52% intelligent. 9% modest. More monkey than bear.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

how low can you go?

When I was at work today, I got to wondering.

I was wondering if toilet etiquette was the same for girls as it is for boys. I was wondering if toilet etiquette is the same for the rest of the world as it is in England.

Perhaps I should explain. There is an unwritten code of behaviour in toilets that all men are expected to abide by. Failure to abide by this code is unthinkable. You are probably familiar with it. It goes something like this.

(In case you weren't aware, one thing you should know is that every gents toilet, at least in the UK, consists of a number of urinals and a number of cubicles)

Rule number 1: Always leave a buffer zone. Under no circumstances should you ever stand at a urinal immediately next to another man.

Rule number 2: You should always leave the biggest possible buffer zone that you can between yourself and anyone else. The first man into a toilet should always choose one of the urinals at the end of the row. The second man in should choose the urinal at the other end. The third man in should choose the urinal in the middle, and so on.

Rule number 3: If you can't leave a buffer zone, you should go to a cubicle. It is not acceptable to violate rule 1, or to wait for a vacancy.

Rule number 4: eyes front at all times. The standard is to look at a point on the wall directly in front of you and about a foot above eye-level.

Rule number 5: no talking

Rule number 6: If circumstances dictate that you cannot abide by any of rule 1, rule 2, rule 3, or rule 5, you should leave the toilet immediately and come back later.

Rule number 7: If you cannot abide by rule 4, then you should always use a cubicle.

There are some exceptions (half-time at a football match, for example), but basically that's it.

Do women have a similar set of unwritten rules? Is it acceptable to use a cubicle immediately next door to another occupied cubicle? I have heard stories that it is even acceptable to chat to your neighbour when in a cubicle. Can this be true?

Do these rules hold good across the world? Is it just the British who are this uptight?

Now I've started to think about it, I feel I must be told.

Or perhaps it's just me?


(you can see just how well you understand the rules with this little game - full marks is the only acceptable score if you are a man, by the way)


  • At 11:41 pm, Blogger Erika said…

    Women regularly talk whilst peeing, in my experience, but I have noticed a rigid allegiance to the "don't take the stall next to an occupied one if you have options" rule.

    Are men really not allowed to pee beside another men under any circumstances, REALLY? That's very sad.

    And don't think I haven't noticed the blatant comment bid disguised as a post about urinal etiquette, ST, given the rabid success of your post about peeing in the sink.

  • At 11:56 pm, Blogger Damo said…

    Is peeing in the sink permissible in a public urinal? No? What if you're in the workplace and don't like your colleagues much?

    Just curious, like. Haven't done that yet.

  • At 12:23 am, Blogger HistoryGeek said…

    You may choose to occupy the stall directly next to the one a friend is entering, especially if you are planning to chat.

    It's generally not acceptable to strike up a conversation with a stranger in the next stall unless you are in dire need of toilet paper.

  • At 2:29 am, Blogger Robin said…

    I always go for a stall. I find I just can't get a stream going if anyone else is present.

    One thing I'd like to see is the book that holds the law that women must only go to the bathroom in pairs.

    Damo: Isn't it good etiquette to pee in the coffee rather than the sink if you don't like your workmates?

  • At 6:15 am, Blogger Michael said…

    The British are about equally uptight as those in Chicago, IL, USA.

    We have the no stand next to anyone in a urinal, unsaid rule, until the only open spaces are next to someone. We value pissing ASAP above the rules.

    Some will take to the stalls when the room gets full, but not all.

    Talking is forbidden, except at sporting events. The no talking rule doesn't apply if you are over 65, as old men seem to always wanna talk to those around them pissing.

    We don't stare up at the wall, we stare straight ahead.

    So not quite the same, but very similar.

  • At 7:37 am, Blogger Aravis said…

    I agree with spin. It's ok to get in a stall next to a friend and talk, otherwise space and silence is desirable. The need for toilet paper being the exception. Women will also speak to one another while washing up at the (hopefully) urine-free sinks after.

    Oh, and I've heard many women actually talking on their cell phones while they pee. Personally, I think there are times when it's ok to miss a call...

  • At 9:46 am, Blogger Mark said…

    the one factor did you didn't mention is f) its OK for women to enter men's loos because they don't fancy queuing at the ladies, and we have to tolerate them peeking their heads over cubicles and at us doing our business whilst generally being shrieking drunk.

  • At 11:56 am, Blogger Lazygal said…

    Aravis and Spin hit it on the head. What I hate is when there's a "onesie" (one cubicle) and there's someone inside having a loud conversation with someone outside. "Just do it and get out" should be the rule.

    I've heard from male friends that the worst thing about conferences is when someone tries to introduce themselves as they're using the urinal. The urge to turn and shake the new person's hand is atavistic, yet... in this circumstance... you just can't!

  • At 12:04 pm, Blogger swisslet said…

    a "onesie"? does that make a toilet with two cubicles a "twosie"??

    Do you guys have the same understanding of the euphemisms "number one" and "number two" that we do in the uk? e.g. "I'm just popping to the loo for a number two. I may be some time" ???


    (this is a lovely conversation, isn't it?)

  • At 12:50 pm, Blogger Teresa Bowman said…

    Earlier today I found myself in the toilets at work at the same time as the girl I work with (purely unintentionally, by the way, Lithaborn). She was standing at the sinks while I was in the cubicle, and she insisted on having a conversation with me while I was weeing. I have to say I wasn't entirely comfortable with the situation, although I don't see why I should have been uncomfortable with it ... I mean, everybody has to wee. It's a fact of human existence. And I wouldn't have felt uncomfortable if she'd been talking to me while I was blowing my nose, would I?

    People are silly creatures, really.

  • At 6:03 pm, Blogger -L said…

    Wow, excellent topic of conversation, ST! Everyone's has something to chime in with...

    To answer your question, we also use the code of #1 and #2 for our bathroom trips...

    My boss would use his blackberry while on the toilet to send me emails...a bit gross, I think. Not good for the mental images, ewww.

    Also, another toilet story. In England, oh, where was I? A train station somewhere around London, I think? Anyway, my friend and I went to use the loo, and what a loo it was! Perfectly sanitized and clean, automatic handdryers that actually worked, etc - an amazing feat for such a public place. And it had signs all around, declaring it "Loo of the Year, 2004" - absolutely hilarious. Granted, we did have to pay for the privilege of using that Loo of the Year. Usually I am anti-restroom fees because, as Bee said, weeing is a fact of human existence...but the Loo of the Year was worth it!

  • At 9:00 pm, Blogger Pynchon said…

    Very perceptive. Very accurate. Possibly the greatest post of all time.

    We had a guy at work who used to wash his cock in the sink and dry it on a hand dryer. It was probably the reason he was fired after 2 weeks.


  • At 10:58 am, Blogger Di Gallagher said…

    you know, I've had some boys here in Oz explain it the very same way. Perhaps it's instinctual.


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