Going to the Bathroom at Work

This Atlantic article about the design of public bathrooms (or lack thereof), pee-fear, and the guy whose patients call him Dr. Pee but he doesn’t want them to call him Dr. Poop is my everything.

Of course, like most shame-centered human drama, things really come to a head in the workplace. We all have our coping mechanisms — loud coughing, premature flushing, waiting it out. Maybe some of us just own it! Or hold it in forever and then die. One woman featured adopted the short-lived strategy of bringing her iPod into the bathroom with her and blaring music while she poops. Something to think about:

Now, in the workplace, she has new strategies.

“I walk in, I immediately scan every door,” she says. “I take in the situation and if there’s nobody in there, I start running. I sit down and am immediately yelling at myself ‘Go, go, go, you can do it, goooooo!”

But if someone comes in before she’s able to pee, it’s over.

“I call it my failure to launch,” she says. In that case she’ll either wait for the person to leave, or pretend that she’s already finished, flush, wash her hands, and leave.

Soifer has seen similar strategies among paruretics he’s worked with. “There’s all sorts of routines, we’ve all developed them,” he says. “One of the classics is, if you walk in after someone, you wash your hands until they leave.”

The article seems to paint peeing as the bigger issue here, if only because we do it more often (um, one hopes), but I think we all know the truth.

Also this is the lede of the piece:

When Oprah Winfrey served on a Chicago jury in 2004, she couldn’t go to the bathroom attached to the jury room unless her fellow jurors sang to drown out the noise. One of the songs they sang was Kumbaya.

Photo: booleansplit

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11 Comments / Post A Comment

garli (#4,150)

This is insanity. Getting paid to poop is the greatest part of working.

lol, hereby submitting your name for the next Secretary of Labor appointment

jane lane (#281)

I know she’s Oprah and all, but forreal, wouldn’t having people sing while you’re pooping make it a billion times worse?

Kthompson (#1,858)

For my office’s white elephant party at Christmas, I put together a bathroom care package: the book “How to Poo At Work”, a bottle of hand sanitzer with the label “Maybe You Touched Your Genitals”, and a small tin that contained a spare pair of underwear. It was pretty popular, I must say.

la peagoise (#6,003)

The best part about being a lady engineer is that usually the bathroom is empty.

The worst part is that when it’s not, you know exactly who’s in there.

(Actually just got back from the downstairs bathroom, which I decided to try out because I don’t think there are any women who work downstairs.)

garli (#4,150)

@la peagoise Ha, I super feel you on this one. Like, oh, that’s Erin’s shoes in the last stall. I’ll give her some time.

The best was when we realized (working stupid late) the second shift dudes like to poop in the lady’s room – since no ladies work second shift.

Heather F G (#6,074)

@la peagoise @garil In college, I worked in the Periodicals library, which was our school’s old gym from the 30s and had a secret basement bathroom perfect for both pooping and naps (it even had a couch!). The only problem was the ghost…

MrDean (#6,289)

A nice workplace bathroom is such a fragile place. At an old job, half of our floor was empty and we were fortunately a uniformly clean group. Then, USA Today moved in. They were animals. Weird puddles appeared, scraps of newspaper littered the floor, and every poop was a game of stall roulette.

Peggy_H (#6,444)

What’s the opposite of this? That’s what I have.

EmilyAnomaly (#4,238)

There is a children’s book called Everybody Poops. The other ladies where I work must have read it be cause they have no shame. They will eat lunch, talk on the phone, and read novels while doing the deed. The custodial staff is in constant rotation because the ladies room on our floor always looks like a war zone by 3 pm. I couldn’t believe grown women treated facilities that way when I started working here. I use the lobby bathroom whenever I can.

clo (#4,196)

I’m so happy to see this. We just moved to a new work office and there are two bathroom options. Single sex bathrooms that are literally 1/10 of a mile away OR a really close unisex bathroom…with a urinal. More often than not you either walk in on a guy peeing or unflushed poop, so I usually just walk to the far one. But it takes so long to walk over there I always just hold it as long as possible which probably isn’t good.

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