The Abstract Science of Bathroom Politics

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know or so they tell me.  At the same time, geography it has been said determines more in our lives than any other factor other than birth.  That prior useful adage was assembled by me after several unsuccessful visits to ill-placed, unsanitary, and overpopulated restrooms.  I’m big on bathrooms because I drink a lot of water.  Bathrooms are a big part of my day.  I spend as much time figuring out where the next successful bathroom visit will occur than on any other arbitrary activity.  You may be asking yourself two questions at this point, both of which are legitimate: one; what does a successful bathroom visit entail and two; what does a bathroom and its’ occupants tell you about anything?  The answers are different for each visitor, but for many a bathroom visit is more routine than anything else.  People go into a bathroom like they go into nothing else in their lives; totally unprepared for what is to come and set with an agenda in mind before proceeding on to any activities.

Just as in any other situation in life the story doesn’t occur when things go as planned rather they begin when things happen that weren’t planned.  It’s not just the idiosyncratic rigidity that makes bathroom politics abstract or scientific, but rather how the unplanned and in many cases unforeseen events are handled by the various players that make these situations unique unto themselves.  You may be thinking one thing on your way into a bathroom, but that subject is almost guaranteed to change after your bathroom experience.  One seldom leaves the bathroom thinking the same thing that one thought going in.

When one accepts the rules of bathroom politics and abides by the abstract science that it is one suddenly understands the rules that govern the successful bathroom visit.  Simply put: understanding the fact that your mind will change upon entering the bathroom is step one in a series of steps that leads to a better understanding of the abstract science that dominates bathroom politics.  Now, you may be wondering: just what are bathroom politics and why is it an abstract science?  Bathroom politics are defined by who you know and who you don’t know upon entering a bathroom.  Your goal should be to know no one that could be using the particular bathroom that you are planning to attend when planning a bathroom excursion.  In life, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, but in the bathroom it’s not who you know, but who you don’t.  You want to know as few people as possible when planning a bathroom visit.

Take the example of Ned for instance.  Ned was just going about his business using a urinal as prescribed when out of the blue a friend walked into the bathroom.

“Ned!” he shouted.  Ned turned around immediately and was met by his friend who embraced him with a bear hug.  I don’t know when his friend realized that Ned hadn’t had an adequate opportunity to pack up before exiting the urinal, but eventually either he felt something or he thought the situation through and he walked away from an incredibly uncomfortable Ned.

It’s times like these that make you re-think your gut instincts.  This situation could happen to any of us.  Think about poor Ned for a minute.  Ned’s just standing there trying to go about his business when out of nowhere a friend, perhaps not even a friend, maybe he was just an acquaintance decided to embrace him.  One should know better than to walk into a bathroom and embrace another man standing at a urinal, but you’ve got to understand that both sides are at fault here.  Both men could have avoided this situation with proper planning.  If one or the other had avoided this particular restroom on account of the fact that they might run into one another creating an awkward moment then this entire situation could have been avoided.  Now, you might say that person A had no right to go up to Ned and hug him, but we don’t really know the particulars of this situation, so anything is possible.  The point is that this situation should have been avoided.  Another way this situation could have been avoided would have been if Ned had used the tried and true method of the group attack model.  The group attack model most commonly known as the buddy system is used most frequently by women and it’s terribly effective.  I can pretty much guarantee that you won’t see any of this kind of behavior going on in a women’s room.

Bathroom politics operates under exactly the opposite premise that regular politics operate under.  In the political world connections get you places, in the world of bathrooms connections get you problems.  Now first of all not nearly enough people actually wash their hands.  I don’t care if the polls say that 99% of people wash their hands, that survey will have a margin of error of plus or minus 98%.  Second, we need to recognize that the rules of etiquette that apply to the normal world don’t apply to the bathroom world.  It’s a totally different world in there.  It’s like a silent war zone, the bombs are dropping, the shells are exploding and people are getting hurt only no one can hear it.  This is the war that no one hears about but takes its fair amount of casualties.  Wave after wave of innocent kids go in there, but only the women survive.  Women survive the bathroom experience because they have a system and that system works pretty well.  They attack the bathroom in teams thus outnumbering their foe and confusing them.  They also avoid physical contact with one another whenever possible.  This is a key attribute to anyone who wants to have a successful bathroom visit, simply avoid physical contact with anyone until you are safely outside the confines of the bathroom.

