Today at work I walked into the men’s restroom and began to open the door of a stall when, from within the other stall, came a voice.
“Uh, I wouldn’t go in there.”
I stopped in my tracks.
In my experience, communication from within a bathroom stall in the workplace is utterly forbidden due to social taboo associated with identifying yourself while on the crapper. I hadn’t recognized the voice of its inhabitant, and when I leaned slightly sideways to look at his shoes under the stall I swear he slid his feet backwards, out of my sight.
I addressed the closed door of the occupied stall, and the disembodied stall voice within.
“Is there something wrong with the toilet?”
“No,” the disembodied stall voice replied, “but, don’t try to use it.”
At this point the disembodied voice’s somewhat cryptic manner of communication was starting to bug me. Why not just say, “Watch out, that toilet is clogged,” or apologize from preventing me from using the bathroom with “Sorry, that one’s clogged,” which also tacitly apologizes in the case that the voice was actually the clogger?
Was there perhaps a little bit of guilt at play there? Maybe I was dealing with the clogger! Or, maybe he was so afraid of the taboo associated with stall-talk that he could barely string together a coherent sentence, let alone an informational one.
I decided to probe for more information, and to perhaps reveal the guilt- and/or fear- ridden, somewhat cryptic, disembodied voice’s identity.
“Did you call facilities?”
“No. uh. You should definitely call facilities. Good idea.”
Now completely frustrated with the lack of initiative of the guilt- and/or fear- ridden, somewhat cryptic, disembodied voice of the bathroom stall, I stalked out of the bathroom (still having to actually *use* a bathroom, mind you, rather badly at this point).
The had voice set up a wonderful catch-22 wherein I either took responsibility for calling facilities or be forced to feel guilty about the next person who tried to use the toilet. He was also playing upon the fact that only he and I would know the toilet was clogged in order to compel me to leave a “Do not use” note on the stall.
I was, in fact, embroiled in a twisted case of bathroom blackmail at the hands of the initiative-lacking, guilt- and/or fear- ridden, somewhat cryptic, disembodied voice of the bathroom stall. (Hands… of the disembodied… never mind)
Forced into complicity with the blackmailing, I phoned facilities.
“Hi. I work on 35, and I’d like to report a problem with the left hand stall in the men’s restroom.”
“What’s wrong with it?”
“Uh. I’m not sure. Someone told me to call facilities about it.”
“So, it won’t flush?”
Actually, I wasn’t even sure what was wrong with it.
“I don’t know.”
“Well, what happened when you used the toilet?”
“I didn’t use it. I was going to use it, but…”
Here I paused, afraid to allude to the blackmailing, initiative-lacking, guilt- and/or fear- ridden, somewhat cryptic, disembodied voice of the bathroom stall for fear of some unspecified retribution.
“…something seemed wrong. So I didn’t use it.”
“Something seemed wrong with the toilet?”
“So you didn’t use it?”
“So, what sort of service does it require?”
Again, I was stymied. What sort of service did it require?
“Um. someone should just come up and take a look at it.”
“Okay. I’ll just enter a ticket that you experienced a problem.”
“No, no, I didn’t experience it. I’m just aware of it.”
“Okay. So, you’re aware of a problem – an unknown problem – with the left-hand stall in the 35th floor men’s bathroom.”
The facilities operator hung up on me, presumably out of disgust.
I quickly scrawled a “do not use” note, attempting to disguise my distinctive handwriting (link) so that it would not seem as though i was responsible for the stall issue.
As I walked the note back to the bathroom, I began to wonder – maybe my blackmailer wasn’t really the actual blackmailer. Maybe I was called upon to resolve the stall issue not by an original blackmailer, but another victim of bathroom blackmail (much like Mr. Wadsworth leads everyone to believe in Clue). Perhaps the not-actually blackmailing, blackmailing, initiative-lacking, guilt- and/or fear- ridden, somewhat cryptic, disembodied voice of the bathroom stall was a sympathetic character who, after seating himself in the stall, heard a dreadful gurgling from the next stall and witnessed from under his door a pair of feet quickly fleeing the scene. Maybe his crypticism was only a function of his fear!
I checked back later in the day to see that, though my note was intact, someone had in fact tried to use the stall. And, without going into details, I can affirm that horror ensued. Or, did it? Maybe my blackmailer (or, more specifically, the original blackmailer, as I might have been on a second-tier blackmailer) had used the toilet specifically to enhance their blackmail of me, or even to pin the blame on me after I had left my incriminating “do not use” note – which I now dare not retreive lest my dress shoes be subjected to the horror that had ensued.
Moral: Don’t ever talk to anyone in the bathroom unless they’re at a sink.
Or, this could be the moral: Don’t take responsibility for something you didn’t do. Especially in a bathroom.
But, this is really the moral: The next time you ask me why I don’t post more often, be prepared to endure the insane ramblings produced by being stuck inside a high-rise for the entirety of the nicest day of the year so far. And by being blackmailed by a sympathetic, possibly not-actually blackmailing, blackmailing, initiative-lacking, guilt- and/or fear- ridden, somewhat cryptic, disembodied voice of a bathroom stall.