Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Men's Room Etiquette

Gone are the days when men were men and women were women. By that I mean gone is the time when I could go to the men’s room without getting involved in a conversation. That bygone era was a golden age, marked by beautiful, dignified silence. It was a time when an unwritten law was understood by all men: “No talking in the Men’s Room”. This law was faithfully obeyed without exception.

Say, for example, a man were suddenly to notice standing at the urinal next to him his long-lost father whom he hasn’t seen for twenty years. Under normal circumstances, there would be some sort of immediate emotional reaction. Not so in the men's room. No, in this case the reunion would just have to wait until the business being transacted by both men at the urinals had been completed. Even then, only after stepping into the “safe speech zone” (in front of the sinks), could they start to make up for lost time.

Women wouldn’t understand this. The ladies’ room is a social gathering place for the fairer sex. In fact, going there is often a group activity for them. It almost seems as if women are afraid to visit the restroom alone. Try going to a restaurant with a group of women. No sooner will one woman announce her intention to visit the ladies’ room when every other female at the table will respond with great enthusiasm, “Ooh! Me too! I want to go with you!” Yes, for women, going to the head is not just necessary, it can be fun! I remember making a rather shocking discovery in this regard when I had a janitorial business and was about to clean a ladies’ room for the first time. There, right in the middle of the lavatory, was a couch – a couch, for Pete’s sake!

As a man, I can’t imagine any respectable use for a couch in the bathroom. I go to the restroom to do one or both of only two things – and neither is a group activity. Slowly, however, men are becoming more like women in their bathroom behavior. Nowadays, I can’t stand in front of a urinal without the guy next to me wanting to chat me up about any number of topics ranging from the weather, to the next presidential election, to Mary-Kate Olsen’s issues with food.

I blame this decline in dignified male behavior on the same thing I blame for all of society’s modern evils – the popularity of the cell phone. It is now common to hear the guy in the stall next to you happily bantering over the phone with his buddy. I will never understand why or how this became socially acceptable. How does the person on the other end of the conversation feel (unless he is also in a stall at the time)? There’s nothing like being called by a friend in the John that says, “I was just taking a dump, and thought of you”. (Note to anyone thinking of calling me while in the men’s room: Flush, wash your hands, then dial my number.) The point is, once it became alright to speak telephonically in the men’s room, all manner of conversation has become fair game.

I don’t know how I will cope with this de-evolution in men’s societal interaction. I shudder to think how far it might develop, and I fear for the younger generation of boys growing up today. I know one thing – If I walk into a men’s room one day and see a couch, I think I’ll just hold it in until I get home.

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