Somewhere in the world, there is an old man with a story…. A story that doesn’t get told to just anyone. It’s a story that maybe only gets told when large amounts of wine have been enjoyed. It’s a story that, due to the personal trauma it has caused him, maybe he has convinced himself didn’t really take place. But it did take place. I know. Because I was there. This old man’s story is the story of a deranged and wild-eyed college student who attempted to force his way into his stall while he sat there trying to move his bowels in peace and something like privacy. How do I know? Because, you see…. I was that college student.
It was a day like any other day. Except on this day, as I sat in an Interim class learning about music theory, I and one of my friends watched as one of our female classmate’s lace-covered breasts popped completely out of her blouse. She was wearing some sort of shiny shirt–satin or silk or something–and, for some reason, it only had three buttons: One near the top, one in the middle, and one just above where it gets tucked in. At some point during the class (Interim classes were three hours long), the middle button had come undone. This particular classmate asked and answered a lot of questions, and raised her hand quite a bit…. I guess it just got jostled free. We watched in horrified joy as she raised her hand to answer a question, and she exposed the entirety of her boob–fancy bra and all–to us, as well as (the thing that made it truly funny) to our aging and proper music professor. It was impossible not to notice, but he acted like he couldn’t see her, even though her hand was the only hand in the air. This annoyed her, and she started to wave her hand around a little bit to get his attention (no one else was answering, because we were all captivated by the strange dance of discomfort and desire and denial unfolding before our eyes), and things got…. jiggly.
Our music professor said he thought it was a good time for a break. It was.
We all stood up and milled around for a bit. A girl in our class told her that her button had come undone, she blushed and buttoned her blouse, and she walked out of the classroom. While in the hallway, we relived every awkward moment–him asking a question, her waving hand trying to get called on, and his contorted face as he pretended like he couldn’t see her. We laughed so hard we thought we might pee, so we ran into the bathroom. There was a urinal and a stall, and my friend beat me to the urinal, so I headed for the stall–laughing the whole time.
I pushed open the door, but for an unknown reason the door didn’t open the whole way–which was something I was unaccustomed to feeling when opening a bathroom stall. To my surprise, the door was being pushed back at me, and I realized that we were not alone in that restroom. Now, understand this: I would have been more than happy to let the occupant of that stall close the door, but my feet were already inside the stall, and to keep from falling over I had to push the door back toward him…. Thus began a few moments (though it felt like an eternity) of him pushing the door closed while I seemed to be attempting to force my way–occupant be damned–onto that toilet seat. At some point during the struggle, our eyes met (his eyes filled with a combination of confusion and fear), and I realized that the person protecting his potty was my professor. He couldn’t pretend his way out of this awkwardness. In what felt like minutes later, I gained my balance, pulled the door to, and ran out of the bathroom choking back laughter. My friend ran out with me. I’m not sure if he finished or not…. It was just understood by both of us that it was time to leave.
In that moment of eye-contact, as my music professor and I struggled–I for my balance, he for his dignity–we made as unspoken promise to never, ever mention this incident to each other. We kept that promise. But the story lives on….
And I am reminded of it every time a stranger walks into a bathroom while I am in a stall. The hilarious horror of that afternoon haunts me to this day. And this is really the reason I share this story with you now. If you are doing your business in a public stall, do the rest of us a favor and follow these three simple rules of pooping etiquette:
- LOCK THE DOOR. If there is one stall and one urinal, there is a lock on the main door to the bathroom, and you are using the stall to drop a deuce, just go ahead and lock the main door. If a person walks in there to pee, no one wants to stand there and pee next to you while you stink up the joint and make poo noises with nothing separating us except a thin piece of metal.
- MAKE SOME NOISE. If you can’t lock everyone else out while you throw down, the least you can do is alert people to your presence. I do this without fail. If a person walks into the bathroom while I’m sitting down, I’m making some noise to let ’em know I’m there…. Whether it’s clearing my throat, tapping my foot, or whistling a happy tune–Sometimes all three. Make some freaking noise.
- LATCH THE STALL. If the previous lines of defense break down, and the person walking in is either too dumb to look under the door for feet or too preoccupied because he just saw a girl’s boob pop out of her shirt, the least you can do is make sure your stall door is latched. And if there is no latch, you had better have your hand on the door to keep it shut. And if there is no door and you decide to go anyway, it better be an absolute emergency. Because nobody–neither humans nor animals–wants to make eye contact with a stranger while they’re taking a twosie.
I hope this cautionary tale cautions your airy tail. And if you’re reading this post on your phone in a public bathroom while you’re sitting down, take a moment to look up and make sure the door is latched. You never know who might try to get in there with you….
Once upon a time I was in Minsk, Belarus, at the opera. I threw my floor length velvet skirt over my shoulder to balance myself over the squatty potty. That is when the door swung open. It was only a wee, and I’m lucky I didn’t fall in the toilet – I have other toilet stories from Russia that are too horrifying to retell.
That’s a funny story and well told. I don’t have any good potty stories so here is a boring one – once when I was fifteen I walked in on my brother in law peeing. He smiled and nodded maturely, I backed out totally shocked and couldn’t look him in the eye for the next five years.