Way back in July 2011, I tackled peeing in a public restroom. Ready for lesson… ahem… number two?
Dave Barry once wrote (basically; I’m paraphrasing) that a man has to be a total sleazoid sociopath to stand next to another man in an otherwise empty bank of urinals.
Countless women are faced every day with a similar predicament. It’s different, of course, since women are obsessed with what other women think of them and also because our toilets come with walls. But the psychological stress is comparable.
I’m speaking, of course, of navigating The Poop Stall.
Hear me out.
Let’s say a ladies’ room has three stalls–pretty standard.
If a woman–let’s call her Lady A–goes into an empty bathroom with three stalls she will always take the stall closest to the door. That way she can get out quickly if there is a freak toilet fire or assassins (like in that scene from True Lies), PLUS there is a buffer stall in case someone else comes in.
If Lady A is pooping, however, she will take the stall furthest from the door. It is just one of those inexplicable laws of nature, like gravity or neon frogs that kill you if you lick them.
Let’s assume, however, for the sake of argument, that Lady A is not pooping in this particular scenario. So she takes the first stall. Then, in comes Lady B. Lady B must take The Poop Stall, even though she is not pooping. The presence of another person already occupying the first stall temporarily lifts the stigma of The Poop Stall and it simply becomes The Stall That Is A Non-Threatening Distance From The Other Person In The Bathroom.
But wait! Lady A finishes up and leaves the bathroom. Oh no! Now Lady B is in The Poop Stall with no mitigating factor!
Then Lady C comes in. She sees Lady B in The Poop Stall and comes to the only rational conclusion, which is that Lady B is pooping. Lady B, at this point, is beside herself. This anxiety shuts off her urethra and prevents her from being able to audibly pee, which is even more damning.
The only thing that can save Lady B now is a surprise appearance by Lady D, who takes the middle stall, thus restoring balance to the ladies’ room ecosystem and neutralizing the tension between Ladies C and B (even though C still thinks B is pooping).
It’s all very emotionally taxing. And that’s not even taking into account the four-stall models–which require game plans worthy of a Division A college football team–or those vast airport bathrooms with literally endless rows of stalls that give them the feel of an M.C. Escher lithograph, albeit one that reeks of ammonia and urine.
Betty Friedan totally should have devoted a chapter in “The Feminine Mystique” to this.
This post originally appeared on The Sassy Curmudgeon.