One unwritten rule of bathroom politics is that there should be absolutely no talking.  Indeed, why would the need arise?  The central law of bathroom politics is that you react in a variable environment in the same way that you’d react in a controlled environment when you encounter a situation that your mind has not had time to prepare for.  Take the situation that Jake found himself in, for example.  One day I walked into the bathroom to use the urinal when I heard a man struggling in the stall next to me.  Now I observed the vow of silence that is required when a man is using the bathroom and allowed the man to keep on suffering after all what could I possibly do to help him?  I did wonder what giving voice to your pain does for you in that situation, but by the time I made my way over to the sink to wash my hands that was an afterthought as apparently he had recovered sufficiently to get up and leave the stall.  Sometimes you just need to let folks do whatever works for them.  As I washed my hands a man walked into the bathroom as this man walked out of the stall and sure enough the two men knew one another.  The man who had just walked into the room apparently knew the gentleman in the stall.

“Jake!”  He cried.  Jake looked like he wanted to crawl in a hole and cry, but his friend extended his hand.  Jake reluctantly took his hand in his and shook it.  I think it would be rather crass to describe Jake’s expression as pained, so I’ll simply exhort that he looked like he was suffering through a zombie apocalypse.

I wish I knew what it was that made men get so excited about seeing one another in the bathroom.  It just strikes me as strange.  The mantra when approaching a bathroom experience is the same for me as it is when I go to school, work, the dentist, etc.  My mantra is simple: get in, get out, get on with your business.  There is absolutely no need to say hello to someone in a bathroom ever.  The need just never arises.  Even if you do see someone you know and you want to talk to them, wait outside the bathroom.  Nothing good ever happens in a bathroom.  Haven’t these people watched any action movies?  The bathroom is the place where people get ambushed and bad guys get killed.  Get in, get out, get on with your business.

There are special rules that one must observe when in the bathroom.  The need for touching someone other than yourself will never arise.  I don’t care if someone falls down.  Don’t help them get up let them do it on their own.  I know your immediate reaction is to help out and good for you for having a charitable heart, but everything that you think you know in this situation is wrong.  The science of bathroom politics tells us that everything we’d normally do in the course of living day to day doesn’t apply to the bathroom.  If you see someone struggling don’t help them.  What is that going to do and how is that going to help?  It’s just going to be awkward.  Engaging with someone in a bathroom is exactly the same as engaging in the politics of personal destruction.  It’s been my experience with the politics of personal destruction that those who choose to engage in it are the ones who have the least integrity to begin with.  Those who engage in unacceptable bathroom conduct, by and large, are those who do not on a very basic level, understand basic rules of hygiene like washing your hands etc. nor do they care about these issues.  This should worry us all.  But there is only so much that we can control, so we’ve got to keep that in mind.  You can control the when and the where which only leaves the how up for grabs.

Knowing which bathrooms to use when in a large building is absolutely essential to a successful bathroom experience.  It’s important to emphasize that there is no such thing as a positive bathroom visit.  It’s not like going to the doctor where you’re either healthy or you’re not.  Going to the bathroom is a net negative experience; the best you can hope for is that it isn’t as bad as it could be.  Think of poor Jake for instance.  He was having a rough day and having his friend recognize him in the bathroom didn’t make it any better for him.  What’s worse is that his friend got screwed no matter which way you look at it.  He probably had good intentions and all, but he didn’t understand the rule about eliminating negatives in a negative situation.  When you’re in a situation where the best outcome is avoiding a worse outcome you need to look at ways to avoid negative experiences.  This leads us back to a central theme of bathroom politics and that’s geography.  You need to limit your exposure to both friendly and enemy fire.  That’s the challenge that the science presents to us.  If you understand where the decent bathrooms are and when they are least busy then you can minimize your negatives in advance.

