Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fences and Neighbors

People are a never-ending source of amusement and curiosity to me - as I am confident I am to the rest of the world. Well, perhaps if we substituted bemusement for amusement and disdain for curiosity but you get the point. Occasionally though the line between amusement and terror gets a bit blurred for my taste. Perhaps it is just me being me but I think not.

I am a bit of a betting man and I would confidently wager that never in the annals of recorded history have two men engaged in a conversation that absolutely could not have awaited the completion of one man's "business" in a men's room. I mean it. Short of you providing me with documentation of some sort that a member of President Lincoln's protective detail passed on a chance to alert Honest Abe to impending doom on that fateful April night at the Ford Theatre because he did not want to interfere with the Chief Executive's "natural bodily processes", I stand by my assertion. There is nothing that you need to share with me through your facial orifice - guy to guy - that cannot be held in abeyance until another orifice located further south upon your person has ceded the white-hot spotlight.

It is becoming a bit of an epidemic in my office - and perhaps yours as well. That is, the phenomenon of men chatting each other up in the bathroom; as if it were some sort of tiled, dimly lit and curiously smelling social club. I am not a fan of the urinal-to-urinal, "Hey how's it going?" even though you/I are separated by a strategically placed piece of metal but I understand it. You are standing there next to someone else you know for an indeterminate length of time so the two of you start making idle chatter - much in the same way as you would perhaps awaiting the arrival of the crosstown local bus. Again, it is not my preference but I certainly do not view it as a breach of a binding social contract.

Lately however around our joint there has been an uptick of efforts of guys attempting to engage in conversation while one is in a stall.....doing what it is we men tend to do in such a setting. It happened to me yesterday and candidly it angered me a little. How self-absorbed must one man be to think that anything he has to say to another merits man #2 standing on the outside of a stall door in a men's room while he, man #1, chatters away about whatever the hell it is he is talking about? I was tempted to ask the attempted engager whether he was so arrogant as to believe (as the kids might say) that, "his s*it don't stink" but considering the setting I presumed that it did or would and I had no intention of being present at some weird, potentially permanently scarring cotillion for his BM. Instead of answering him, I quietly opened first the inside door of the men's room and thereafter the one that connects the men's room to the office so that he could not hear me leaving. While I do not know if anyone else wandered into the target zone while he was in there multi-tasking he was indeed still talking as I exited - apparently unaware of his audience's hasty retreat.

Gentlemen - what you do in the bathroom is your business. And while the men's room is not on the medal stand of the happiest places on earth, you may choose to do a bit of reading while engaged in the important business of your day, which inevitably means that you spend more time inside than a non-reader would. But that is your choice; not something that is foisted upon you by someone else. Me? I have been married a long time and have raised two kids. Often on a Sunday morning when the kids were younger and both still at home I would take a cup of coffee, a carafe full of back-up java, the sports page, a book I was reading and a bowl of cereal into the downstairs bathroom at home. You find sanctuary where you want to and I shall find it where I want to; OK?

Maybe it is simply the lapsed Catholic in me that finds the attempt of one man - in a men's room shared by not fewer than one dozen men by the way - to engage a second man in conversation while Man #1 is doing #2 to be so damned uncomfortable. Perhaps it churns up a long-lost bad memory of confessions from my youth or some such thing. I know not. I know simply that I have zero interest in playing the role of Wilson to a co-worker's Tim Taylor.

Just another thin line I prefer not to cross.

-AK

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