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14 April 2008
Public Washrooms: The Ten Commandments
by Paul Aitken

Perhaps more than any other institution, the public restroom is the great leveler. Everyone uses them. In any establishment the high and mighty are pissing beside the low and slovenly. We're engaged in acts of an extremely personal nature in a very public space. It behooves us then to conform to a set of behaviors that makes the whole experience as civilized as possible. To that end I present the ten commandments of public bathroom etiquette.

  1. Mercy Flush... Please

    Rule of thumb: If you can smell it, so can everybody else. If you've got a tendency to linger after dropping the big one then do us all a favor and offer up a preliminary flush. Yeah, I know it's a waste of water.Make it up by drinking less.

  2. Take Responsibility For Your Own Puke

    There's no shame in getting caught off guard. Some clown keeps buying Sambuca shooters and before you know it the room's helicoptering around you. But you've managed to weave through the patrons at the bar. You even managed to flash the cute waitress a sickly smile as you lurch past. But just because you've managed to push open the door to the men's room doesn't mean you're home free. It's bad manners of the highest order to simply open your mouth and let the fish and chips fall where they may. For one thing the surface is hard tile. Whatever falls from a distance of five feet or so is going to splatter leaving a no-go area the size of Chernobyl. You've made it this far, you've got to go the distance. There's probably no better place to puke in the indoor world than the men's public washroom. If the stalls are all full you've got other options. The first order of business is containment. The second is clean-up. That means the best places to puke, in descending order of preference, are: 1. The toilet. 2. The urinal (not the ideal place for blowing chunks but better than the floor by a long shot) 3. The sink. The garbage can is better than the floor but by far the inferior option to the above three. With the toilet, urinal and sink you have the means to clean up and this is something you MUST do. Flush twice if you have to. Wipe the seat/urinal/sink completely clean. Not a chunk of fish should remain.

  3. Leave the Handicapped Stall for Last

    I know they're extra wide. You can keep your gym bag beside you while you do your business but spare a moment's thought to the guys who don't have a choice which stall they use. The handicapped stall isn't like a handicapped parking spot. You can use it. But only if no other choices are available. It hard enough maneuvering your wheelchair into the bathroom in the first place. A wheelchair-bound man shouldn't have to wait to use the only stall available to him simply because you want a little elbow room while you contemplate nature.

  4. Lift the Seat, Jerk!

    Pee in the urinal, that's what it's there for. But if you must pee in the stall, for God's sake LIFT THE SEAT! I can't tell you how many times I've encountered pee splatter when I have sit-down business to attend to. I've stretched my imagination to breaking point trying to understand what kind of guy would pee through an open toilet seat rather than lift the lid. I've only come up with three possibilities. 1. They're sporting types. An open hole is an invitation to practice one's aim. 2. They're fastidious types who don't want to touch the toilet seat. 3. They're sociopaths who simply can't be bothered to expend any effort for the common good. If you're one of these guys then please write in and tell us what motivates you to commit such an egregiously anti-social act. Whatever the reason, there is simply no excuse for not lifting the lid.

  5. Wash Your Hands After Peeing

    You've probably heard this joke. A Harvard man notices a Yale man failing to wash-up after urinating and upbraids him; "At Harvard they teach us to wash our hands after urinating." To which Yale man replies; "At Yale they teach us not to piss on our hands." Every guy has questioned the value of washing up when our hands are unsullied. There is no good answer. According to The Straight Dope's Cecil Adams, washing is a must because the whole genital region is teeming with microbes. But if it's necessary to scrub up every time we touch our dicks then by logical extension we should never permit our girlfriends to put said dick in their mouths. There's obviously a double standard going on here. My own feeling is that we live in a world awash with germs. Our dicks may be germy but so is the surface of the table that the waitress has just wiped with her skanky wet cloth. That said, washing up after peeing just seems to be the polite thing to do. If no one is around to witness it, chances are no harm will come if you simply zip up and leave. But if you are in the company of others it's only good manners to wash up. It may be empty ritual but so is half the stuff we do.

  6. If It's Plugged, DON'T USE IT!

    It seems obvious but I can't tell you how many times I've walked into a stall and reeled at the sight. It's always possible that the previous occupant simply forgot to flush. And if everything looks otherwise normal, then by all means flush for him. But if the water level is already suspiciously high DON'T FLUSH! And whatever you do, don't just shrug and contribute to the problem. At some point, some poor chump has to go in, plunger in hand and deal with the problem. It's a shitty job - literally. Don't make it worse.

  7. The Urinal Is Not the Place to Make Friends

    Yeah I know, you're drunk, you're feeling gregarious and it seems unfriendly to just stand there beside some guy and not even talk about the hockey game. But ask yourself if you'd feel the same way on the subway platform or a movie queue. Something about having your dick out with a stranger seems to beg for social exchange. Resist the urge. Chances are no ill will come of a simply "howdy," but some guys view the act of urination as a matter of private contemplation and there's no reason to intrude. Now I'm willing to admit this is probably a cultural thing. In more gregarious social climes it may be seen as an anti-social act NOT to yak while you've got your dick out, but the Anglo-American convention is to stare straight ahead and mind your own business. An extension of this convention is to leave, whenever possible, at least one urinal between you and the next guy. That means if there are three urinals; use the one on either side if they're not already in use.

  8. No Peaking

    If you do find yourself standing next to someone at the urinal, resist the temptation to "check him out." This may be hard to do if he's the kind of guy who likes to hitch his thumbs in his back pocket and go hands-free. If you do happen to sneak a glance, it's advisable not to offer any comments.

  9. Use Your Clean Hand to Turn On the Tap

    For fastidious types, one of the conundrums of public washrooms is how to make it out without getting someone else's germs all over your hands. The reasoning is thus: If you have germs on your hands, those germs will be transferred to everything you touch. Yes, you can wash-up but when you turn off the tap you'll be in contact with the germs that somebody else left when they turned on the tap. There's really no perfect solution to the problem and if you're really concerned you can use a paper towel to turn off the tap. Ditto for the door handle. But one way we can reduce the amount of germ transfer is to simply agree to not touch anything with the hand you used to wipe your ass. That means flush, undo the stall latch and turn on the taps ONLY WITH YOUR CLEAN HAND.


    One of the more perverse habits of fastidious types is to minimize germ contact by using their foot to flush the toilet; the idea being that whoever used the toilet last left his germs on the handle. The logical flaws of this strategy are obvious to even the minimally intelligent. The same guy who touched the handle also touched the door and the sink taps. Not even foot flushers go so far as to turn on the taps with their feet. Ironically, the only way the flush handle will have more germs than the door latch or the taps is if a previous user has flushed with his foot. The soles are absolutely riddled with germs and splashed urine. To place these same soles on the surface that someone else will be touching with his bare hands will guarantee that these germs will ultimately be transferred to every surface that this person subsequently touches before he washes. The strategy is self-defeating and morally reprehensible. If you're that germ-phobic, use a tissue as an intermediary between you and whatever surface you touch.

There you have it. The ten commandments of bathroom etiquette. To this list I could add numerous others but there is one overarching principle: Do as you would have others do. If you don't want to step in someone else's puke/poo/piss, then behave accordingly. If you don't want to be intimately involved with someone else's bowel movements, then don't fart loudly or shout out "Here comes the big one!"

A little class added to an otherwise crass bodily function is never a wrong move.

The Toilet Seat Debate Revisited
The Fine Art Of Urinating In Traction
Asian Men Suffering From More Urinary Problems

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