No one ever told me to be nervous about going to the bathroom at the office. That subject never made it into the company handbook or official contract.
My first job was at a company that was 90% men and I barely ever passed a female on the way to the restroom. The thought of being nervous never crossed my mind.
After graduating college, many of my friends started their first jobs and they filled me in on their work washroom woes and bathroom fears…a topic that never came up before. In college, we all were a bit too open about our washroom habits, due to the cramped space of living in dorms and tiny off campus apartments. There were no secrets…nothing was hidden or off limits to discuss. I even had a good friend who frequently brought in her laptop and my photo albums (she already viewed hers) for all the time she spent in the loo. Clearly, I put an end to letting her borrow things and cleaned all my albums. It remains a running joke (and consistent habit) within my circle of friends and that particular friend isn’t embarrassed at all. She has switched to bringing in her iPhone and viewing friends’ photo albums on Facebook…but who doesn’t do that these days?
My friends filled my newly created Gmail inbox with sordid toilet tales including waiting until they got home (is that even possible?), trekking to a different floor or even leaving the office to go to Starbucks or the closest location of their gym.
They had secret tricks for hiding their bathroom “duties”. One friend’s trick was to create a complicated arrangement of toilet paper that hides even the largest of sounds. This was a trick that was passed onto her from her much older brother. I suppose the work/bathroom scenario has been going on for decades and bound females along with males.
I thought they were all officially crazy. Doesn’t everybody go to the bathroom? We are all human. There are no surprises.
My mind soon changed as I switched jobs. There were more women at my new office, most of them my age or younger. They had the perfect blowouts and cute peplum tops. My main interaction with them happened to be in the restroom. My friends’ bathroom stories filled my head and soon I was also getting nervous about using the restroom during peak hours. I devised escape routes and schedules. I used the secret TP trick and I even snuck out to a nearby hotel. I also sped up my bathroom routine if I noticed someone was lingering in the stall. We all want our privacy, and I’ve noticed other co-workers do the same. There are a few occasions where turf wars broke out; two women sit in the stalls waiting out the other to officially start doing their business. Eventually one woman always wins out and can go in peace while the other heads out in search of a free bathroom somewhere else.
I recently had a meeting in an office where you needed to borrow the key from the receptionist’s desk. Where was I, Chipotle? Even Starbucks doesn’t use that archaic system. If I ever applied for a job there – the bathroom situation might have been a deal breaker. I don’t want the receptionist keeping a timetable of my schedule. Or worse, what if another employee needed to go but was banging on the door since I had the only key? This actually happened during that meeting. It was pretty mortifying. Five minutes later, I let her in and we shared knowing glances.
I’d love to be brave enough to create a call to action stopping this insane behavior but I don’t think that will ever happen. I have grown accustomed to my TP tent and schedule. I realize we might all be human but at the office there is a clear limit to how much we want to know and fully comprehend about our co-workers. Sure we might know their family drama, apartment nightmares, menstrual schedule or latest one night stands…but knowing they go to the bathroom? That is something we’d like to keep a mystery. To future interns and graduating seniors – let me leave you with this final piece of advice…always use the private handicapped bathroom located two floors below you.
Jill Jacinto is the Managing Editor for WORKS by Nicole Williams. A former associate editor and on-air reporter for Minyanville, Jill hung up her finance hat to help young women – like herself – find success in their career. She finds great pleasure in traveling around the world and hopes to visit every country on the map. Jill resides in New York City and enjoys relaxing by the city’s riverfront, yoga and is addicted to Bravo TV. She also has an affinity for finding local hotspots and hidden gems in NYC. Jill graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with degrees in journalism and history and is a proud sister of the Delta Zeta sorority. She is on the NYC Board for Taglit Birthright and works closely with the Jewish Enrichment Center. @JillJacinto / LinkedIn Profile
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