Bathroom etiquette in the workplace is always tricky. I mean, we’re there for HOURS, so it’s fairly obvious we are going to have to go at some point. Yet the only thing more awkward than passing a colleague in the hallway as you’re both on your way into the bathroom, is passing them on the way back out again. Did he wash his hands? Is there toilet paper stuck to the bottom of my shoe? Or worst yet, what the hell is that death smell leaking out around the door?
As a formerly stay-at-home-mom, I have a higher than average appreciation for the office john. Before I had kids, I would often choose to wait until I got home…even when I was working 12 hour days. Now that I have kids, even if I were only in the building for 20 minutes, I can guarantee you that 3-5 of them would be spent sitting in silence behind the locked door of the ladies room stall. When you add in my American bladder’s inability to hold bulk quantities of English tea, it is fairly safe to say that I have a vested interest in making sure that things run smoothly.
Today I’m sitting in the middle stall. It’s cramped and a bit dark, but I can count on those negative characteristics to guarantee that it is pretty much never out of toilet paper. Thanks to my late lunch it is well past the normal rush hour and I’m enjoying my alone time in spite of my surroundings. Eventually though, like all good things, my pee alone time has to come to an end. I glance over at the giant plastic toilet roll holder, with a minimum capacity of 4000 sheets, and am pleasantly surprised to see a brand new roll.
Basking in the abundance of peace, quiet and butt paper, I decide to stretch my toilet time out and take care of all my business. (Don’t judge…you know you poop at work too.)
After a last squeeze of my non-existent stomach muscles, I reach out a hand and give a gentle tug on the frayed, double-ply end waving to my right.
I tug harder and end up with 2 millimeters of paper, a quantity even my 5 year old would find to be insufficient.
Now becoming desperate, I begin anxiously checking the roll. Is it misshapen? Is it stuck on something? Using two hands, sweat beginning to glisten on my forehead, my fingers probe the depths in a way that would embarrass even a gynecologist. Diagnosis: The brand spanking new roll is too large for the dispenser. It will not move, not even a hair.
I use my shirt sleeve to wipe the sweat beads rolling down the side of my face. Desperation does not even begin to cover it. Drip dry I can handle, but I’d prefer to leave the skidmarks to my 3 year old. I begin prying at the top and side of the dispenser, desperately trying to rip the cover from the wall, but in such a way that I can easily replace it with no one the wiser.
The realization that I will have to make a dash with my pants around my knees hits me like a gut punch. I clamp down on my stomach as it turns over, if there ever was a moment when I could not afford for my insides to turn to mush, this is it.
I waste precious seconds doing the mental math. What is the likelihood that one of my coworkers will walk in right as I hit that crucial moment between the stalls? Will I run faster with my pants at ankle height, knee height or mid-thigh? If I choose to sit it out, how long might I have to wait before someone sends out a search and rescue party?
I take a deep breath, immediately regret it, cough a few times, flush, gasp in another lungful and then make a mad dash into the neighboring stall, using moves any wide receiver would envy. The ten second sprint leaves me breathless…or it might just be the eau de toilet. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Toilet paper in hand, I remedy the situation, readjust my clothing and then saunter out of the stall with no one the wiser.
So what’s the moral of this story? I’ll tell you. Given our innate desire to just pee alone and to never, ever have to discuss it in workplace, it is mission-fricking-critical that the work bathroom never run out of accessible toilet paper. Because really, no one wants to know what the hell you do when no one is there to spare you a square.