Let me begin by apologizing for my delay in posting, but please believe me when I say that anyone who hit up Miami this past weekend for a bachelor party was in no position to really get anything productive, let alone creative, done these past two days.  Rather than dwell on the debauchery that ensued during my visit, I’d like to turn my attention to one of the conversations that was held during one of the few lucid moments of the trip.  What conversation could linger like a ray of sunshine through the fog of my memory you ask?  It’s one that we can all relate to and inevitably have an opinion on.  You probably have a set of rules that you live by that perhaps you’ve never verbalized to another living soul.  Of course I’m talking about pooping at the office.

It’s widely accepted that the ultimate sign of success and power in the business world is to have a private bathroom adjoining your office.  Don Draper or Roger Sterling would have had they only thought of it I’m sure.  In fact Bert Cooper may one tucked away somewhere in his Japanese dojo – maybe he is the real power over at Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Price after all.  Regardless, the rest of us that are forced to toil in the salt mines and defecate with the masses must come upon our own set of rules as to where and when our bowels may be relieved. 

The general consensus is that there is no one correct set of rules to live by.  Some people have bosses that enjoy a good stink cloud as well as your college roommate did.  Others have co-workers that send office-wide memos at the first sign of a streak in the bowl.  Despite all the factors in play, I submit to you the following guidelines that are generally accepted across the spectrum of those interviewed:

  • It is definitely ok, and frankly a suggested tip, to keep a mental rolodex of the footwear of your fellow office members and use that in your bathroom etiquette.  If you see the well shined dress shoes of a corporate exec appear under the metal stall divider, by all means it’s time to flex your intestinal muscles and bring your current production to a halt until you hear the water run and the door swing shut behind them.
  • Similarly, it is also common practice to take a quick survey of the feet of those already seated when you enter the lavatory.  The worn loafers of your cubicle buddy opens the proverbial comedy floodgates, whereas the lower half of upper management implies you should stay on your best behavior and do your best to keep that little stinker from becoming a squeaker.
  • You are not alone if you have ever entered the lavatory with an intent to sit and been forced to pull an audible when you see someone who signs your paycheck at the urinal.  In order to avoid what could truly become an awkward situation (especially if eye contact is made) you need to come up with a reason for your entering the room that was not your original seated intent.  The easy play is to take a right turn and head directly to the sink for an impromptu hand wash.  Just know that everyone is aware that there is no viable reason why someone would go into the bathroom solely for the purpose of washing their hands mid-day.  Those are all bashful people who need to poop.  The more advanced amongst us can turn off the secondary valve and step right up to the next open urinal as if that was the only reason we arrived in the first place.  Whether you actually use it or not is up to you and your control of your internal plumbing, but the key is to sell it like you’re relieving all the pressure in the pipes as originally desired.  If you’ve found yourself in this predicament before, just know that you’re not alone.
  • Leaving your office for your own friendly confines is generally accepted as a best practice if you can afford the time.  Whether it’s heading a few floors down to a seldom used secluded lavatory, or physically leaving the building for greener pastures, all options are acceptable as long as you can get away with it.  You should do your best to keep you major bowel movements confined to your residence as a rule of thumb, however if you’ve got to play on the road then you might as well do your best to find a place of comfort to call home.
  • For those concerned with leaving a trail of evidence might I suggest to you the concept of “The Nest”.  I am in the camp that giving the seat in public places a solid scrubbing before being seated is a best practice, however I also feel that sitting on a patchwork toilet paper seat liner is a bit of overkill.  I would suggest taking a stretch of teepee and wiping the seat clear of any drips, flecks, or curled hairs and then disposing of the paper in the front of the bowl to serve as a cushion or nest to catch that which you next deposit.  When done properly this approach allows you to take care of business while leaving the scene scott-free of any evidence of your activities.
  • Just to be clear, it is never appropriate to remove any amount of clothing (short of a coat or jacket) while in a bathroom stall.  Be comfortable for sure, but there’s no need to celebrate it in there.
  • If your office has people who sit directly outside of the bathroom door just know that they keep a mental clock on everyone.  They know more about you than you could ever imagine whether they’re conscious of it or not.  If said person is a particularly attractive member of the opposite sex, I would strongly suggest you follow the suggestions of the “friendlier confines” bullet three items above.
  • Always wash your hands before leaving whether you’re a believer in the practice or not.  Your co-workers are constantly judging you and are always looking for a kink in your armour.

Those are the general guidelines as outlined by a collection of inebriated invalids while soaking in the South Beach sun this weekend.  Again, there is no one right way to handle any situation, but given your particular circumstances use the items outlined above as a frame of reference from which to build.  I wish you well in your quest.  Between this column and that which addressed the sit vs. stand debate over the winter, if nothing else I hope you find Chi-Guy.com to be your go to destination for all of your bathroom bylaws.  God speed.

For the record, this goes above and beyond the call of doodie