Thursday, January 19, 2012

Awkward Moments: The Restroom At Work

We have an unfortunate restroom situation at our new office. When I first moved in, we only had one functional restroom, which was located downstairs. It was a bit of a hike to get to the restroom, and you had to walk through a whole floor of people you didn't know. Aside from that, it wasn't really a big problem. It mostly meant I had to stop making a habit of waiting until the absolute last second when my bladder was at maximum capacity to take a bathroom break.

Shortly after we moved in, they installed a new set of
restrooms on the second floor, where I am located. I was out of work at the time and didn't realize it was open and proceeded to use the old restroom downstairs for about 2 weeks before I was told the new one was open. Oops.
Unfortunately, with the new one open they shut down the old restrooms for a remodel, so we are currently having to deal with 1 stall and 2 urinals total for the entire building. Not an End of the World type of problem, but it has led to some awkward situations.

I wouldn't think designing a
restroom would be all that complex. I mean, I have never done it (and I have drawn a surprising number of diagrams of what I thought was a better way to show my teammates) but I would expect people who do it for a living would be pretty savvy at it. This doesn't seem to be the case.
The design of the new men's
restroom is horribly thought-out. A friend told me before I'd seen it that the door opened outward in such a way that people in the department across the hall could see inside to any guy who was using one of the urinals. I thought this had to be a joke. Turns out he was right.

During my first adventure to use a stall, I'm standing there, doing what you do at such a location, when the
restroom door opens. As one naturally tends to do, I looked back to see who had entered the room (without making eye contact; it IS the men's room, after all). Having seen who was entering, I start to turn my head back around when my sight goes beyond this new person, out the still open door, across the hall... and my eyes lock with a very uncomfortable looking woman in the department across the way. I think I could see a little part of her die inside, even from that distance. Now I spent half my time trying to ninja my way around the office so I don't bump into this person.

The stall itself is another adventure. The inside of the stall is HUGE. The toilet is so far back from the door of the stall that you can't see if anyone is in there by looking at the floor to find feet. And the stall door closes on its own so there's never a time where you walk in, see it open, and know it's safe to enter. Now you either have to knock or bend over to look under the stall. Both obviously quite awkward. I've tried to figure out a good angle to use the mirror to see feet, but so far, when I've thought the coast was clear, it proved to be very unclear.

So it comes down to knocking, which isn't nearly as reliable as you'd expect. If I'm in a stall and there's a knock, I can't yell "OCCUPIED" - in a fake voice to disguise my identity - fast enough.
Much to my surprise, not everyone is like that though. Twice in a row I had exhausted my other options to see if it was safe to open the door, and proceeded to knock. Loudly. No answer. I pull the handle, there is resistance and a very angry shout of "I'm IN HERE". Twice. By the same person. The first time was evidently not enough of a lesson.

In the old location the cleaning lady would come by and knock on the
restroom entrance and yell "is anyone in here?" while knocking. It was really weird to yell out something to let her know someone was there, but it was even worse if one of the other stalls was being used. You didn't want to shout out and let the other person know who you are. So you'd wait it out and hope they answered. It was like a really strange game of chicken. In the end, you'd both wait too long and the cleaning lady would come in anyway and there would be three very embarrassed people instead of just one semi-embarrassed person.

I'm starting to think those people who refuse to use any public restroom are on to something.

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