Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Poop Stall

I remember reading a really funny essay by Dave Barry when I was a teenager, the thesis of which was basically that a man has to be a total sleazoid sociopath to stand next to another man in an otherwise empty bank of urinals.

Countless women are faced every day with a similar predicament. It's different, of course, since women are obsessed with what other women think of them and also because our toilets come with walls. But the psychological stress is comparable.

I'm speaking, of course, of navigating The Poop Stall.

Hear me out.

Let's say a ladies' room has three stalls -- pretty standard.


If a woman -- let's call her Lady A -- goes into an empty bathroom with three stalls she will always take the stall closest to the door. That way she can get out quickly if there is a freak toilet fire or assassins (like in that scene from True Lies), PLUS there is a buffer stall in case someone else comes in.


If Lady A is pooping, however, she will take the stall furthest from the door. It is just one of those inexplicable laws of nature, like gravity or neon frogs that kill you if you lick them.


Let's assume, however, for the sake of argument, that Lady A is not pooping in this particular scenario. So she takes the first stall. Then, in comes Lady B. Lady B must take The Poop Stall, even though she is not pooping. The presence of another person already occupying the first stall temporarily lifts the stigma of The Poop Stall and it simply becomes The Stall That Is A Non-Threatening Distance From The Other Person In The Bathroom.


But wait! Lady A finishes up and leaves the bathroom. Oh no! Now Lady B is in The Poop Stall with no mitigating factor!


Then Lady C comes in. She sees Lady B in The Poop Stall and comes to the only rational conclusion, which is that Lady B is pooping. Lady B, at this point, is beside herself. This anxiety shuts off her urethra and prevents her from being able to audibly pee, which is even more damning.


The only thing that can save Lady B now is a surprise appearance by Lady D, who takes the middle stall, thus restoring balance to the ladies' room ecosystem and neutralizing the tension between Ladies C and B (even though C still thinks B is pooping).


It's all very emotionally taxing. And that's not even taking into account the four-stall models -- which require game plans worthy of a Division A college football team -- or those vast airport bathrooms with literally endless rows of stalls that give them the feel of an M.C. Escher lithograph, albeit one that reeks of ammonia and urine.

Betty Friedan totally should have devoted a chapter in The Feminine Mystique to this.
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45 comments :

  1. Wow...the traumatic things you women go through in your minds...I blame Sex In The City for this.

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  2. Oh, but Chuck...this is so very true. In fact, I entered a Target bathroom the other day, which had TWO handicapped stalls closest to the door and THEN two regular stalls. I took the second handicapped stall. I sat, I peed. The stall at the very end? There was a woman pooping. While in the bathroom, a third woman came in. She struggled to think of a stall to enter into, before settling into the other handicapped stall. She wanted to be as far away from the poop-er as necessary.

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  3. Nine times out of 10 I choose the stall closest to the door because I was apparently misinformed when I read that is the stall least chosen and therefore likely the least germ-y. Except now that I think about it, if there is poop involved I'm pretty sure I don't choose that one. Public pooping is just not okay. Yet, it's unavoidable. I feel like I'm putting a lot of thought into a random topic on a Saturday night, but then again, it appears I am not alone.

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  4. PFffttt...that was so hilarious! How about this scenario:

    You're lady B and you go into the bathroom and it just so happens you have to use the last stall because Lady A is in the first one and they are pooping. They finish as you are locking your door and leave. So now the room has already become smelly and on your way out you pass Lady C, who you KNOW thinks that you're the one who made the bathroom stink!

    Women are faced with lots of "emotionally taxing" situtations EVERYDAY!

    Great post!

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  5. I am cracking up. I work in a hospital and I just love it when the Chaplain comes out of a single room bathroom, runs away quickly and your hair falls out when you walk into the room. Lose respect I tell ya.

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  6. This is why women typically go to the ladies' room in pairs.

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  7. For the weirdest of reasons this post is confirming how women have failed to see pooping as an accepted fact of life.
    They don't even like to hear men talk about the subject.
    Few things determine health as a wholesome excretory act.
    When your diet is plentiful in fiber and you keep your body exercised you can eject one of those solid braided feces.Really.

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  8. I may be alone on this one, but I never really think about stuff like that. For me, when I enter a public restroom, I'm all about finding the CLEANEST stall. Ugh, I hate dirty bathrooms!

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  9. You failed to address another common scenario: Lady B comes in, blatantly ignores the unspoken rule and takes the stall NEXT TO Lady A even though there are plenty of open stalls. And then she gets on her cell phone.

