How to be a bathroom ninja

I originally wrote this essay over 8 years ago when I was working corporate and shared it on my old site, hilbitwrites.wordpress.com. At the time, there was a lot of WTF going on in the ladies restroom at the office. A couple weeks ago, I shared it with a friend after she grumbled about the bathroom situation at her job.

Apparently, some things never change.

The purpose of sharing it again now is to offer you a laugh (we need more of those this pandemic year). Also, it may just make you super grateful to work from home.

Laughter and gratitude: two surefire ways to feel more joy and ease.

How to be a bathroom ninja…

Disclaimer: This essay may get me kicked off the internet.  If you’re easily offended, or find discussions of pooping something that shouldn’t actually be discussed, this essay is probably not for you.

As the title suggests, this essay is about bathrooms.  Specifically, public restrooms.  More specifically, the woman’s restroom at my office.  If I don’t get kicked off the internet, I may be banned from using the work bathroom.

That might not be a bad thing.  I have a feeling the restroom at the local Target is cleaner.

A little back story…

There are rules for using a public facility, even if the “public” is limited to your co-workers in a private office building.  At least once a week, I or one of my girl friends is subjected to a random but offensive bathroom violation.  We’ve reached the point where this is so out of control, we run to tell the others what happened.  I think it’s a matter of misery loves company.  But these incidents are often humorous.  And who can’t use a good laugh in the middle of their work day?

I’ve posted some of these to my Facebook status.  My sister-in-law tells me she plans to set up a lawn chair in my work restroom if she ever gets to Chicago.  I don’t blame her.  It’s the best tourist attraction in town.

My goal with this essay is to point out the most common violations and the rules for avoiding them.  I realize I’m going to give away some secrets but removing the veil of mystery surrounding the “Ladies Room” is necessary in the interests of public education.  How violated each of us may feel when subjected to any of these infractions will vary among individuals, so feel free to pick and choose the rules you follow.  Just remember…the rules are now public, so we’re all going to be expected to step up our game.  And, if you decide you want to print these out and hang them on the stall doors of YOUR work restroom, go right ahead.  Please just attribute it to hilaryclark.com.

So, in no particular order of importance…

Musical accompaniment…

If you feel the need to play music on your iPhone or iPod while using the public restroom, go ahead.  Just know it is NOT masking the sounds coming from your stall.

If you decide to break out in song after completing your business, again, go ahead.  The acoustics in most restrooms are pretty fantastic.  But consider your song choice with care.  Don’t choose to sing Tomorrow, unless you’re pondering your next visit.  Instead choose something commemorative of the moment, like Memories.  And please be aware: suddenly bursting into song may startle any other occupant, shocking a fart into the atmosphere, thereby adding a noxious element to what would have otherwise been a cultural moment.

Basic cleanliness…

If you protect your precious bottom from whatever resides on the seat with a liner or several layers of toilet paper, please think of future visitors.  Do the courteous thing and ensure all remnants of sanitary barrier have followed your business down into the bowels of the sewer.  Don’t leave even a square to scare the next unsuspecting user when she enters the stall.  No one wants to touch someone else’s safety paper, even with the toe of a shoe.

In a similar vein, make sure you leave the seat dry.  I’m talking primarily to the squatters here, but all of us leave the occasional drip.  Dry is nice.  Wet is not.  Even with a paper barrier, the dampness seeps through.  Sure, it might be back-splash and purely potable water, but there’s no way to know that when you’ve planted your ass in a small puddle.

If you’re prone to shedding, please use a toilet paper square to brush those lonely locks of hair into the bowl.  And I’m not just talking about the hair on your head.  This is why waxing was invented.

These particular situations compound the intrinsic filthiness of my work restroom.  Each day, one of the janitors has to pour water down the floor drain to eliminate the sulfuric scent of rotten eggs.  And it’s too bad they haven’t figured out a solution to the gnats.  It’s disconcerting to be sitting there, minding your own business, contemplating the fate of the nation, and gnats start swarming around you.  It’s enough to give a person a complex.

One of my friends has done some traveling.  She informed me the porcelain holes in the ground she encountered in Peru were cleaner than the restroom we use at the office.  Even if I don’t get banned from the bathroom here, the one at Target is looking better and better.

Stall etiquette…

On any given day, I suspect most of us aren’t too worried about our personal space.  Until we enter the bathroom.  (Ed. Note: this was written WAY pre-pandemic; nowadays, keep that 6’ between you.)

Once we enter the bathroom, we become islands and want vast acres of space between us and the next person.  If you enter a bathroom and the only unoccupied stall is immediately next to an occupied one, leave.  Come back later.  If you’re desperate and you absolutely, positively must go right that moment, practice your Kegels.  One of those stalls should open up soon and you can grab one without a neighbor.

While you’re at it, hold off on conversation.  I’m happy to talk to you when we’re both at the sink, but I’d rather pretend neither of us exist when one or both of us is in a stall.  There are plenty of places for a good long chat.  Most of those places have much more comfortable seating that a cold porcelain throne.

My same friend also traveled to the Dominican Republic where the public use cozy little rooms, fully enclosed for glorious privacy.  I imagine it to be a little condo complex of bathroom stalls, pristine and secure, with latches that latch and the illusion you’re sitting on the commode in the sanctity of your bathroom at home.

Courtesy flush…

Most people know of, and make full use of, the courtesy flush.  It’s used to mask any noise that may be emanating from your stall.  It rids the room of acrid smells.  If you’re afflicted with an EBM (explosive bowel movement), or Ass-plosion, the courtesy flush serves as cover for what is surely an awkward experience.  Particularly if someone else is using the restroom, or the restroom is located right next to peoples’ work space, the courtesy flush is the polite thing to do.  Sure, everyone knows why you’re doing it. 

It’s still considered good etiquette.

Except when the courtesy flush causes water and whatever else is in the bowl to splash back on the user.  Or on the floor.  Or on your feet.  Or, as happened to me, on your shoulder.  I was wearing a sundress.  I had to take a sponge bath at the sink.  What the hell?

Respect…

If your boss gives you a work space next to the restroom, it probably means he or she doesn’t like or respect you very much.  Sorry to be so blunt, but you may need to rethink your job.  I overheard this conversation in the hall one day:

Person 1: I don’t like sitting next to the bathroom.  I can hear the pooping.

Person 2: (Stunned silence.)

I learned later that Person 1 was the same person who experienced an EBM, then struck up conversation with someone while still in the stall, trying to explain it was the coffee.

With joy and ease…

I hope you enjoyed this little foray into my writing archives. Feel free to share far and wide – everyone should learn how to be a bathroom ninja!


If you’re ready for a private (virtual) showing of my art, you can schedule an appointment here.

To discuss commissioning me to make a textured fiber painting specifically for you or someone you love, please schedule an exploratory commissioning conversation and we’ll see what we can create together.

If you enjoyed this article, and it feels aligned, please share on social media or via email. If you liked it, someone you know will probably like it too!

Author: Hilary Clark

Artist, Writer, Poet. Joy & Ease Believer. Aiming for modern renaissance woman. Will likely miss.

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