Jeffrey Allen Mays

A Bathroom Conversation

[I will return to my discussion of Faulkner tomorrow. Below is something I wrote about 3 years ago. Enjoy.]

I went into a public restroom today and noticed what is now undeniable empirical evidence that men have developed a totally new language used only in restrooms. But this language consists completely of nonverbal queues.

When I walked into the restroom, a man in a stall sniffed – louder than necessary. I realized he was signaling his presence to me, as if to say ‘hey, you’re not alone in here.’ I can only presume that he was doing this as a courtesy to me. Perhaps he was afraid that I might fart with too much abandon, or start singing out loud thinking I was alone, and then I might be embarrassed when I did notice someone else in the stall.

I have been noticing this now for a couple of years, and I am trying to piece together the rudimentary elements of the new language that is developing – an anthropologist’s dream – to be able to witness a new form of communication developing in its natural habitat.

So here for the first time, I will share with you a typical conversation using this new language with translation. I may post further advancements in future blogs as my vocabulary grows.

[I walk into the men’s room and go the urinal.]

Stall 1: Sniff. [Translation: Heads up, sir. There is someone else in this bathroom.]

Me: Cough. [Thank you, friend. I will be careful of my behavior.]

Stall 1: Rattles newspaper. [Splendid. Now, no need to get too friendly.]

Stall 2: Ahem, Ahem. [I say lads, just letting you know there’s a third one here.]

Me:¬† Sniff. [Yes, I could already tell by the odor coming strongly from that stall.] Sigh. [If you don’t mind folks, I need to concentrate here.]

[Long pause.]

Stall 1: Uncomfortable silence. [Would one of you gents be so kind as to turn on the tap? It might stir things up a bit, ay what? Might also deliver me from some embarrassment over the terrible splashing that is about to occur.]

Stall 2: Rustling loudly with pants and zipper. [One moment old chap, I’m happy to oblige. Just let me tidy up my trousers.]

Me: Heavy sigh. [I bloody wish both of you wankers would get out of here so I could bloody well concentrate.]

Stall 2: Especially loud flushing. [There you are, old man! That should help things a bit. A good rushing water sound usually helps me. Better let it go fast before the flush is over. You too, at the urinal. Go ahead, I can’t hear a thing!]

Stall 1: Cough. [Sir, you are a gentleman. I hope you will let me buy you a drink.]

Stall 2: Clattering door latch and squeaky hinges. [No need to thank me, old sport. I know how it can be. We’re all in this together, right-o!]

Stall 1: Vigorous unrolling of approx. 15 feet of toilet paper. [If only my ex-wife and I could communicate this well, our marriage might have lasted. As it is, she’s run off to Strattford on Avon with some bloke from the bankers office. Bloody wretched business. But as Dr. Johnson said, “a man of genius is seldom ruined but by himself.” I have to catch the trolly at 6, so let me get you that drink. What’ll you have?]

Stall 2 man at sink: Briefest possible dispensing of soap, washing, drying hands on paper towel. [Really, there’s no need. I trust you would do the same for me.]

Stall 1: Quick flush. [I insist!]

Stall 2 man exiting: Casual, relieved exit. [Very well, sir. Gin and a dash of elderflower cordial. Shot of apple juice.]

Stall 1: Exit briskly without washing. [brilliant! Make it two!]

Me: Sigh. [Great ceasar’s ghost, finally a chap can have a bit of peace without those two yammering on.]

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