Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Ballad of Noah and Gerry

Quick - show of hands of everyone who feels as if this work week has already been forty-seven days long. Wow, that many; eh? Me too. OK, you can put your hand down. It is not as if I can see it anyway.........or can I?

Maybe it is because time has worn on at such an inexorable pace this week that my ever-challenged reservoir of patience for all things around me has seemed to evaporate more rapidly than usual. I know not but I know that it certainly seems to me - around my shop at least - that one of my least favorite examples of human interaction is again on an upswing. What the hell is it about guys and the desire to convert a men's bathroom into a corner bar or a favorite newsstand - a place where guys hang out with other guys and chat? Several months ago, it had become almost endemic at my office but then, mercifully and without either fanfare or explanation, it simply shriveled up and went away. Gone were the extended breakdowns of a previous evening's baseball game, a recent oral argument or the stylings and adventures of someone's baby/toddler/small child. The natural order of things was restored. Bathroom conversation once again consisted of, "Hello", "Good morning", "How's it hanging?" and other items appreciated both for their appropriateness and their brevity.

Without warning however the extended-play conversations have reappeared. I have taken to scouting the area around the men's bathroom on my floor to monitor the comings/goings of my fellow stand-up urinators to ensure when it is indeed safe to go in there. I have also taken to carrying my toothbrush and toothpaste with me every time I enter the bathroom. I am a tad retentive when it comes to brushing my teeth - doing so within roughly 5 minutes of eating ANYTHING for I so loathe the feeling and taste of food on my teeth after I have finished eating - so my cover is wholly plausible. If I am standing by the sink washing my hands when a known urination conversator enters the bathroom, then I simply whip out my toothbrush and brush away. While I suspect that if I actually went to the dentist he/she would tell me that brushing one's teeth eighteen times a day is in fact not good for them, I am willing to take that risk.

The single most fascinating thing to me about this behavioral tic is that I cannot be the only member of my species who finds it alarming and distasteful. Is there any person alive who wants to be subjected to making eye contact with a man who insists in engaging you in face-to-face conversation while he is standing at a urinal? I neither want to hear you nor see Mr. Pinnagins so zip it until after you zip it; OK?

Perhaps the only thing worse than that is the "over the wall" conversation between the person inside the stall and one or more persons standing on the other side of the "not quite to the floor" door. Did I miss the signage telling me that I had exited the interstate and ended up at the State penitentiary? I would be willing to wager that a person could live to be as old as Noah was when he built the ark (600 according to the good book) and never be engaged in a conversation the urgency and importance of which required one to endure another's bowel movement. Yet recently I have entered the bathroom at work only to happen upon the American Standard Repertory Theatre's homage to Romeo and Juliet not once - but on three separate occasions. Each time the "listener" stationed outside of the stall wore a pained expression on his face, suggesting his embarrassment at being discovered while participating in this farce. From the sounds of the noise arising from the other side of the metal door, I presumed that the gent in the stall had a pained expression on his face too - albeit for an entirely different reason.

Enough already dammit. Stop using the men's room as a conference room. Just do your business, wash your hands (THOROUGHLY & WITH SOAP) and be on your way.....

....if need be, we'll meet out on the water for that is where all strangers are known.


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