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Starting a new job is always an awkward experience. You have to establish an entirely new routine for your day, beginning with a new commute, to a new daily schedule, and where you’ll be eating, working, and avoiding emails. You’re gonna have new co-workers to meet and immediately forget their names, creating an awkward few days where you refer to them as “chief” and pray someone else calls them by their name. Most importantly, though, you’ll need to get a lay of the land and find your work “happy place.” You know, the bathroom.
My last job did not have a lot of good qualities. In fact, most of my time there that placed ranged between a level 4 and a level 7 in the work-misery index. One thing it did have going for it was a great bathroom. Stalls with the doors down to the floor, plenty of urinals and stalls meaning there was never that awkward wait for a spot to open up, and cleaning people doing sweeps every few hours. My last job was toilet nirvana. I used to think you can tell a lot about how a workplace treats its employees by the bathroom/common area situation, but my last job has thrown an incredible monkey wrench in that theory because, for all their flaws, the facilities were top-notch.
Now, I’m at a new job which has been much more interesting, fulfilling, and enjoyable. I love my new job exponentially more than my last, and I’ve finally managed to fall into something of a new normal there. Unfortunately, as with all jobs, my new place of employment is not without its flaws. And the one major annoyance I have is the bathroom situation.
You see, this new job is in an old-school office setup where there aren’t big communal bathrooms at certain points in a long hallway. Instead, the building is sort of divided into “pods” where each office has its own bathroom and there are a couple of public bathrooms on the ground floor. That means that an office of about 12 employees is currently sharing one bathroom.
Worse yet, it’s one of those weird, grody, unisex bathrooms with that single toilet that everyone uses. Yeah, the bathroom probably gets cleaned every night by the cleaning staff, but it never seems like it’s really clean. Maybe it’s the old fixtures, the perpetual smell of rust and asbestos, or maybe it’s just the dingy fluorescent lighting, but I never want to linger there longer than I must.
With 12 people sharing one bathroom, there are bound to be some traffic jams. There may not be a social situation more awkward than waiting for someone to finish up in the single-user bathroom at work, other than being that user and having to look a co-worker dead in the eye after you just destroyed that bathroom. You have nowhere to hide with the single-use bathroom, everyone will know your toilet tells in no time flat.
And it’s not like there are any readily available alternatives for me either. The public bathrooms are two floors down from me and, in some cruel joke by God, they are also single-use restrooms. While, yes, there are four of them and they are all relatively close together, I work in a building that services easily a couple hundred people.
That leaves me with two not-so-appetizing options. Either I can keep an eye on the pod’s sole restroom, giving it a sideways look every so often to check if it’s free like a pitcher holding a runner on first. Or, I can simply swing for it and go down to the communal bathrooms, hoping that one of them will be available and not too wrecked by whatever that oaf from seventh just did.
And if they’re not, if all the bathrooms are occupied when I have the need, then comes that horrible pace outside the bathroom doors. The awkward, sort of circling around the bathroom area like vultures who are trying not to look interested in a carcass. A feeble attempt to say “hey I’m next in line to use the bathroom,” without seeming like you’re waiting to use the bathroom. As this ridiculous scene plays out you try to convince yourself that no one cares you’re waiting. After all, everybody pees and everybody poops, so why would anyone care that you are?
It just feels so unseemly, so uncouth to shamelessly parade around, announcing to the whole office that you have to pee. It’s the ultimate non-power move, having to wait for the bathroom. You’re in an exposed position, weak and vulnerable, and everyone can see it. If I wanted to negotiate an agreement with someone, I’d wait until they have to go to the bathroom and hold them up before they wanted to leave. I’ll have all the leverage in the world then.
That’s why waiting for a bathroom is so unnerving and why I now long for the days of working at a place with plentiful stalls and urinals. Hell, at this point I might even settle for a Port-o-Potty. .