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Flushing Away Those Little Etiquette Dilemmas

Today was just horribly weird. It involves me, my co-worker “S” and another girl “M”. lately my co-worker “S” and I have been noticing that there seems to be an appalling lack of bathroom etiquette lately; specifically, our co-worker “M” has recently started having ten minute conversations on her cell phone IN THE STALL.

We normally ignore her and quietly go about our business, but today was a BAD DAY for me. I rushed in the bathroom during a break in a long meeting and threw myself into a stall, and froze like a deer in the headlights when I suddenly heard her phone ring. She answered it. She started jabbering away, while I desperately tried to be…erm… ladylike. I was dying. I didn’t want to “disturb her conversation” but for all that is holy why on earth are people talking on their cell phones in the bathroom? Do you know where you are?! How are you not embarrassed about sitting on a toilet talking in the bathroom to your friend/husband/vendor? Really? Does he think that strange echo is feedback? Is the flushing sounds your new ringtone? WHAT IS YOUR DAMAGE!

*deep breath.

As I am sitting there, trying to convince my colon that it wasn’t being punked by Asthon Kutcher and that the bad lady wouldn’t notice a thing (because she is talking too loud and is too self absorbed) my friend “S” comes in the restroom. She suddenly exclaims, “OP, are you still in here? The break is over and they are waiting for you.”  I felt the blood drain from my face, and stammered something incoherent. At this point, “M” starts talking again to the person on the phone louder because apparently “S” is making too much noise. “S” laughed when she realized why I was frozen to the seat and then walked into the stall next to me and starts flushing the toilet over and over again. This finally had an effect on “M”, who suddenly goes, “Sorry it got loud in here, let me call you back”.  She then proceeds to burst out of the bathroom stall and fled the bathroom. “S” cracks up and then tells me, “I will tell them you will be a few more minutes,” and leaves the bathroom. I sat there stunned for a minute, and then was finally able to get back to the meeting.

All through the meeting I couldn’t look at “S” in the face. We were somewhat hysterical all day, and avoided each other until our shift was over. As I was walking out to my car “M” approaches me in the parking lot and goes, “I just think you should know, your friend “S” is the rudest woman I have ever met,” and she flounced off to her car.

Maybe. Or maybe she is a Genius.    0826-11

{ 108 comments… add one }
  • lkb August 31, 2011, 5:27 am

    The OP is nicer than I am. If someone is dumb enough to be talking on a cell phone in a restroom, that’s not my problem. I would have done my business come what may. Fun story though.

    • admin August 31, 2011, 9:34 am

      Not only would I have done my business as is befitting the location but I certainly wouldn’t be shy about asking the person in the stall next to me if she had any toilet paper…assuming I really did need it.

  • Eccentric Lady August 31, 2011, 6:00 am

    I personally think “S” behavior it could be considered retaliating rudeness, but jeez “M” takes the cake. “M” needs to learn to quit being so readily available. I personally find people on the cell phone while in a room designated for bodily functions horribly crude – this seems to be wide spread epidemic of answering the electronic leash and leaving common courtesy an endangered species.

    C’Mon, when you’re in the restroom to handle things of that nature show some respect for the caller by calling them back later – for it shows more refinement than having flushing and other noises made in the background. I can relate to the OP for a few times I felt it was lesser of the two evils to ‘wait’ for one time it was apparent the caller was talking to her boss…all the time wishing she’d learn that calling back isn’t rude as taking the call on the porcelain throne!

    I know as a society we’re conditioned to want things *right now*, but there is a virtue of having limited availability for many reasons – and patience is not a bad thing to have either!

  • Kylie Carney August 31, 2011, 6:15 am

    Last time I had a toilet talker I deliberately flushed the toilet to make her whereabouts known! Passive aggressive – moi?

  • josie August 31, 2011, 6:24 am

    “S” was a lifesaver for coming to your rescue. “M” was just multi-tasking 🙂

  • ferretrick August 31, 2011, 6:53 am

    Am I missing something here? I agree, talking on your cell while on the toilet is weird and gross and rude, but you had a stall of your own where you could go about your own business. What exactly was holding you up from, er, doing your own thing?

