***Warning: Bathroom humor***
A while back I discovered that hanging out in the airport lounge vastly improves my travel experience. With the autism and my visceral aversion to milling about like cattle in the halls and at the gate, lounge access verges on mandatory in my case. Of the many benefits, the bathrooms are generally cleaner and better stocked than the public ones in the main concourses. They are usually less trafficked as well. Needless to say, I try to make use of the facilities in the lounge rather than taking chances on the concourse or (shudder!) on the plane.
I was in the Admiral’s Club lounge last Sunday on the way out of Charlotte. I took the opportunity to visit the Men’s room only to find a standing-room-only crowd and one person queued up ahead of me for the single stall. Whoever was in there seemed to be unaware of the growing line and/or just taking his sweet time. Sorry, no jokes about distress or rude noises, just a really long and uncomfortably silent wait.
There’s an unspoken Guy etiquette about public restrooms. You don’t talk to the other guys. You cast your eyes generally downward, ponder the patterns in the floor tile and try not to acknowledge the presence of other humans in the space. Even more important, you NEVER do anything that would oblige another guy to acknowledge you. You don’t crowd them, look at them, and especially don’t talk to them. This is why we don’t all leave the table or bar and go together. The obligation to talk to your friends conflicts with the Guys’ Bathroom Code of Silence and we don’t voluntarily put ourselves in that position.
So me and my fellow queue-mate cast our eyes about the floor and ceiling, trying not to look at each other or the steady stream of guys who enter the room, stop in their tracks when they see the queue, peer around the partition to see what the line is for, then gratefully pony up to the vacant urinal to relieve themselves whilst thinking pitying thoughts about us poor bastards in the line who are probably going to make accidental eye contact before it’s all over and embarrass the crap out of ourselves.
Stall Guy flushes but then it takes him an eternity to dress and vacate the stall. I don’t know about the other guy in line but I’m watching the pants around the ankles and counting the seconds until I seem then get pulled up. What’s he doing in there? Readjusting his smuggling stash? C’mon, dammit!
FINALLY Stall Guy opens the door to leave. Like the guys coming in to pee, he too stops in his tracks and takes in the scene. A flash of cognition crosses his face, he realizes his faux pas when he sees the queue that had been waiting on him, then exits swiftly without washing up. Nobody wants to do the Wash Of Shame, standing there at the sink while the guys in the queue who had been waiting on you glare angrily at your back.
Now it’s Queue Guy’s turn. He knows there’s someone else in the queue, although if asked he probably could not describe me. He seemed to understand the rules and hadn’t averted his eyes from the ceiling or the floor. He moves it right along, but between the two guys it’s a good 7 ~ 10 minute wait before I get my turn. That’s a long wait but I’m not anxious to step from the safety and comfort of the lounge into the concourse, let alone the take a chance on the broken-down, paper-free stall that probably awaits me out there. So I waited patiently, silently, counting lines in the ceiling and floor tiles.
By the time I’m enter the stall the room has emptied out. Nobody joined the queue behind me and the general rush of traffic seems to have subsided. But the moment I think I’m alone someone walks in. He doesn’t line up at one of the urinals so I assume that I am now the bottleneck and he’s the new Queue Guy. I’m immediately a bit self conscious and feeling rushed.
“How long’s this gonna take?” New Queue Guy asks loudly.
Really? Does he not know the Guy Restroom Etiquette? He can’t possibly expect an answer, can he? That’s just rude! I remain defiantly silent.
“Seriously,” he says now sounding a bit impatient. “How much longer? I’ve got a schedule to keep.”
Now I’m a bit pissed off. I don’t care how much of a hurry you are in, you aren’t supposed to even acknowledge the person in the stall, let alone holler at him to hurry it up. Maybe 10 minutes into a wait but not within 10 seconds of walking into the bathroom. Who does this guy think he is, anyway?
“It’ll take as long as it takes,” I holler back indignantly.
“I have to have an ETA. Just ball park an estimate for me,” he says urgently.
At this point I’m thinking of feigning illness and claiming I’m going to be at least another half an hour. Then I start seriously considering how authentic-sounding I can make some rude noises and maybe scare this ass hat off to the public restrooms in the main concourse. ETA my ass. I decide my rude noises aren’t very convincing and shoot back a verbal retort instead.
“I estimate you’ll crap your pants before I vacate this stall, even if I have to miss my plane to do it.” Hey, he’s the one that broke the Guy Rules. At this point anything goes. What a jerk.
“Hold on a minute” he says, sounding a bit exasperated. Then in a quieter voice and a slightly pleading tone he asks “Hey buddy, can you keep it down? I’m on a business call here trying to work out a contract delivery date and you aren’t helping. I’d take this call outside but I kinda have two emergencies going on at once.”
“Oh, uhhh, sure. No problem,” I replied. I then spared no time in getting the hell out of the stall. We both averted our eyes as I passed but we were otherwise alone, had broken the ice when we exchanged words, and apparently had bonded a bit because as I turned the corner and headed for the sinks he broke protocol again and made eye contact.
“Thanks,” he said sotto vocce with one hand over the phone before disappearing into the stall and closing the door. Then, barely audible in the stall, he says “jerk.”
I left wondering if he was referring to me or the negotiator on the phone, but knowing that even if I see him at the gate I can’t ask him without breaking the Guy Code of Restroom Silence. In the event the First Rule is broken and you speak to someone in the restroom, the second Rule then applies: What Happens In The Restroom Stays In The Restroom.
The public toilet is a lot like Vegas in that respect. And vice versa.