Friday, 7 November 2014

Toiletiquette

Oddly enough, I feel the urge to write about an interesting phenomenon, something I haven't quite figured out yet. Perhaps this wee blog (if you'll excuse the pun) will be more suited to my male readers, for the simple reason that I am not the kind of man who hangs around inside women's toilets. I don't mean it to sound like I hang around in male ones, either; what I mean is, I can't speak much to the etiquette required in the ladies' restrooms, though I understand it has a lot to do with 'retouching', and the magical property that gives women the inability to enter one unless they have a companion. Perhaps it's like when you were five and the teacher had to send a buddy with you. I'm still not sure, to this day, for the reasoning behind this (perhaps a teacher could enlighten me), because, even when I was five I was able to navigate to, and use, a toilet unaided. And, despite the state of the place sometimes, there certainly wasn't anything scary enough there that I needed my hand held. Maybe it's just that the teacher gets sick of a child from time to time, and needs a little break. This explanation seems plausible. But I digress.

The point is, what the hell is the etiquette in the men's room? There are some situations where the accepted behaviour would seem clear, and yet I have still found people who do not follow the rules. I feel examples might help.

1. No talking while you're on the pot. Simple, right? Nobody's trying to start up a conversation with you while you're busy. Despite the assumed universality behind this rule, I have met people who are more than eager to engage in a little chit chat across the boards, as it were. Not for me, thanks.

2. Similarly, and much more prevalently, cell phone usage. Now, fair enough, I have often been known to send a tweet while otherwise engaged, but taking business calls? We get it, Mr Man, you're busy and important. But aint nobody trying to discuss marketing strategy to the sound of your excretion hitting the porcelain. Just delay the call for a minute, huh?

3. General chit chat at the urinal. More common than you might think. I'm not a fan of small talk, and I can happily stand in an elevator and stare at the wall, rather than discuss the weather with someone who I may never meet again. So it makes sense that I care even less for it when I'm draining the snake. I know this doesn't hold for others, but I don't need to sum up how my day is going, generalise about work, or whatever the hell else it is that can't seem to wait. Feel completely free to be silent, don't say a god damn thing.

4. Eye contact. The next natural question, where am I supposed to look? It is just me? Or do any other guys out there find the idea of looking another man in the face while you're holding your manhood in both hands (that's right, ladies ;)) rather unsettling? And you certainly can't look anywhere in the downward area, no sir. I hear you say it's either at yourself, so to speak, or straight forward. Fine by me, and please don't think I'm being rude.

5. Hand contact. Let's keep this one short and sweet. No handshakes, no high fives, no fist bumps, no touching of any kind. And while we're at it, don't pat me on the back, either. I'm talking to you, drunken All Blacks fans expressing camaraderie. I happy we won and all, but hands to yourself.

6. What the fuck do you say when someone doesn't wash their hands? Being half-English, I usually settle for a sideways glance, maybe a tsk below my breath. This is followed by a mental note not to shake hands with the person if it ever comes up. But how do you get around that in a polite office setting?
Here's how it might go:
Colleague: 'Richard, meet [toilet guy with piss hands]'.
Me: 'Nice to meet you. I'd love to shake, but [clever excuse about having a cold].'
Here's how it would actually go:
Colleague: 'Richard, meet [toilet guy with piss hands]'.
Me: 'Nice to meet you.' <shakes hand, followed by internal memo to self about making an excuse to leave and buy hand sanitiser>
And don't even get me started if they've come out of the stall and headed straight for the door. I sure hope you were doing drugs in there, because otherwise you're a filthy bastard.

Perhaps I'm over thinking it. I brushed my teeth in the airport bathroom the other day, so I've come a long way. But still, generally my thoughts are: don't talk to me when the beast is unleashed, and wash your god-damn hands, you animal. Is there a handbook for this sort of thing?