  • J's Mama August 31, 2011, 7:03 am

    Was M raised in a barn? I can’t stand it when people talk on the phone while in the bathroom. If I have to go in the middle of a phone conversation, I make up an excuse to get off the phone and then call them right back. I think that’s just common courtesy.

    I think it’s pretty funny that M thinks S is the rude one. Aww, poor M couldn’t finish her conversation in the stall because S is SO rude.

  • YWalkalone August 31, 2011, 7:04 am

    While I understand your desire to be “ladylike”, SHE is the one who decided to have a conversation in the restroom, a place that one would not normally go for a private conversation (without the other party’s consent), therefore she gets the consequences. You shouldn’t be worried about bothering her, she should be the one worried about bothering you.

    Honestly, I’m rather surprised at your meekness. What would you have done if S hadn’t rescued you? You should have politely confronted M before S even walked in. Especially given where you were–if you don’t like confrontation, the stalls still provide a considerable degree of anonymity. Possessing etiquette does not equate to possessing a backbone that consists of a school of jellyfish.

  • kingshearte August 31, 2011, 7:07 am

    I would like to say that we shouldn’t be so embarrassed about our natural bodily functions, and that I would have just let ‘er rip and let M explain that to whoever she was talking to, but realistically… I would have frozen, as frustrated and embarrassed as you were.

  • MyFamily August 31, 2011, 7:28 am

    I think M and S were both rude. S did that just to make a point with M, rather than talk to her about how uncomfortable it was for the other women to use the bathroom.

    Of course, I also think the OP should have just done what she needed to do and not worried about disturbing M’s conversation.

  • QueenofAllThings August 31, 2011, 7:57 am

    Why, oh why, has the repeated flush solution never occurred to me? Simple, elegant and brilliant!

    As an aside, why do some folk feel it necessary to tell other folk that their friend is rude? What’s that supposed to solve?

  • Susan August 31, 2011, 8:19 am

    Your friend had the right idea! The only way to deal with a “on-the-potty talker” is to flush!

  • Harley Granny August 31, 2011, 8:20 am

    Too Too funny!!!!

    When this started I was all ready to wonder why people time other people in the bathroom but I’m so glad I was wrong and continued reading.

    Nicely played by S….I would have burst out in hysterical laughter @ M…and then ask her to explain.

  • elicat August 31, 2011, 8:21 am

    Personally, I think it’s rude when people talk on their cell phone while checking out at the register in a store, much less phoning and discussing their “business” in a bathroom! The last 2 paragraphs cracked me up, though. It just goes to show you how clueless “M” is! I agree–“S” is a genius!

  • Vicky August 31, 2011, 8:43 am

    OMG….I so agree with the lack of cell phone etiquette. I was in the restroom of a restaurant and this woman was conducting a cell conversation while toilets are flushing and the hand dryer was going off. She then finally went into a stall to do her “business” while still on the phone. Regardless of who is on the other end of the call (close friend or business), it is just rude and inconsiderate to the caller.

  • Lexie August 31, 2011, 8:52 am

    Genius. M deserved being hit by a clue by four, even if it was a bit unorthodox.

    The other side of thought might suggest that S or the OP should have spoken up and request M crease her bathroom conversations, but from my experience, anyone who feels that it is appropriate to conduct a telephone conversation in a toilet cubicle, let alone whilst other people are using the facilities, isn’t going to simply stop because of a request.

  • Chocobo August 31, 2011, 8:54 am

    Agreed — Genius! Nothing to add to that.

  • catwoman2965 August 31, 2011, 9:02 am

    Honestly, you and S were not rude, M was, for commenting on S’s actions. And in the future, I’d just go about my business whether or not she’s on her phone, in the stall. I wouldn’t worry about being ladylike; if you have to go, you have to go. While I don’t get it, if someone wants to hold a conversation in the ladies room, that’s their choice, but I’m not about to not do what is meant to be done in there, to avoid the phonee from hearing.

