your wireless device.
A public bathroom, particularly one in an office space, is for work dooties, not work duties.
9. Leave the clogs to the professionals
Every public space known to mankind is vulnerable to its own form of disasters. Trailer parks have twisters, seaside villages have tsunamis and bathrooms have clogs. These unsightly blockages can cause toilets to erupt and overflow. If you cause a toilet to malfunction, bathroom etiquette indicates that you must vacate the premises immediately and leave the situation for a custodial engineer. The same rule applies if you simply encounter another man's clog. Distance yourself from the evidence as quickly as possible so you won't be implicated.
10. Don't eat
The average public bathroom attracts hundreds of visitors every day, many of whom leave behind smells so powerful that they could strip the bark off a tree. Why, then, do some people insist on eating in this most odiferous of rooms? Restrooms are for disposing of food, not consuming it. Case closed.
11. Avoid writing graffiti
Under most circumstances it is not advisable to deface public property, unless of course the practice is tacitly encouraged by the management, such as pubs and bars. In these cases, stay away from common cliches like phone numbers and drawings of genitalia and go for something more profound instead. Limericks and naughty poems are always a nice touch, as are quick one-liners like these:
- "I'd give my left arm to be ambidextrous."
- "Bring flowers to the one you love. Also, don't forget your wife."
- "Education kills by degrees."
Ryan Murphy is an expert in bathroom etiquette who has contributed to eight books in the Uncle John's Bathroom Reader series.