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  10. But what if there is Lady A in first stall, lady B in the last stall (in the 3 stall plan) and then Lady C comes in having to poop? She obviously has to take the middle, submitting both A & B to the smelly smells, and potential embarrassing sounds that could come as well.

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  11. As a history nerd, I resent the fact that everyone immediately assumes that Switzerland is neutral.
    If the need were to arise, Switzerland could call 90% of its population to arms, and they would all be there, with guns, ready to lay some righteous Swiss waste. That's hardly neutral.
    And let's be honest here - they were total Nazi sympathisers in WWII. They shipped off their Jews with even more alacrity than the Vichy regime.

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  12. Holy hell....I haven't laughed this hard all week! THANK YOU!!!! xD But for the sake of full disclosure, I have to admit the type of freak that I am....no matter what, or who is in what stall, or where it is located in said bathroom, I ALWAYS prefer to use the handicapped stall. Me no likey fighting for elbow space with those super cramped stall walls. It makes me cranky. LOL As always, you have brought my week to a better place! You rock, Sassy dahling!

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  13. Wow, I'm astonished. I thought I was the only one who knew this!?!?!?!?!

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  14. Best. Post. Ever.

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  15. But really, why take stall A when the bathroom is totally empty? Knowing that most women choose stall A and then stall C is enough to make me want stall B just so that avoid all of the unpleasant things that come with a frequented stall. (I admit to thinking about this as much as you do, Una.)

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  16. But really, why take stall A when the bathroom is totally empty? Knowing that most women choose stall A and then stall C is enough to make me want stall B just so that avoid all of the unpleasant things that come with a frequented stall. I wish a study were done to determine how women choose stalls and how that varies based on the number of stalls all so that I can avoid those. (I admit to thinking about this as much as you do, Una.)

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  17. What I find strange (I'm a guy) is when I'm at the urinal and a lunatic comes in and starts talking to me, it totally breaks up my work flow.

    http://laughinginpurgatory.blogspot.com/2010/07/introducing-laughing-in-purgatory.html

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  18. Anonymous9:25 AM

    What about when you ARE the woman who is pooping, and you are the only one in the bathroom and then you hear another lady come in and your whole body clenches up and holds the turd in until she is either audibly peeing or has flushed, just in case it's a splasher. Public splashers make me want to DIE.

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  19. Our poop stall at work is in the same position you mention, but it also happens to be the handicapped stall.

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  20. Lord have mercy - SOOOO TRUE!

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  21. Worst-Nightmare-Poop-Scenario--You are Lady B, you pick the stall furthest from the door to provide proper spacing for Lady A. You enter the stall and realize it was just recently used for its intended purpose as a Poop Stall and is smelly. You pee quickly, make much noise, try to make it as obvious as possible that you are not the pooper. As you exit the stall, however, there is inevitably someone that now believes you are the pooper, and believes the smell is all you. Hate that!

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  22. So. I also agree public pooping should be avoided at all costs, but sometimes there is just alternative, I mean, you are guzzling coffee and spending 8 hours at this place so it's inevitable. I have however, mastered the technique in a four stall situation. This does require a bit of stake out however, checking several times to make sure the whole place is empty (when it's not, you pretend you are just fixing your hair and come back in 10 minutes) you then prompty take the 3rd stall....last stall before handicapped poop stall, and I should mention you need to wait until you are about to die before you implement this plan. So 3rd stall, empty restroom, the trick is to have your hand on the handle and you flush that shedoobie the second it hits the water. Then you dart out of there with a disgusted look on your face as though someone else fouled the room. It's just law, you don't take the blame. And just for the record...those women who sit in there ripping ass until the cows come home just shouldn't work in public if they can't control that. Period.

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  23. There is nothing I hate more than having someone choose the stall next to me especially when others are open. It breaches all social standards of etiquette!

    Great post by the way.

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  24. Chrisy in Chicago2:28 PM

    The secondary issue to this situation is poop noise. In ladies' rooms, poop noise is really quite gauche. Now if you are blessed with silent poop release then you are a lucky lucky pooper. Unfortunately I am a fart-pooper. By positioning my self in the Poop Stall I am really trying to forewarn those that enter that there may be unintentional flautus while I try to hold it in until they leave the bathroom.

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  25. Personally, I like to mix it up a bit and poop in an unexpected stall. Both for the danger and the mystique.

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  26. IT'S TRUE!!
    oh my gosh, i laughed so hard.

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  27. This is probably one of the funniest things I've ever read. And the illustrations, man oh man! And the best part is, this is SO true!

    Thanks for making my day. :-)

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  28. OMG you hit the nail right on the head! My husband thinks I'm crazy when I try to explain the poop etiquette rules to him. He thinks the female race has gone nutso. Apparently, men have contests on who can be loudest....It's so strange. Thanks for the illustration!