  • Tracey August 31, 2011, 9:06 am

    Bravo to “M” for helping the OP out! Oy, who hasn’t been in that situation where you would give anything to be home in your private bathroom on a day like that?! I can’t think of a single reason to hold a cell phone conversation in a public bathroom. It’s not quiet. It’s not private. And it’s likely not pleasant for the person on the other end.

    Maybe the bathroom needs a sign on the door “Cell free zone.” Ridiculous, no? “M” would most likely disregard it anyway.

    I don’t know if “S” is a good friend, but I would have been thanking her for the quick thinking on her part!

  • Tracey August 31, 2011, 9:07 am

    Oops, bravo to “S” for helping out. I need an edit button when there are only initials in these stories, LOL!

  • The Elf August 31, 2011, 9:24 am

    S. is a genius. Absolutely genius.

    Maybe I’m just totally crazy that way, but I completely would have taken the Browns to the Superbowl with a grunt and as much bodily noise as I can muster. Then I would sigh in relief before I flushed. Probably twice, maybe three times. Those modern low-flow toilets can’t handle that much at a time, you know. If I were feeling particularly mischievous, I might throw in an apology over the stall wall (without using her name) “Whew! Sorry about that! I had no idea that eating leftover bean and cheese enchildas for breakfast and washing it down with three cups of coffee would affect me so! Whooo-eeee, that’s bad!”

    Hey, that’s what a toilet is there for. A phone, not so much. The couple of times I’ve been in the situation where someone is on the phone in the bathroom with me, I don’t hesitate in doing what I came in to do. They picked the bathroom to make a phone call, they can deal the fact that they are in a bathroom. I just have never been in such dire need as the OP when it happened!

    I’ve been on the wrong end of the bathroom call before, and I always get off the phone as quickly as possible. I don’t want to be there for what they are doing! I barely want to be there for when I need to do that! It’s not one of life’s little joys to be savored.

  • Alkira6 August 31, 2011, 9:41 am

    Sorry if you’re on the phone – the toilets, sinks, and stalls are a HUGE clue as to what’s going to be going on around you. OP, next time just go. I understand being a bit squeamish but she was impacting your work adversely by you extending your break time. If she says anything just tell her that 4 walls do not a private phonebooth make.

  • Wheelchair Bling August 31, 2011, 9:42 am

    What’s with the couple of folks who think “S” was rude for making bathroom noises in the bathroom? That;s what the bathroom is FOR – going and flushing. Also washing.

    Whereas broadcasting other people’s private noises over the phone – now THAT’S rude.

  • Hemi Halliwell August 31, 2011, 9:50 am

    Ew. Talking on a cell phone in the bathroom is gross. As I’ve commented before, I’m a bit of a germaphobe so I’m also wondering how much fecal/urine matter is on her phone. *shudder*

  • WildIrishRose August 31, 2011, 9:52 am

    Add Admin. to the genius list.

  • cheesecake August 31, 2011, 9:56 am

    Evil cheesecake would make world was II sound effects and occasionally shout “Torpedo ATTACK!!!!”

  • Lucy August 31, 2011, 9:59 am

    I vote for “genius”. Actually, I think it’s a pretty obvious solution.

    We all know what is the primary intended use of the bathroom. If you don’t want people to hear “bathroom noises” while you’re on the phone with them, don’t call them while you’re in there. If you do talk on the phone while you’re in there, don’t complain to the people who made those noises, for making those noises. This is what voicemail is for–99.999% of phone calls can wait five minutes until you’re in a toilet-free zone to be returned.

    Of course, I assume we all know that M was actually hiding out from work in the bathroom, and is miffed that her “breakroom” is being used for its true function and blowing her cover but, again–that’s her problem.

  • Yellow Rose August 31, 2011, 10:01 am

    The only thing better than repeated ‘flushing out’ of BR talkers would be going down the row of stalls and flushing each empty toilet. The larger the BR, the grander the ‘salute’.
    PA, I know, but really! Some people have enough trouble going in a public lav, they shouldn’t have to have their visit shared with an unknown third party.

