Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cell Phones and Public Bathrooms: A Point of Etiquette

On the way up to the mountain house today, we stopped at McDonald's so I could go in and use the bathroom. Everyone else stayed in the car. There were two stalls in there, and both were empty, so I had my pick. While I was ensconced in my stall, a woman came into the bathroom talking on her cell phone. It sounded like the conversation had just started; I don't know if she had placed the call or received the call. But she was saying "Yes sir," and giving her name, and starting to ask some official-sounding question. The tone of her voice was that of someone in the supplicant position, like she doesn't often have to call "important" offices and ask for things. While she was trying to get her question out, which was something about her daughter's Social Security check, she went into the stall next to me and was seated. She continued to explain her question to the person on the line--she's divorced, and it seems that her daughter's check is going to her ex-husband's address instead of to her PO box.

By now there are at least two people waiting outside the stalls. Phone woman is actually giving her ex's social security number on the phone, and explaining again that she is divorced and here is the exact situation. I was ready to flush and go, but I felt hesitant to flush the toilet in the middle of her phone call. The sound of those power-flushing toilets is pretty unmistakeable. My neighbor had been actually using the toilet, I think, but now I thought maybe she was just sitting there to finish her conversation. But people were waiting for a turn. And I felt how frustrated they must be. My stall is a total mystery to them, and hers sounds like a phone booth.

Phone Lady began to repeat the story of her divorce, and she gave her husband's mailing address, and her own. (I guess identity theft is not in the forefront of her concerns.) I was peeking through the crack in the door, and I could see that there were three people waiting now. One of us was being rude, I thought, either Phone Lady for the entire situation, or me for enabling her and colluding with her bathroom-hogging by my reluctance to flush in the middle of her call. I decided to go ahead and flush--I was obviously more embarrassed for her than she was for herself, considering that when she started this call, or answered this call, she could have turned around and left the bathroom. So I flushed, and as I did, she raised her voice, very loudly now, to finish her sentence. I winced and felt sorry for a second, then I thought, "Why am I the one who feels responsible for this situation?" Then I gave it another flush.

So, if you must conduct a private and sensitive conversation in a public bathroom, don't camp on the potty the whole time. It is possible, probably, to hold the phone in one hand and finish your business and leave. Oh, or maybe just don't be in this situation AT ALL.


the gazelle said...

there is only one person in the whole world that I would ever talk to on the phone while using the bathroom. And not in a public restroom.

That lady is just crazy - and good for you for double-flushing.

Keely said...

Wow. People like that don't have identities worth stealing, frankly.

Anonymous said...

I love the "in your face" flush. Good call. I have been known to make a pee stop in the middle of a conversation with my mom, sister or best friend occassionally. I'm sure they know, but it's not like they announce it. And I know they do the same thing. TMI?

Becky said...

Yeah, I think a lot depends on who you are talking to. And whether you are in your own home or not. But it was just wrong in so many ways.

And LOL Keely, I thought that too, like, okay, I don't want to take over their identities!