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Weird Happenings in the Men’s Room

February 2, 2011

“How you doing?”

“F–king cold out, eh?”

“Doesn’t matter to me, I’ll be in Arizona next week.”

You spend a lot of time in men’s rooms and you’ll hear conversations like this. Not that I spend a lot of time in men’s rooms; I just happened to get lucky this morning. Not that I get lucky in men’s rooms, I was just fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time to overhear two guys – strangers – talking about the weather and their vacation plans while they were both in the vulnerable position of answering one of nature’s calls at the same time.

As a chronic eavesdropper, once in a while I get lucky that way.

In general, I hate public men’s rooms. I have to use them, no way around that, but I’d prefer to never have to use them with other people around. I have no idea who these two guys, cold guy and Arizona guy, were. I don’t know if they knew each other and were friends outside of the men’s room, or if they were just a little nervous standing so close to each other in such a vulnerable position and a confined space and felt the need to make small talk to defuse the awkward situation. I really don’t care. What I care about is having an expectation of privacy in the men’s room. You do your business and I’ll do mine and don’t talk to me or comment on the weather or the lack of paper towels or the Twins chances of winning the American League Central Division title again this year. Unless there’s a fire, or a collapsing roof, or aliens are coming up through the toilet and you’re trying to save my life by warning me to get out of the men’s room immediately, please pretend you don’t see me standing next to you. If we happen to make eye contact in the mirror, well, then so be it, but just leave it at that. You don’t have to smile or nod, and you especially don’t have to use that flicker of eye contact as an excuse to start talking to me and telling me about your life.

Beyond my reasonable belief of an expectation of privacy in the men’s room, the other thing that gets me is the assumption that I’m interested in making casual conversation with a stranger. Sometimes I don’t mind that sort of thing. Waiting in line at the grocery store, or really waiting in any line, and casual conversation is alright with me. Browsing titles at a bookstore is an excellent place for casual conversation. At the pizza buffet counter, also very good casual conversation. There are plenty of good places for casual conversation, but the men’s room isn’t one of those places. Yet it happens and it seems to happen a lot. Maybe it’s just me? Maybe I have a “Talk-To-Me-Even-Though-I’m-A-Total-Stranger” face? In the men’s room I’m frequently pulled into unwanted conversations with comments on the soap, on the lack of hot water, on the quality of, or lack of, paper towels. I really don’t know what it is or what it is about being in the men’s room that makes some guys turn into Gabby Gus’s.

So these two guys, the cold guy and the Arizona guy, that was the extent of their conversation. Or at least the extent of their conversation that I heard because I shut them out and started thinking about why they were talking to each other in the first place while going over my mental checklist to ensure that neither one of them would get the idea to try and include me in their conversation. Cold guy washed up and left first and I don’t know if he waited for Arizona guy – who also washed his hands – outside or not. When I left I didn’t see them and I never saw them again. I mention that they both washed their hands only because it seems to me that the majority of people using the restroom don’t wash their hands when their work is done. Thinking about it now, it’s at least one good sign that both of these guys washed their hands. One can never wash one’s hands enough.

So if you ever see me in a men’s room, please pretend you don’t know me.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 2, 2011 9:02 pm

    This doesn’t happen to women. Until we are washing our hands maybe. But, women are so preoccupied by not putting our shopping bags on the filthy floor and hanging our purses off our shoulder and not getting it wet and then you wash your hands and the paper towels have one of those dispensers that you actually have to touch, so you get a paper towel and go and wash your hands again and then stand by the door waiting for someone to come in and then you can catch the door with your foot and not be forced to touch the germ-encrusted door handle, and how come urinals are out in the open anyway? All your problems would be solved if they put up little divider wall thingys so no one look at you or your stuff and you won’t be forced to talk to some goofy guy about mundane bullshit.

    That’s my solution to this problem Mr. Fishman.


    • Michael Fishman permalink
      February 3, 2011 4:25 pm

      Most urinals have little dividers between them but sometimes you run into one with nothing and those are the worst. Actually those aren’t the worst because you can sort of turn sideways a little, the worst is when all they have is a trough and you’re just right there. And I hate germ-encrusted door handles! Probably more than snow!


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