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  29. Anonymous8:54 PM

    When I worked 5 minutes away from home, I would take a break and go home to use the bathroom just to avoid the whole dilemma. That and to avoid that one person that always seems to follow you into the bathroom and keeps talking - I'm sorry but my bladder won't function while you're blabbing away in the next stall. Am I supposed to answer you mid-pee?

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  30. Wow this is finally a topic I think about often. My work has one bathroom attached to the office and one attached to the breakroom. Single toilet only. I only use the one in the office if I know I only have to pee. The breakroom toilet is for pooping. Except I hate going into the breakroom and seeing someone coming out of the bathroom then you have to wait around until they leave. So you have to make up a reason for being in there and come back later. Also one time, I figured out that my boss clogged the toilet in the office then continued to pee on top of the clog all day, and another co-worker clogged the poop toilet. Not a fun day.

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  31. WOW. I spend my day watching the World Cup and Brewster's Millions, and come back to 30 comments. I am so glad to have started this bowel conversation moving.

    Jeff says he LOVES all of your additional scenarios and arguments. I do, too. I was obviously not thorough enough in my analysis. This calls for a follow-up. Stay tuned! You guys rock.

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  32. Is it bad that I always take the handicapped stall if it's empty? Even though I fear that I'll be yelled at like Larry David (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgedBRXw7fY&feature=PlayList&p=B8E70DF00A43125C&playnext_from=PL&playnext=1&index=14)

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  33. It's true. It's so true.

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  34. Truer words have never been spoken. I, myself, don't cotton to any particular bathroom ettiquette but I've seen so many other women who do that it's endlessly amusing for me. I've even had co-workers wait until I'm walking out of the bathroom to do their business.

    Just let it go I say. We all poop.

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  35. This is too true...I thought about it yesterday while shopping--and every time I popped into the public restroom. Hilarious.

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  36. Anonymous2:33 PM

    Today I was in a six stall public restroom where all the stalls were exactly opposite the entrance. There was no defined poop stall, so I didn't know which to avoid! I kinda stood there unsure of myself and then decided I could hold my urine until I got to work. What was that architect thinking??

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  37. LOL! I worry about you...That was a seriously funny post. That toilet etiquette thing so exists!

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  38. Anonymous8:06 PM

    Men have a similar problem.
    Here is a game that tests your knowledge of men's room etiquette:
    http://gamescene.com/The_Urinal_Game_game.html

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  39. Guys definitely have similar issues. Here's a brief summary of one such quandry.

    http://375thstreetymca.blogspot.com/2010/05/open-and-shut-case.html

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  40. oh god, I laughed until I had tears of mirth. I was JUST talking about this with the boyfriend and he did not get it. Whats worse, is I had a real-life experience of bad womans bathroom behavior.

    I was in the stall closest to the wall but not the handicap stall (because while I do get the poop to door thing, I'm not gonna take the handicap stall!) and there were 3 other stalls, and she went INTO the handicap stall (and she was not handicapped), then proceeded to use the bathroom...I of course waited for her to get done to save the weird "hi, we were just stall buddies" convo and she did not wash her hands! THEN she got a paper towel and opened the door with it and left the towel lodged in between the door and the handle. This person FAILED at using the women's bathroom. I'm so glad I had someone to share this tragic story with. :p

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  41. What sucks is being the only girl in the office, and sharing a single stall bathroom with SIX men!! Especially if said men have decided that the all-you-can-eat Mexican buffet sounds great for lunch!! No good ever comes of this...

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  42. LOVE IT! Although it's going to make me really examine my public toilet behaviour! GOLD!

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  43. As a fattie, I feel as though I must tell you that I will ALWAYS choose the poop stall if it's open because it's bigger and built for comfort. I hate to throw that wrench in your scenarios, but I feel like I need to put that out there for all chubsters. We're not pooping, it's just comfier!

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  44. OMG, Penny Lane must have read the same misleading article that I read. I'm utterly horrified to find out the stall closest to the door is the one most used, when for years I've been working under the mistaken impression that this is the least used.
    What I hate is when person A chooses the middle stall, thus leaving absolutely no buffer. What is that? Why would anyone choose to be in the middle of all the action like that? Clearly, the middle stall is for only lepers or the extremely unlucky.
    Also, I hate when person A poops, you enter as person B, to unleash a harmless tinkle, person A leaves, and person C enters. This leaves you, person B, marked as the stink factory when you were just as unwitting as person C.

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  45. no joke, this post made me have to go poo. thanks, una! =P

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