Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pooping at Work

I, like many Americans, spend most of my waking hours at work. I spend my days in a closed off cubicle, surrounded by dozens of other closed off cubicles, on the second of many floors of a white-collar urban office building. All those industrious adults, drinking their coffee, bowels churning. They all have to poop sometime, right? I know of few people who can hold their breakfast all day, every day. The tragedy is those vacuous, sterilized, ten-stall hallways they call restrooms. The stuff of nightmares! I've scoured the building for a single-stall latrine, even asked a custodian, and there's not one. To be sure, the president of the company has his own office suite with an adjoining bath, swathed in marble with a claw-foot tub and a Rhesus monkey to wipe his butt. What about us plebeians? You know, the ones with IBS? WHAT! ABOUT! US!

After my petitions to the board went ignored, I have accepted this daily burden and developed a few tactics to avoid uncomfortable pooping-at-work predicaments. Allow me to share with you...

(Because getting paid to poop feels oh-so-sweet)

1. Choose your stall wisely. Many choose the last stall of the row to reduce the risk of someone occupying next to you. Typically, the last stall is the handicap-accessible one. I have nervous flashes of a blind, armless midget veteran coming in, mid-movement, bumping her way to the last stall and knocking her shoulders into the door, confused as to why it's locked because she is the only legitimately handicapped person on this floor. I sheepishly call out "Just a second!" then have to fake a limp when I come out five minutes later, the fiery glares of my coworkers washing their hands reflecting in the wall-to-wall mirror. That's just a scenario I'd personally rather avoid, so I go for the last able-bodied stall.

*Fun Fact: Because people tend to assume the first stall is the one that's used the most, it's usually the stall used the least often, and therefore contains the least amount of bacteria.

2. The Warning Flush. My momma taught me this one. Flush the toilet if you feel a noise coming on to mask the sound. Timing is key for this one. Improper use can result in further embarrassment, like clearing your throat in the middle of a crowded room and THEN farting.

3. Wait for the next cycle. If you've already blown your cover and everyone knows you're pooping, just wait until they organically rotate out and a fresh batch of innocents comes in. None will be the wiser. Of course, this is where it gets risky. Read on, my friends.

4. The Standoff. Sometimes you just gotta wait it out, especially if there's only one other person in the bathroom. But be careful, because this strategy can backfire in two ways: First, the other person might have to poop, too. This will result in a painfully awkward war of wills to see who will give up and leave first. Both parties pooping at the same time in a harmonious, judgment-free duet is simply unrealistic. But kudos to you if this ever happens to you, it's truly a gift. Second, by waiting for the other party to leave, you're opening yourself up to the risk of more people coming in, and more, and more, for the rest of the day. What would your boss think? Your jacket and purse and cellphone (well, maybe not your cellphone--see Tip #8) are still at your desk. Have you been abducted? Did you up and quit? You would surely get reprimanded for spending the entire day in the john.

5. Use the available props to create an illusion. This is practical if you are faced with a standoff. If it's not an em-URGE-ency and opting out of the whole operation is still a viable option, but you still feel you've spent a significant amount of time waiting for the other person to give in first, you can pull out the period card to make your exit less shameful. Sometimes I open and close the tampon box lid loudly, so the other person thinks, "Ohh, that's it. Just period stuff," therefore depressurizing the entire situation.
Side note: I find standoffs quite rude. I firmly believe that if the standoff is obvious, and both parties are sitting in uncomfortable silence for several moments, the second party should surrender first and leave the first party to finish what they've undoubtedly started. But that's just me.

6. Indulge in vanity for a moment. If there are people in the bathroom when you first enter, you can pretend to fix your hair or makeup in the mirror (because you probably don't actually care that much) until they leave. I steer clear of this one because your coworkers coming out of the stalls might try to strike up a conversation. I don't like opening my mouth in public bathrooms, so I prefer to leave food and speaking outside.

7. Know your rush hours. The prime time for workplace pooping is while everyone else is at lunch. This is a large part of the reason I eat at my desk. The bathrooms are usually quietest between noon and 1:15, so use that time wisely. I also factor in digestive times: A lot of people drink pop with their lunch, and that tends to run its course (rather, your course) by about 2:15. You get the gassiest lot around 3:30. Beware, the traffic tends to spike again shortly before five, because people don't want to be stuck in their cars in tortuous urban gridlock with a full bladder. Not with all that Pepsi they had at lunch.

8. Bring your phone. Duh. The New York Daily News says that about 75% of Americans use their phone to text, surf the web, play games, or make phone calls while in the bathroom. Obviously, never make a phone call in the restroom at work. If this isn't a given, then you should re-evaluate your standards for professionalism and general grossness. That said, I value having my phone in the bathroom simply as a distraction. For an anxious person, it's always a challenge to go #1 OR #2 in a public latrine, so it helps pass the time to play a round or two of Words With Friends. (Challengers, now you know the truth.) Hygiene is still a factor, so you should be mindful of what you're touching and where you set your phone. And never stick your phone in your back pocket, because there is a very high chance that it will fall into the toilet. I've learned that one the hard way several times.

9. Go incognito. If it's recognition you're concerned about, consider stashing a different pair of shoes at your desk. That way your coworkers won't recognize you from under the stall door and you can poop without worry of negative social consequences.

10. Just don't give a shit. This comes from a friend (happy birthday, anonymous friend!) who is much braver than I. She recommends walking in with your head held high, brazenly choosing a stall at random, putting in your headphone with some loud-ish music, and just not giving a shit. So to speak.

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