Saturday, January 1, 2011

Po(o)p Psychology

I promise, I will gloss through the scatalogical details of my story as quickly as possible.

So, as I'm walking into the mall today, on the day after New Year's Eve, having just eaten also spaghetti with meat sauce, salad, and a breadstick, and I think, 'Oh, no, I have to go and it's going to be bad.' Luckily, I think, we're walking into the Belk for Women, so there's a guarantee that a) they will have bathrooms, and b) traffic will be very light in the mens' bathroom, so I'll be able to sit and agonize in peace.

To get to the bathrooms in a women's department store, you have to wade through a lot of departments. I guess they think you'll do some impulse shopping on the way. There are even sale items in the otherwise-empty hallway once you get to Customer Service and turn down toward the restrooms. The men's, of course, is at the very, very end of a long corridor.

And I'm right. I walk in and it is completely empty. Staking my claim to the place, I head down to the farthest of five stalls quickly, the explosion imminent. Within moments, I've gotten a bit of relief, done a courtesy flush for an empty bathroom, and taken out my cell phone to play a little "Spit!" (a card game) while I'm waiting.

But I'm wrong. The bathroom door opens and someone walks in and keeps walking, all the way down to the stall right next to mine! I can see his feet, of course, he fiddles for a minute like he's going to settle in, but then, I'm thinking because he's realized I'm right next door, he walks out of that stall and moves, maybe, down to a farther stall.

To me, that's polite.

But then, he leaves. Did he not like the stall? Were the others somehow worse? Was he, too, looking for an empty men's room? I don't know. And then the bathroom door opens again and again the footsteps cross the entire bathroom and again someone chooses the stall right next to mine. Different shoes. And he proceeds to get everything unbuckled and sits down and....does nothing. He makes no sound for minute after minute. I sit there quietly myself now, making only the slightest noises of pushing phone buttons to play my cards, to try to make myself invisible so he can "do his business." But still, nothing for minute after minute. And then I get out of there.

In Chemistry class, back in high school, when we were studying electrons, we learned something like this. It was call "The Bus Seat Rule," suggesting that typical human behavior dictated that if a person got onto a bus where there was only one other person sitting, the new person would sit next to the one who was already there, despite the emptiness of the bus.

Apparently, that's how electrons behave, but for the life of me, I've never seen humans behave that way. Maybe that's why Chemistry didn't click with me. People, in my experience, usually afford each other as much space as they can, standing on opposite walls of an elevator, taking seats away from each other when entering a movie theater. It's the person who doesn't honor another person's space who tends to be the outlier.

As for what was happening inside the Belk For Women's men's bathroom, I cannot understand why a person walks into a bathroom, sees one far stall occupied, and decides that he will choose the one right next to it. Especially when the bathroom is otherwise empty and quiet as a tomb. Especially if doing so is going to cause him to "freeze up." I would think he would want his own little space and the illusion of privacy created by camping out 3 or 4 stalls away. After all, if you arrive after the other camper, if you leave either before or after he does, he can never know who you are, can never put a face to a pair of shoes, can never give him the look that says "Whew, buddy, what crawled up and died in there?" or "It sure was quiet and strange over there; what were you up to, pal?"

My own oddity is that I consider the bathroom stall, even in the most public of restrooms, one of the great refuges of the modern world, a place where you've rented your own four walls, and no one can tell you when you have to leave. It's just not that easy anymore to get that kind of separation. Sometimes in an airport, when I'm stressed out from traveling, even if I don't have to go, I'll take myself and everything I'm lugging along and go into a stall and just sit for a few minutes and let the airport public safety announcements play outside and all of the comings and goings and hurryings occur around me and do and think absolutely nothing. That's bliss.

Sorry, no songs came to mind to accompany this post. I'm open to suggestions.

4 comments:

troutking said...

At any point were you tempted to say, "Please keep your feet in your stall, Senator Craig?"

jed said...

Bob didn't have on the right shoes....

Billy said...

Trout's theory is humorous, but not altogether off the mark. Another theory: what better place for a perv to grab some women's apparel and sneak into a bathroom stall for... well, however long it takes?

Regardless, I agree that it's a wonderful refuge in theory, but in practice there's always this strange and ominous feel about sitting too long in a public restroom stall. Maybe I've seen one too many horror movies, but I never really feel alone.

goofytakemyhand said...

Constipation Blues - Screamin' Jay Hawkins