  • Twik August 31, 2011, 10:08 am

    I think S was rude, but M was rather overinhibited. Cellphones have a fairly limited microphone pickup (that’s why there’s so much “Can you hear me now?” when people move the phone a centimeter away from the right spot beside their lips), and noise from another stall would not likely be picked up. Even if it could, that’s the risk that someone takes when talking in the restroom. Of course, I realize, some people just *can’t* do their normal functions knowing that someone is present, so perhaps M’s problem was at least partially physiological.

    Of course, S has no right to assume that everyone will treat the bathroom as if it’s her private phone booth, and avoid making any noise that makes it hard for *her* to hear her end of the conversation.

  • Enna August 31, 2011, 10:10 am

    OP, I agree with flushing the toliet as well as what Admin has said:

    “Not only would I have done my business as is befitting the location but I certainly wouldn’t be shy about asking the person in the stall next to me if she had any toilet paper…assuming I really did need it.”

  • Isabelle August 31, 2011, 10:17 am

    When that trend of taking phone calls in the restrooms started, I tried to be all ladylike and not affect the conversation of the person much. Well, granted, I thought that the reason why you’d take a phone call while in the restrooms was an emergency. I quickly figured out that, no, it’s really just because people feel the need to be accessible at all times. So now I go about my business as if the person wasn’t there.

  • Zhoen August 31, 2011, 10:22 am

    I had to make a mad rush into a (thankfully nice) restroom in a book/gift store, where two women were having a serious and rather private conversation. They did not stop as I ran in, pulled the door quickly behind me, and frantically undid. They did go quiet as the noise commenced, although I think the odor got them out the door. I felt bad, a bit, but I couldn’t have stopped myself. I don’t fault them for their choice of quiet place for a conversation, but they were unwise to try to continue once I ran in. I hope they laughed about it later, as I did.

    And yes, I made sure to return and buy something from that shop, on another day.

    M needs to realize the primary purpose of a toilet is bodily function, not privacy to talk on the phone. Poor LW, sounds young, I couldn’t have let it rip in those circumstances when I was younger either. Takes a while for some of us to get over that self consciousness. Good thing she had a good friend to help her out. I hope she learns that the only “ladylike” behaviour on the can is not talking on a cell phone at the same time, and she already knows that exception.

  • --E August 31, 2011, 10:24 am

    M is a boron. If you’re in a bathroom, you will be subject to bathroom activities and their resultant noises. Speaking on your cell in the stall doesn’t magically turn it into a phone booth.

    I love S. Sounds like my kind of gal.

    I’m guessing OP is on the younger side of 35. One of the great game-changers of middle age is that you cease to care whether you’re making noise in the bathroom. With very few exceptions, there will come a time when you have a, shall we say, noisy episode in the bathroom. There’s not a damn thing you can do about it; it’s a side effect of being human. And you will hear other people–people you can identify–having similar incidences.

    You get over it. Everyone farts, sometimes graphically and horribly. “Courtesy flushes” to mask the sound are appropriate; but getting judgmental, about yourself or another person, is stupid. It will happen to us all, sooner or later. After that, the tame tinkle of ordinary urination is hardly anything to get embarrassed about.

    It’s a bathroom. That’s what it’s there for. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a prig.

  • AS August 31, 2011, 10:26 am

    She probably needs a place which is quite when speaking over the phone. But then, choose a location where people don’t visit to do private things…!
    Just imagine being on the other side of the phone, and you hear odd sounds, and something that suspiciously sounds like a flush!

    I agree with admin. I might have felt awkward, but still gone about doing my business. After all, restrooms are meant for that!

    S is indeed a genius!

  • Nadine August 31, 2011, 10:38 am

    I am a rather timid person, and would probably have just done my business as quietly as possible, then left.

    I would love to have the courage to do my business as loudly as possible. “Ugh, Grunt, Ahhh…. Wow, that’s one of the biggest turds I have ever seen. Here comes another one. Grunt Grunt Grunt Ahhhhhh That turd was even bigger than the other one. Wow. A triple-flusher.”

