Bathroom ethnography

One of the best things about not travelling is settling back into the warm embrace of routine. There I said it. Though the over-routinized make up a huge part of the IT geek pool and though they suffer my lighthearted mockery for it, I will admit here, now, that there is something to be said positively for having a bit of routine in one’s life. For example, going to the bathroom. Now, this may have something to do with my work in China where toilets aren’t — how to say — well, they aren’t toilets at all. Being back in my office in Chicago reminds me how much I love the facilities here. So, having spent some time getting to know them again, I am reminded that others too have very predictable behaviors, especially as they relate to Human Bathroom Interaction (HBI). Here, then, are the gross (ahem) categories into which I put my colleagues, all male, obviously:

The Bold Enterer – This is the guy who slams the bathroom door open and forcefully strides in as though he were The Law come to confront some poker-playing desperado in a dusty saloon. Or perhaps he’s just being strong and willful in case some executive is washing his hands and might take notice of his initiative.

The Stall Jiggler – This is the guy who won’t take no for an answer when he encounters a locked stall door. Buddy, if the door doesn’t give way on the first pull that means there is someone in there. To continue to try to obtain entrance suggests that you know the throne is occupied and causes one to worry about your motives. Back off.

The Spy – Perhaps the opposite of the Jiggler is this guy, who stealths about in the bathroom peering through cracks, looking under stall walls, and generally thinking he is a lot more sly than he is as he seeks to ascertain availability. What’s needed maybe is a red light-green light availability indicator, ala airplane lavatories and old-time Catholic confessionals. And speaking of confessions …

The Chatter – I’m sorry, but I simply don’t approve of cell phone conversations while you are relieving yourself. Do you think the other party can’t hear? Do you think I can’t hear? The sad part is that most of the discussions aren’t personal in nature at all. This guy is carrying on business. While crapping. This is not right.

Mr. Efficient – This is the guy who speeds into the bathroom (not boldy, just hastily), targets the first open stall, and has performed his transaction and washed up in not more than 90 seconds. This man has a goal and he accomplishes it. Task checked off the list. He’s most likely a project manager.

The Turnabout – This is the guy who seeks privacy above all else. He’s related to The Spy but the moment he learns that the stalls are not completely empty he turns on his heel and heads out or, amusingly, stops to wash his hands — surely a communication to the other fellow in the stall saying “you think I left because you were here, but in fact I came in only to stretch my legs and wash up.” Yeah, right.

Any others that I’m missing?

3 Responses to “Bathroom ethnography”

  1. Anonymous says :

    There is always The Reluctant Lingerer. This person is in a stall when you enter, and in a stall when you leave. This is generally “The Turnabout” at phase two of his mission. The reluctant lingerer generally tries to remain anonymous. The reluctant lingerer might sigh audibly upon your arrival and then reach for toilet paper hastily as you open the door to leave. This guy just wants to be alone and his silent but deadly frustration will be apparent to all. The reluctant lingerer is generally harmless, but the tension he can develop among the other “goers” is enough for everyone to become Mr. Efficient.

  2. chris says :

    There’s a variation on “The Chatter” – “The Guy Who Makes Awkward Conversation While At The Urinal Next to The One I Am Using.” Much more direct and invasive.

  3. Patrick says :

    The Bold Enterer usually is over-compensating for some genital flaw. Perhaps he is pee shy. Perhaps his addiction to video porn has left him feeling “small”. Maybe he suffers from impotence or premature ejaculation. Whatever his fear, he decides that by being loud and bold no one will question his masculinity…..or will we?