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June 12th, 2007 - Irruminations

Date: 2007-06-12 00:10
Subject: Bathroom Etiquette at Work
Security: Public

I value a clean toilet at work. When I use the facilities during the day, I like the seat down, clean, with no extra excrement in the bowl. If given no other choice, I’ll rest my laurels over skid marks. But I’m not there to flush after someone else. I’ll take my business elsewhere, thank you very much.


Unfortunately, at my work there are only 8 toilets from which to choose: 3 urinals (man’s greatest invention) and 5 stalls. I work in a small office that shares a much bigger building with more populated companies, all of which have access to these toilets. Although I trust everyone in my office to follow proper bathroom etiquette, the other buffoons in the building seem to have great trouble with this simple function. Let’s just say that they not only drop off their kids at the pool quite frequently, but they also drop off adults, and they rarely pick them up afterwards.


Most of these problems could be solved by courtesy flushes. I understand if you’re a bigger-boned man—or even a very small man—with very large intestines. But if you know the toilet isn’t going to flush after you’re finishing purging yourself, just flush once when you’re halfway through and once when you’re done. It would save me many a recoil in fear when I enter an empty stall.


Even more disgusting than this is a problem we had for over a year. We had a hurler in the building. I called this faceless man “the Vomiteer.” Approximately once a day for quite some time, this guy would walk into the bathroom, projectile vomit in a stall (rarely actually hitting the toilet), and then walk out. No one ever caught him in the act. We didn’t even necessarily know it was a guy, but he always used the men’s bathroom, so it’s a safe assumption.


After nearly a year of putting up with the combination of feces and vomit accumulating in these bathrooms, I took it upon myself to directly confront these forces of evil through passive-aggression. I typed the following and taped it to the back of each stall door in the men’s bathrooms:


Bathroom Considerations


There are a few people who are making these private bathrooms unusable for the rest of the building tenants.  In the future, please refrain from the following activities in the these bathrooms, or any bathrooms in this building, for that matter.  This is simply common courtesy.


1.       Do not smoke in these bathrooms.  As you may or may not have noticed, the combined stench of cigarette smoke and human feces is almost unbearable.  If you are a closet smoker, or if it’s your thing to combine smoking and defacating, please reconsider.  Go smoke outside, or in your car, or behind the dumpster, but not in the private bathrooms.


2.       Do not throw up in these bathrooms.  A few people in this building throw up on a consistent basis and are unable to hit the toilet.  Please consider how disgusting this is.  It smells horrible, it renders the bathroom useless for the rest of the day, and it spreads disease.  Use the paper towels to clean up your mess, and in the future, adjust your aim so that the throw up is deposited in the toilet.  Then flush.


a.                               This also applies to the sink.  Do not throw up in the sink.


3.       Do not urinate on the toilet seat.  We’re all adults here.  We’ve been urinating for many years.  There is no excuse for urinating on the toilet seat.  If you returned to your office and found that someone had urinated on your chair, would you still sit there?  Simply nudge the seat into a raised position with your foot so that it’s not in the way.


4.       Do not urinate on the floor.  See above.  If you miss and hit the floor, simply wipe it up.  If you have real problems with aim, try the men’s urinals.  They are very useful for upright urination.


5.       Do not leave large amounts of excrement in the toilet.  No one wants to use a bathroom that is already occupied by a large amount of poop.  If you have a large bowel movement, consider flushing multiple times.  An early courtesy flush followed more flushes later will render the bowl clean and functional for its next visitor.


Thank you for considering the above ideas.  If followed, they will create a cleaner, more user-friendly bathroom environment for everyone in the building.


These cover the four pillars of poor bathroom etiquette: Smoking, Barfing, Spraying, and Flushing. Addendum 2a was added after the Vomiteer got creative.


You’d think that it wouldn’t be necessary to post such guidelines in a public bathroom—they’re common sense! Right? But apparently a large number of men in my building have no idea that it’s not cool to hold your penis like a hose and spin around in the stall as you pee.


Given the nature of the type of men who are lacking such etiquette, you’d think that they’d respond to such a post by ripping it down. You’d be right. But once I put it back up again, it stayed up for a few weeks. And it actually made a difference. I was using a managerial technique that I like to call “Shame.” Make someone realize that their idiotic actions are noticed by other people, and they will be too ashamed to do them again.