    Your friend S is brilliant.

  • spartiechic August 31, 2011, 10:48 am

    I have a lot of empathy for the OP. I, too, would probably have frozen. There is just something about doing your business with someone having a conversation right next to you. I know, I know. It’s a normal bodily function, but still. Ewww!

    I know that two wrongs don’t make a right and that what “S” did was more than a little passive agressive, but come on! “S” needed to get her point across and, somehow, I don’t think having a conversation with “M” was going to help. If “M” already thought it was perfectly acceptable to talk on the phone in a stall, she’s not going to change that habit anytime soon. My bet is that she was back to doing it again the very next day.

  • C. J. August 31, 2011, 10:50 am

    I say bravo to “S” for helping her friend out. I would have been just as colon-locked as OP.

  • Wink-n-Smile August 31, 2011, 10:52 am

    It’s a pity you couldn’t let your colon do its thing. Loudly. And prolongedly. Then S wouldn’t have to be “the rudest woman M ever met,” and a whole lot of water wouldn’t have been wasted.

    Also, be sure to make moans and grunts while doing your business. It would get “loud” in there soon enough. The person on the other end doesn’t know it’s you.

    My theory about why she’s in the stall is that she’s trying to make personal calls, and thinks she’ll have some privacy in the bathroom. She was alone when she dialed, right? Still, I can’t stand to talk on the phone in the bathroom. Yuck.

  • Xtina August 31, 2011, 10:54 am

    S is a genius!! Love it!! OP, don’t be shy in the future, just do what you have to do and don’t worry about being rude–you’re not! M must stand for “moron”, haha–in this case, M certainly is to regularly carry on a phone conversation in the bathroom? Ridiculous! Nobody wants to hear that. And to speak to you about S as if *she* was the weird one? Crazy!

    I recently moved to a new home, and discovered that a phone jack had been installed by the previous owners right behind the toilet in the master bathroom. I will NOT be using that jack.

  • DGS August 31, 2011, 11:04 am

    Wowsers…poor OP. If you gotta go, you gotta go. And bathrooms are for bathroom business, while offices/cubicles are for phone business. I would have gone ahead and done what I needed to do. The potty talker is the one being rude, not you. And as someone whose wonderful and dearly beloved DH used to occasionally indulge in chatting with me on the phone whilst using the potty when we were first dating (he stopped when I asked him not to), the person on the other end of the phone always knows where the person is! No other place echoes like the throne room!

  • Sarah Jane August 31, 2011, 11:04 am

    I will admit, to my own shame, that I’m shy about handling my business in the bathroom if anyone else is in there, whether they are on the phone or not. Yes, I need to grow up in that respect.

    Applause for S! She’s a friend I’d like to have.

  • Wink-n-Smile August 31, 2011, 11:11 am

    I love my cell phone’s “missed calls” feature. It allows me call-back whoever calls me when I’m in the bathroom, just as soon as I’ve washed my hands and stepped out the door.

    Someone once told me that just because a phone rings I am NOT obliged to answer it. I wish I could remember who that was, and erect a statue to them. Seriously, that’s why we have answering machines, voice mail, and “missed calls” on caller ID. And even without all those things, if it’s really important, they’ll call you again.

    Remember back in the old days, before call waiting and answering machines and caller ID? If you needed to speak with someone and they didn’t answer, you just assumed they weren’t available, and tried calling back later. Nowadays, people think that they HAVE to be available at all times, just because they have the ability to MAKE calls, at all times. Well, you don’t. You do not have to be available at all times. Sometimes, it is just inconvenient to take a call. In 99.9999999999999999% of the cases, the world will not end if you don’t pick up the phone right that instant. Or even that minute. Heck, most of the time, you could wait an hour or more, and the world wouldn’t end.

