If you have a Y chromosome and have ever been stricken with the urgent need to urinate in Midway International Airport, then you would probably agree that the state of men’s bathroom etiquette in the United States is alarming. Even in the 21st century, urinalgoers and toiletsitters still routinely disregard the fundamental principles of propriety and respect in the bathroom, resulting in a horrifying number of unwanted junk viewings and uncomfortable verbal exchanges. In a desperate effort to rectify this social epidemic (henceforth referred to as “The Great Discomfort”), we here at Sherman Ave have developed a comprehensive guide to bathroom etiquette.
Part I: When and how did The Great Discomfort originate?
Many trace The Great Discomfort back to the New Deal under President Roosevelt in the 1930s. One agency created was the Public Works Administration, which was responsible for, well, public works, including many public buildings large enough to necessitate large public bathrooms. We’re not really sure how this developed into today’s current predicament, but we generally like blaming problems on large government programs and bureaucratic expansion, because of the logic.
Part II: Who is responsible for The Great Discomfort?
Although social scientists, cultural anthropologists, and ethnographers have spent decades discussing the finer nuances of these wiener-displaying culprits, the answer is really pretty simple: Old people. Indeed, the most gruesome perpetrators of the Great Discomfort are typically old men who trounce through public bathrooms, trying to make small talk and making no attempt to shield your eyes from their wrinkly, wrinkly manbags. Here are some of the most common characteristics of the old people who will make your bathroom experience more uncomfortable than that time you watched the rock opera Tommy with your estranged uncle:
- AARP membership
- Florida license plate
- Pocketful of Werther’s wrappers
- Copy of “The Greatest Generation” by Tom Brokaw
- Tendency to loudly announce snap judgments about minorities
- A “Thurmond-Wright ‘48” pin on his knapsack
Of course, America’s grave-fillers aren’t the only ones capable of generating bathroom awkwardness. Other renowned etiquette-violators include well-meaning janitors, pants-dropping children, and gay-bashing senators.
Part III: Where is The Great Discomfort most volatile?
As you may have guessed, The Great Discomfort is most potent in public environments. With the exception of those times years ago when your father kicked down the door while you were peeing and fired off two dozen Roman Candles to threaten you into trying out for the football team instead of auditioning for the local productions of Cats, almost all negative bathroom experiences occur in some kind of public setting and stem from other people being heinous. Even so, some public places seem to attract the uncomfortable bathroom crowd. Listed below are some of the most notable hotspots for toilet creepers*.
- Baseball games. Setting aside the crowd of drunken overweight 30-somethings who are still trying to relive their glory days playing 3rd base for Boise North High School, the urinal troughs create a toxic environment (literally and figuratively) for bathroom-goers seeking peace and quiet. You’d think that in a society so focused on individual rights, we wouldn’t all have to piss in the same damn basin like a bunch of mangy socialist taintlords.
- Airports. Just because you aren’t fellating Larry Craig doesn’t mean that you’re home free. Airport bathrooms are grotesque because they combine the feel of a high-stress environment (businessmen hurrying to their flights, children hurrying to the shitty airport store, pilots hurrying to get moderately intoxicated at the airport bar) with a crowd of people in travel mode (read: That guy who brushes his teeth in the airport bathroom). The result is a violent collision of cultures, which inevitably translates to – you guessed it – awkwardness in the bathroom.
- Truck Stops. For a second, we can ignore the fact a truck stop bathroom is dirtier than the International Mud Wrestling Convention held in Mumbai; the discomfort stems only partially from the inherent dirtiness of the bathroom. What is even deadlier is the clash of the trucker, who traditionally views a truck stop bathroom stall as a 15-minute escape from the endless yellow lines of I-80, and the standard driver or passenger, who views a truck stop bathroom stall as a 20-second sacrifice to avoid a urinary tract infection.
Part IV: How can The Great Discomfort be curbed?
After hours of pain-staking research and heated discussion, we have deconstructed the problem at hand and divided it into a handful of simple and digestible tips (no pun intended?) on how to avoid flagrant violations of bathroom etiquette.
- Minimize conversation. There is a time and a place for everything, and the time and place for small talk is at church picnics and Starbuck’s service counters.
- Minimize awkward conversation. It’s one thing to talk about the weather to a dude while he’s deflating his pelvic panther, but it’s another to ask him about his ailing grandmother. There is really just a very limited selection of appropriate conversations that can occur between two men holding their porkswords.
- Minimize grunting. For fuck’s sake, this isn’t a women’s tennis match. No one wants to be in the bathroom at the same time as the guy whose defecation process is so intense that it necessitates sound effects comparable to Chewbacca being fisted by King Kong.
- Wash your hands. This shouldn’t require much explanation. If you just peed in a urinal, then you just touched your glorystick, which means you should wash your hands. I’m looking at you, hippies.
- Eyes ahead. There is nothing more awkward than someone peeing at a full row of urinals whilst aggressively staring at the person to his left or right. I’d rather have the Eye of Sauron watch me empty the steel eel than have the Eye of Creepy Tall German Guy watch me whip it out. YES, GERMANS. I’M CALLING YOU OUT.
- Wait to whip. Among the most atrocious bathroom crimes is the “Early Exposure,” or the act of completely whipping out your dick before even reaching a urinal. It is incredibly traumatizing to finish a good piss, turn around to wash your hands, and be accosted by a random dude’s shlong. Seriously, it’s horrifying, unnecessary, and impossible to unsee, much like the movie “Deliverance.”
- Execute Proper Urinal Placement. This is the trickiest of these tips to master, because there is truly a science behind urinal placement. Essentially, this is the rule of thumb: Always attempt to leave at least one urinal between yourself and the nearest bathroom-goer. Above all, don’t be the guy that bypasses an entire row of empty urinals to occupy the urinal adjacent to the only other occupied urinal. Just don’t do it. It’s really hurtful and often leads to severe emotional distress.
So, men of the world, take heed. With proper attention and care, this social crisis can be corrected. With each drop of golden elixir that you excrete from your bodies, you have the opportunity to be a catalyst for progress. Never forget that just one person can make a difference, even if it’s something as small as refraining from asking an adjacent bathroom-goer what he thinks of 50 Shades of Grey.
*Yes, Toilet Creepers was the name of my band in high school. Those days are behind me, despite the fact that our hit single “Snake Jelly on my Fingertips” would have easily gone platinum had it gotten better exposure.
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