Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Well, that’ll teach me to joke about my inability to sleep. A random bout of insomnia kept me awake for a large part of last night, and now – just to shake things up a bit – I’m tired. I said yesterday that I can sleep better alone. That’s not exactly true: if I’m going to sleep easily (a matter largely out of my control), a warm body in bed next to me won’t change that. And it’s far more friendly. It’s the nights that I can’t sleep that are the problem, because I convince myself that every flicker of movement on my side of the bed will wake the husband, and so I compound the insomnia by trying to lie as still as possible. It’s not a smart move, but one is so rarely smart as 3am. Damn circadian rhythms.

But hey, at least my joking about bathroom etiquette didn’t lead to this situation.

I’ve never really understood why urinals are so ubiquitous anyway. Every man I know, when this topic has come up, has said that they find them confronting, uncomfortable or at the very least, fairly gross. The average home doesn’t have a urinal in it, so I think we can assume that my sample group is fairly typical. And a quick google reveals that the etiquette is very complicated.

I can understand that in a nightclub or something, the need to use the space efficiently trumps the desire for privacy, but in the average workplace, why hasn’t there been a trend towards cubicles? I mean, isn’t it still mostly men who design these things? Are there really so many men trying to pee at once that they’re necessary? I work in a fairly large office, I’d estimate that over half of my co-workers are female, and yet there’s always a buffer stall available in our three-stalled bathroom, so why the desperate need for pee-space? It seems to me that the office bathroom has enough opportunities for social faux-pas and paranoia without designing them for maximum exposure.

Talking of which. Someone on my floor has managed to inject a whole new level of paranoia into the office bathroom experience. Our (relatively small) bathrooms are directly across a narrow corridor from three meeting rooms. Taped to the inside of the bathroom door leading out onto the corridor is this sign:
Please Be Aware That Conversations Can Be Clearly Heard Outside.

Now, presumably, this is a well-meaning sign. I imagine that a couple of women were gossiping or laughing in the bathroom one day, were overheard outside (people rarely shut the doors to the meeting rooms), and awkwardness ensued. The sign is intended as a public service.

But think about it for a second.

It’s awkward enough, in a confined space, when you have to, you know, do something that might potentially make an embarrassing noise. But hey, we’re all adults, and it is a bathroom, and if there’s anyone else in there it’s safe to assume they’ll politely ignore any more biological sounds. Fine. But now there’s a sign, in large font, laminated no less, which reminds everyone who steps in and out of that room that the noises they make can be Clearly Heard Outside.

I mean, talk about pressure. I’d almost rather be caught snoring in public.

*I was going to call this post Toilet Humour, but I didn't want to raise any false hopes.


Blogger abacus said...

oh, i misunderstood entirely. it is not so much the sleeping at one's desk that is an issue of etiquette, embarrassing even to the extent of ummm "bathroom-related noises". no, it is the snoring...

god i miss the public service.

08 August, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually urinals are very environmentally friendly as they tend to use far less water than your average toilet does. I have seen people recommend their installation in private homes for that reason (short of redesigning toilets entirely it's a good interim measure). So it may not be purely the sadistic impulses of office designers that lead to their inclusion in offices...

08 August, 2006  
Blogger abacus said...

to be honest, i think i prefer it when Tanya does books, not urinals. or sex. hey, can we have books involving sex please? urinals optional.

and just as a sidebar, i am always interested in just how much a woman knows about urinals. and it can't just be that run through the boys' loos done as a dare at primary school, can it? is this where we males start a discussion about the strange things that are installed in female loos? of which i know nothing at all about.

08 August, 2006  
Anonymous Jason B. Standing said...

Urinals are excellent anyway for "target area". I'm not going to go into specific detail, but I should think from a cleaning point of view they're easier to deal with as well.

Got to love a nice resonant company bathroom - many's the time I've had to exercise extreme care during a post-binge hungover-at-work power chunder. Stop me if my vernacular's too endearing. Nothing puts you off work quicker than the stifled grunt-cry of someone in bile stage.

16 August, 2006  

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