Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bathroom Etiquette (yes, this post is G-rated)

I haven't had many deep, shareable thoughts recently, nor have I made time to cook much in the last few weeks. So I thought a light-hearted post was in order.

Down the hall from my office are two single-person restrooms--one for men, one for women. Over the last several months, I've noticed a few "best practices" related to the entering and exiting of those bathrooms.

  1. If you come out of the restroom when someone is walking down the hall close to the bathroom, do not make eye contact or speak to the person. If you come out of the restroom practically on top of the other person, it's okay to acknowledge his or her existence with brief eye contact and a smile, but you should not engage in conversation, even if the two of you are walking the same direction.
  2. The same goes for if you are the person walking down the hall and witness someone exiting the restroom.
  3. If you are walking down the hall toward the restroom and encounter another person going the opposite direction, try not to make eye contact and definitely don't speak to him/her. If possible, duck into the bathroom only after he/she has passed you and you are, therefore, out of his/her sight.
  4. If you are walking down the hall toward the restroom and encounter another person going the same direction, it all depends on whether you're on the long end of the hall or the short end. 
    • If you're on the short end--and therefore only have a few steps to the restroom--follow Step 1, and try to duck into the restroom without the other person noticing. If possible, it's best to try to fall into step behind the other person, rather than next to or in front of him/her.
    • If you're on the long end--and basically have to walk down the entire length of the hallway with the other person--it gets a little trickier. It would be rude to ignore the other person while you walk down the hall with him or her. But it would be awkward to strike up a conversation, only to end the conversation abruptly by walking into the bathroom and shutting the door in the other person's face. In this situation, use your best judgment based on your relationship with and knowledge of the other person. Do you have a pretty good relationship with her? It's probably okay to strike up a light conversation. Is he the quiet, reserved type? You'll probably be okay with simply smiling and then walking in silence. If in doubt, greet the other person, then make up an excuse to change course: "Oops, I forgot to pick up my original from the copier," or "Oh, I just remembered that I need to stop by ___'s office to ask her about ___."
  5. Basically, in your entering and exiting of the bathroom, if you encounter another person, neither of you should do anything to acknowledge that you were using or are about to use to restroom, nor should you even acknowledge the mere existence of the restroom.
  6. If you are a woman and the other person is also a woman, you can ignore all of the above. It's perfectly fine to make eye contact, smile, strike up a conversation, and even linger at the door of the restroom to finish your conversation before going in.


  1. Hilarious and also totally true! It's the same on the undergraduate side! Another unspoken rule I've observed - if you find that someone is already in the restroom, do not wait outside the door. Find an excuse to linger somewhere nearby so that you can hear when the person has left. Then head to the bathroom following all the aforementioned conversation/no conversation protocol.

  2. Haha! Yes, so true! Also, if people are standing in the hall outside/near the restroom, either wait until later, or find another restroom to use. It's just too awkward otherwise!

  3. I laughed out loud. Actually, I tried to not laugh out loud, which meant that I just sniggered quietly to myself and tried not to sound like I was choking on anything.

  4. Your comment made me giggle out loud.