Common Courtesy in a Common Space

-          By Michael!

The steady degradation of good manners in our culture is something that anybody over the age of “whippersnapper” has noticed. And, in all probability, commented upon at length. In general, I tend to think that things probably don’t ever really change all that much in the big picture, as far as human nature goes, but there is one area of human interaction wherein I can honestly say I’ve noticed a growing dearth of common sense and courtesy.

The men’s room.

Ladies, feel free to continue reading. But know that this is largely intended for the dudes among us.

I shouldn’t have to make this clear. Honestly, this little blurb of etiquette should be so deeply ingrained in the mass male psyche that my words here are completely redundant. But recent experience has proven me wrong.

Men are forgetting how to use the men’s room.

So I’m going to remind us.

Let’s start with a quick diagram.

O         X         X         X         X         X
            1          2         3         4         5

The “O” is the door to the restroom, and the X’s are ... depositories.

Now, I’ll lead us off with a quiz: when is it acceptable to use either number 2 or 4?

Trick question! IT IS NEVER ACCEPTABLE TO USE NUMBERS 2 AND 4. I have it on good authority that, in most men’s rooms, these are not even hooked up to plumbing! (By “good authority,” I mean “I just made that up but it might as well be true.”)

If you’re the first in the room, you go to number five.

If you’re second, you go to post one.

If you’re third, you go to number three.

If you’re fourth, head for a stall or wait for number five. Your choice.

Some places will put up small walls between “stations.” These make it marginally more acceptable to use the even numbered facilities, but only marginally. Remember:

When in doubt, wait it out.

The other area of basic etiquette that is becoming less and less common is speech. By which I mean anybody, ever, speaking.

You may, of course, grunt a greeting to another occupant. Better still, give the universal “chin thrust” acknowledgement of existence. But in general, this is a place of business. Keep it that way. If you see a childhood friend or mentor whom you haven’t seen in years, you may smile – but wait until you are both outside the room to renew your acquaintance. This is neither the time nor the place.

Third, and finally, stall etiquette. The rule for your home is to leave the seat down – it’s common courtesy. In a public restroom, the opposite rule applies. Wrap it up, put it up. This makes it much easier on the next visitor who finds himself needing a refuge from a fully loaded 1-3-5 situation, as he won’t have to make the choice whether to touch the seat himself or risk creating a “splash zone,” which is bad news for everybody involved.

There. I hope I’ve cleared some things up. My apologies for the inherent distastefulness of the topic, but recent trips to the airport (specifically, I'm looking at you, Newark) and other public locales made it fairly clear that we’re falling behind. To make it up to you, here is a picture of a cat doing something adorable.

And may the crazy remain with you. J