It's not as if there are any written rules or guidelines that are passed down from parent to child. Indeed, it could even be a cultural issue, but when one person impinges on another's comfort level, it can be excruciatingly awkward.
I'm talking about bathroom rules.
I'm not really one to talk. At home, I often fail to shut the door. Not that I'm an exhibitionist, but it's a habit I got into when my then-girlfriend and now-wife and I moved in together. I don't know what made me change my once private ritual to be so open.
In public, however, I'm very private. I feel uncomfortable when there are other people in the washroom and I practically feel mental anguish when someone gets close to me.
True story: once, when I was walking downtown, heading to a bus stop after a social evening, I felt the call of nature and ducked into a nearby hotel to use the public facilities. I was a little intoxicated but was fully aware of my surroundings.
Just as I was starting to relieve myself at one of the urinals, another man came in and took up a position at the urinal directly next to mine. I was uncomfortable, but because this washroom had only two urinals, I could understand him being in close proximity.
But what became quickly evident was that this guy wasn't standing next to me because he had to go. From my peripheral vision, I could tell that he hadn't unzipped himself, and that his head was turned toward me.
With no divider between the urinals, he was checking me out.
I turned fully toward him and asked, "enjoying the view?" while I continued to relieve myself; only now, on him.
(My apologies to the custodian who had to clean up after me, but most of my flow landed solidly on the pervert's pants.)
He abruptly walked out of the washroom.
Since then, I get very uncomfortable when I stand shoulder-to-shoulder at urinals.
The unwritten rule is this: if you're the first to enter a washroom and there are three or more urinals, you're supposed to take one of the end bowls. That way, if another patron enters, he can use the urinal on the other end, comfortably leaving at least one vacant spot between you.
Subsequent visitors continue to take any unused urinal that leaves space between other guys, where space permits. The only time that you saddle up next to someone is when you have no other option.
The same goes for the toilet stalls. If you can put some distance between yourself and others, do so.
The men's room at the office is well-equipped: lots of urinals and plenty of stalls. The sinks, which line the wall directly opposite the stalls, allow you to look in the mirror and see any feet that indicate that a stall is occupied. This convenience allows you to quickly assess which stall can be entered. I hate it when someone blindly pushes on every door until one gives way (let's try this one—no? How about this one? No? This one? This one?). Sheesh!
At the office, there's a good chance that if you walk into the men's room and someone is there, you probably know the guy. I've been with the company for 10 years and most of the folks I know have been there for about as long, or longer. When we see each other, we nod or give a brief "Hey."
I don't like to talk in the washroom. I'm all about getting in there, doing what I've got to do, and getting out. For me, the time I spend in the washroom is my time, alone. I don't want to engage in conversation. And yet, there are some people who feel that potty time is social time. They want to see how you're doing, what's new, how my weekend was, what my plans are for the upcoming weekend.
Once I'm in a stall or in front of a urinal, I want to tune out all conversation. So, when I'm doing my business, don't talk to me. I won't respond.
There was a guy I'd constantly run into, and I swear, one time, he tried to engage me in conversation after I had gone into a stall. How was I to get anything done?
A couple of months ago, he was caught in the last round of layoffs. I was sad to see him go: he was a knowledgeable person and a good employee, and he was a nice guy. But I was glad that my bathroom time was going to be less interrupted.
As serious as I take my washroom time, I do have a little game that I play. Our office facilities pipe in a local radio station, CHEZ106, which plays classic rock. I often joke that they only own about a dozen albums because I only ever seem to hear a limited selection of music. And so, when I enter the washroom, my challenge is to identify the song that's playing and sing along before I reach the stall or urinal.
So far, I've succeeded in the challenge every time.
I just wonder that, when I chime in, how many people in the room become uncomfortable at my singing.
We all have our comfort zones. From what I know, singing isn't against the rules.