All in all, the abstract science of bathroom politics involves avoiding what I call the double negatives.  You’re in a negative situation because you’ve found yourself in a bathroom, so what you want to do now is avoid any further negatives.  You can avoid seeing people you know if you plan in advance, you can shut down your bodies first reaction (which is to engage in what someone else is doing like extending your hand) by getting in the right mindset beforehand and finally you can remember the correct course of actions by remembering the acronym TSA.  Simply put: TSA stands for toilet-sink-action.  You use the toilet, then you use the sink, then you can engage in an action of some kind.  Shaking someone’s hand is okay if it is done after both parties have washed their hands.  The keys to a successful bathroom experience are avoiding people, avoiding physical contact, and accomplishing the mission that you had in going to the bathroom to begin with.  If you achieve those three things then you will lessen your exposure to the negative experiences that happen in the abstract science of bathroom politics and at the end of the day that’s all anyone can reasonably do.


28 thoughts on “The Abstract Science of Bathroom Politics

  1. LOL
    This applies to females as well. I once had someone tell me from the next stall “I know those shoes!!!”. Jeez! Now I laugh every time I remember the situation and have even shared with friends.
    Keep it quick and simple: No talking, no touching, and wash your damn hands!

  2. I’m an American living in South Korea, and I wish these same politics applied here. I once saw an old guy talking to another old guy, and he leaned over and looked at his “package”… while the guy was still peeing. Gross! The only think I can think of that’s worse is if the guy had helped him shake himself dry after finishing his business.

  3. What a great little item on such an interesting topic. Nothing is written, there are no laid down rules, it’s all common sense, but some people are unaware of what is required of them, which can lead to awkward or funny situations.

    I’ve only ever done the 1 cartoon on toilets.

    But before you look at it, let me mention that the Australian government introduced a Carbon tax on July 1st this year.

    A large number of the population don’t like it and think it will cause all sorts of problems, like the sky falling in etc.

    So now, everyone blames all problems on the Carbon tax.

    Please read on ………………



  4. I completely agree that there’s no need for bathroom conversation, and it is for that reason that, even as a woman, I rarely use the buddy system when making my way to a public restroom.

  5. I was at a casino with a buddy and somehow we ended up taking a leak at the same time and we were talking….then the bathroom just got really awkward lol. Definitely against the rules of the game!

  6. “The science of bathroom politics tells us that everything we’d normally do in the course of living day to day doesn’t apply to the bathroom” I have very little shame, I guess,and do not worry about negatives. I do try to lessen others discomfort by warning of clogged toilets, or absence of paper, or doors that do not fasten, or toilet paper hanging out the bottom of their slacks or hanging off their waist band. That being said , I rarely use public washrooms for anything that might result in me becoming a pariah.

  7. Last night I went into the women’s bathroom and a woman came out of the stall saying apologetically that she was so sorry, but she couldn’t get the toilet to flush. I went in there (as it was the only stall open) thinking there would just be a pee in there, but no, she’d left an entire bloody tampon in there. I couldn’t resist; I had to flush it to see if she was a complete idiot. The thing flushed the first time without a hitch. So either she was a complete idiot, or she completely didn’t care to flush. But you’re right. I left the bathroom thinking of something totally different than when I went in.

  8. I am always curious about what goes on in a men’s bathroom b/c it’s a place that I cannot go – so I am missing out on the sociology of Men’s Bathrooms. I’m curious about the politics of urinal use (where to stand, where to look etc), I’m curious if men are horrified that everyone that goes into the bathromm will know they are not probably peeing if they are in a stall…and I’m curious about how men can be so open about peeing in the public part of the bathroom.

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