For those few weeks, the bathrooms were pretty clean. Much cleaner than before. And then the signs were taken down, and I didn’t feel like putting them up again (I was starting to feel like an asshole. Plus, for all I know, I had been violating some unknown rule of bathroom etiquette the entire time. It’s okay to poop in the urinal, right?)


And then the Vomiteer struck again.


This guy was relentless. Honestly, he probably had/has a big problem. Some kind of disease, mental or physical. But it was just so gross. If you have some sick desire to throw up every day, just do it in the toilet and flush it down. Hide it from the world. Don’t bulimic people throw up in secret? It just seemed so odd that this guy wanted nothing more in the world to cover the entire toilet seat in barf without a single splash landing in the bowl.


This time, one of the buffoons put up a post in the bathroom. I can’t remember the exact wording, but it went something like this:


Blood Hurler: You are a disgusting fuck. If I ever catch you throwing up in here, I will leave a steaming pile of shit on your car. And I will beat your ass.


This guy was using a different managerial technique: Fear. (It’s because of guys like this in the building that I didn’t sign my name to my post.) And it worked. The vomiting has since ceased. The four pillars have continued to be upheld by the buffoons, quite possibly by the same guy who made the post to the blood hurler.


Sidenote: When threatening someone, is it really necessary to both poop in their car AND beat their ass? I’d get the point after you pooped on my car. I wouldn’t be sure what lesson you were trying to teach me (that instead of throwing up, I should poop on cars), or what point you’d be proving (that you can poop on cue, anytime and anywhere), but after all that confusion was sorted out, I wouldn’t need you to also beat my ass. Lesson learned, point taken, let’s go get a beer.


Today I walked into a stall and saw that someone had ripped the toilet seat from its hinges. Completely ripped it off. Someone had a bowel movement so large that the seat itself had to be removed to make room for the excrement (hypothetically. I have no actual idea how or why this seat was removed). And it occurred to me that perhaps the building management is overlooking some key component of the bathroom experience. Something is making these people treat the bathroom like their own personal poop playground.


Then it dawned on me. Perhaps these people treat the bathrooms like crap because the bathrooms are crappy. Perhaps if the bathrooms were nicer, the buffoons would treat them better.


As I do whenever I want something nicer/faster/more efficient/unnecessarily complicated, I turned to Japan. Whereas American toilets look like this:


Japanese toilets look like this:

Toto Toilet

Looking at the Toto (a major Japanese toilet-making company) website, the electrical wonder that is a Japanese toilet may have many—if not all—of the following features:


  • Clean themselves
  • Flush themselves
  • Bidet spray
  • Heated seats
  • Seat raises or lowers when you enter the room
  • Blow dryer for your ketsu (anus)
  • Chemically analyzer for urine to detect  diseases
  • Germ resistant seats
  • Digital clock to tell you how long you’ve been in the bathroom
  • Remote controlled

I’ve used a Japanese toilet. There’s a separate button on the remote for men and women that offers varying angles of bidet spray. Yeah, they’re that detailed.


(Sidenote: I rarely used the bidet/blow-drying combo to wipe my ass. I just don’t trust water and heat to perform of this function as well as my hand and a piece of toilet paper. But kudos to those of you who are saving the environment by eliminating poop particles from your crack without paper.)


If you walked into your bathroom at work tomorrow and saw a Japanese toilet looking at you somewhat condescendingly, would you have the nerve to pee all over the lid? Even if you did, it wouldn’t matter. The toilet’s going to clean itself after you leave. It’ll even flush itself when you’re done in case you don’t want to. Granted, it won’t clean the floor, but maybe that function will be added to American versions of the Toto toilet.


I seriously doubt the Japanese versions have an automatic courtesy flush function. That’s another American add-on.


I think I’ve said pretty much everything I want to say about bathrooms for this week. I leave you with the following image, a Japanese toilet for convalescents that will someday reside in my bathroom, a mere room away from my convalescent laptop recliner:

Convalescent Toilet

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Date: 2007-06-12 23:14
Subject: A Night at the Movies
Security: Public

I saw Ocean’s 13 tonight in the theater. I enjoyed the movie as pure popcorn entertainment. The actors, particularly Brad Pitt and George Clooney, genuinely seem to be having a good time in these Ocean’s movies. The two female heavyweights present in the last movie (Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones) are completely absent, but they are adequately replaced by Ellen Barkin’s left and right breasts. My favorite parts of the movie took place in Mexico—see it and you’ll understand.


