in Life

No two men are allowed to talk while at urinals (an unspoken rule. Literally.)

Like many people, I assume a lot of things. Like when I call technical support I’m going to get a foreign man, when I get fast food in the drive-through my order will at least be mostly wrong, and that every man knows that he isn’t to approach a urinal and engage in conversation with another man at an adjacent urinal.

I was also under the assumption that everyone knew these things. But while I was using a urinal last night, a fellow co-worker began using the urinal next to me and then proceeded to engage in conversation. This quickly unearthed my assumptions as well as created an extremely uncomfortable situation.

The only excuse for talking to another man at a urinal is that you were very recently a woman and still aren’t used to men’s bathrooms.

No one ever told me to not talk to someone while at the urinal. No one ever had to. It’s human instinct, much like when your friend finally calls you back after not returning your calls, you let the call go to voice mail. Using a urinal is also a lot like being at a funeral in the sense that you just stand at watch. Sure, during one of those events you’re watching a body being lowered into the ground (hopefully just one of those events), but the etiquette is the same regardless.

I’m not going to lie — I prefer the privacy of a bathroom stall regardless of what I’m doing. And yes, on occasion I’ll use the handicapped stall if it’s available (the guilt subsided about twelve years ago). Unfortunately, the stalls aren’t always available. That’s when I’m forced to take the Urinal Gamble.

The Urinal Gamble — trying to quickly use the urinal before another person can approach the urinal next to you.

It’s a gamble that I always lose. Now, this gamble doesn’t really apply if there are more than two urinals. It’s common knowledge that if someone else is using a urinal, you politely move down one (or eight) urinals to avoid awkwardness. Sometimes, however, there are only two urinals. That’s when the gamble is real. And dangerous.

“What’s going on?,” the oblivious co-worker asked as he approached the urinal next to me. Many thoughts go through my head. What’s going on? I’ll give you a hint — get the hell away from me thanks.

To summarize, there are rules for urinal usage. You should know them:

  1. Stand quietly and urinalnate.
  2. Face toward the wall in front of you.
  3. If someone else approaches the urinal next to you, it’s okay to pretend that they simply don’t exist. And neither do you.
  4. Leave promptly.

It’s really as simple as that. If you already knew about this use-to-be-unspoken-but-now-I’ve-spoken-it rule, feel free to share your own awkward urinal chat experiences in the comments. If you didn’t know about this, now you do — e-mail this post to your friends, family, and awkward co-workers.