    I’m not tied to my voice mail, either, largely because my phone only alerts me to voice mail once a month, or so, and never directly after a message has been left. I discovered that, and was annoyed, at first. Now I just view it as a perk of having my particular phone. I updated my outgoing message. “Leave a message if you want, and I’ll return your call just as soon as I get the message next month.” Amazingly enough, people will call me back. They usually laugh about my message, and ask if I got theirs. “Oh, you left a message? Nope, didn’t get it.” I’m off the hook, they’re not annoyed with me for not returning their call immediately, AND I have the perfect excuse for delaying returning calls from someone I don’t want to talk to. BWAAAhhhahahhaaaa.

    Sometimes, I’ll turn my cellphone off for a movie or a play, and forget to turn it back on, all weekend. BLISS. Then, I really do need to check the missed calls afterward, but oh, what joy to not be a slave to that machine. AND, I have have all my friends and family trained to know that I am not a slave to the machine, so not to expect immediate returns on messages. Yay.

  • The Other Amber August 31, 2011, 11:26 am

    I would have been very tempted to emulate my DH. I don’t know what he’s like in public bathroom but at home he is NOT quiet. I thinks sometimes he’s extra noisy just to annoy me. But I have to think that a well-timed “Oh YEAH… THAT was a GOOD one!!” and a few flushes would have gotten the point across.

  • The Other Amber August 31, 2011, 11:27 am

    Oh I have to add, for those that think that the person on the other end can’t tell when you’re talking to them while in the bathroom – yes we can. When we were dating DH took the phone into the bathroom with him, he thought that would be better than asking me to hold for a minute. When I heard him peeing I said OMG are you in the BATHROOM?! and told him never to take the phone in there again.

  • Hellbound Alleee August 31, 2011, 11:49 am

    I didn’t think the flushing was rude. Sincerely, I thought she was flushing as a courtesy to her friend who was trying to be ladylike, so she could go poo.

  • Merrilee August 31, 2011, 11:49 am

    Reminds me of the “Friends” episode where Joey got his own apartment and was showing them all his new bathroom and said, “Check it out…. I’ve got a phone…. IN HERE.” To which Monica replies, “Joey, promise me something. Never call me from that phone?” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  • Ashley August 31, 2011, 11:50 am

    Oh for god sakes, I would have done my business, asked the stall next door for toilet paper whether I needed it or not, and then flushed and prayed that the stall I was in had the loudest door ever so when I left it would SLAM shut on it’s own and completely illustrate the point that M was rude enough to be talking on the phone WHILE USING THE BATHROOM. I can’t stand people who do that. It’s so rude. I am no prude but I don’t want to hear people’s bodily functions more than I need to.

  • A August 31, 2011, 11:53 am


  • Clair Seulement August 31, 2011, 12:09 pm

    Brilliance–a prerecorded flushing noise that I can play on the train when I find myself spending the 10th hour of my week having my private thoughts hijacked by Phoney McGee in the seat right next to me.

  • HonorH August 31, 2011, 12:28 pm

    Shy bladder, OP? Do as the Japanese do and flush your toilet before you go. It’ll provide some covering sound and hopefully convince your colon that it’s okay to let go.

  • Elizabeth II August 31, 2011, 12:34 pm

    I agree with the Admin. “S” is a genius.

    I have a very conditional acceptance of the human body: I never have any problems or second thoughts about people doing what they need to do, but the moment I need to do it, I feel like the world is listening in and judging me. I know it is ridiculous, and I hope to get past it at some point, but I can totally sympathize with the OP!!

    If I had the guts, I would re-enact a rather bizarre comic drawn by a man whose previous series was titled “Johnny the Homicidal Maniac”. The scene in question progresses from a noisy albeit routine visit from an unseen man, who quite suddenly stops his grunting and begins screaming in horror. Taking on such a performance when encountering a bathroom chatter not only will make her incredibly uncomfortable, it almost guarantees that the person to whom she is speaking will never call her again. Bwa ha ha ha!

    But, I never would do such a thing, first because the idea is pretty disgusting, second because I do not want anyone within hearing range to mistake it for a true emergency, and third because I’m not that cruel. But I can still dream . . . ^_^

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