My least favorite parts of the movie, on the other hand, involved the guy sitting in front of me and the guy sitting three seats to my left. They were texting on their cell phones during the movie, blissfully unaware that the backlight on their phones could be seen by anyone else in the theater. Or maybe they were completely aware of this, but nothing was going to stop them from responding “LOL c u later” to their respective correspondents (a bone to pick for another time: unnecessary abbreviations in texts).


I couldn’t do anything but glare at the guy on my left, but I was within shoulder-tapping distance of the guy in front of me. Long story short, I’m a wimp and I didn’t do anything, but I tell myself that I came very close to doing so. He actually only texted twice, and I told myself after the first time that I’d give him a tap and a “We can see that” (I figured the “we” would give me leverage, as if I was speaking for the masses behind him). Then he started texting again, and I told myself that if he texted more than a few lines of text, I’d say something. Fortunately for that guy, he didn’t text again. (I sized him up after the movie. He was shorter than I expected, meaning that if we came to blows, I’d run away.)


The point is, don’t open your phone in a movie theater. Everyone can see that light, and it’s particularly distracting to the people immediately behind you. It’s an emergency? If you’re waiting to hear if your son survived the operation, maybe you shouldn’t be watching Wild Hogs.


As is the trend so far in this blog, I have a solution. This time, it isn’t a piece of furniture made for convalescents. But like in the last post, it’s a Japanese creation:


Cell phones don’t work in Japanese movie theaters.


That’s right. I’m sure you’ve experienced pockets of such black-outs in America, but this is different. You’re not just not getting a signal in Japanese theaters, you’re phone just won’t work. The screen won’t light up, the phone can’t receive texts, and it sure as heck won’t ring.


Right away, this eliminates the need for you to remember to turn off your phone when you enter a theater. That’s huge. However, there’s a big problem with this solution. We’ll call it the Hostage Problem. What if someone threatens everyone in the theater?


I’m no “expert,” but I think there’s a solution to this problem. Have you ever noticed that your cell phone goes into “emergency mode” when you dial 911? Well, I bet that you could set the jammer in the theater to accept emergency overrides. If there’s a hostage-type situation, you could feasibly dial 911 and be able to call out. Unexpected emergency incoming calls? That might be more of a problem, but I bet you could dial in on the same “frequency” if needed. Or call the theater and have them find the person in question.


Although, if you try that, how do you pick someone out of a crowded theater without interrupting the audience? The Japanese have already thought of that. When you buy movie tickets at a theater in Japan, the box office attendant swivels their computer screen towards you and asks you to choose your seat. Just like if you are purchasing tickets to a play, or an opera, or any other type of haute entertainment. Movies cost $9 nowadays—isn’t that a high enough price to reserve your seat?


It may seem annoying that even if you arrive first to a theater but are the last to buy tickets, that you’ll be stuck in the first row, but think about the positive side of this: You don’t have to arrive early to movies any more. You can show up a few minutes before the show will start with your tickets (bought online or in advance) in hand, and you can go directly to your midsection seat. Sure, you can’t arrive late (Japanese theaters stop accepting entrants when the lights go down), because then you’d be crawling over people, but that’s a minor sacrifice to make for having a guaranteed seat of your choosing saved for you every time. And if you encounter the situation in the first sentence of this paragraph, simply don’t go to that show. You have the information beforehand that your seat’s gonna suck, so you know not to buy a ticket at all.


I’m somewhat bewildered that this system has yet to make it’s way to the States. I think it would change the way people perceive the theater-movie-watching experience. Theaters are already starting to consider consumer desires by offering good popcorn instead of stale popcorn, couches and high-backed stadium seats instead of bleachers, alcoholic beverages instead of the same old selection of sodas. Why not guarantee that your movie won’t be interrupted by ring tones and cell phone backlights, and give viewers the added value—the right—to choose their seats in advance? Maybe I’ll get off my pedestal and actually make this happen.


Any thoughts on other ways to make a better night at the movies?

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my journal
December 2007