6 Public Restroom Rules of Etiquette

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June 9, 2014 by Melanie L.

Recently, I was caught with my pants down using the accessible stall in the public restroom.  Think Curb Your Enthusiasm (see link posted below), except it was the women’s restroom and I was caught before exiting the stall.

It went down like this:  I walked into a public restroom.  No line.  Three stalls: one clogged, one occupied, and one accessible.  I did not even hesitate for the briefest of moments to claim the open, unclogged, accessible stall.  What can I say?  I had to go, and quite frankly, I’m usually accompanied by two uncaged toddlers who require that particular stall for corralling and safety purposes.  It just so happened that on the day in question, I was sans kids.

So, there I was, pants down, conducting business. Moments later, a woman wearing wedge sandals over stockings entered the restroom and made a beeline to the accessible stall asking no one in particular, “Is the handicapped stall open?  I have a real handicapped person who needs it!”  Before finishing her sentence, she pushed on my stall’s door and found it locked. Upon this discovery, her speech became even more pressured when she addressed me directly, “How long are you going to be?  I have a real handicapped person here!”

I broke out my mom-voice and responded as calmly as possible, “You’ll have to wait until I come out.”  The woman turned on her heel and moved away from my stall door.

But, at the same moment, the tenant next to me vacated her stall.  Confused, Mrs. Wedge Sandal asked the former tenant, “Oh, are you out now?” expecting the accessible stall to now be vacant. She returned and pushed on my stall’s door and found it, once again, locked.  “Are you still in there?  How long are you going to be?  I have a real handicapped person who needs that stall!  Are you even handicapped?!”  She put her eye up to the crack between the door and the stall wall to get a look at me.  She then dipped her head to peek at me from under the door.

Annoyed, I repeated, this time through clenched teeth, “You’ll have to wait until I come out.”  I put myself together, rushed actually, and emerged moments later.

Mrs. Wedge Sandal, who by the way, was unaccompanied by any person, much less a person who required the use of that particular stall, dressed me down, “You look perfectly healthy!  You know, that stall is for handicapped people!  That’s rude – RUDE! – for you to use that stall!”

I defended myself by saying, “That’s not how it works and you know what’s rude is you talking to me through a stall door and violating my privacy.” To which she felt the need to spar further by accusing me of being a young and healthy BRAT with a big mouth.  She then spun on her heel and left the bathroom.  LEFT!  Without ever having used the stall, or brought in the “real handicapped” person to use it.

I washed up and walked out only to find that Mrs. Wedge Sandal was indeed accompanied . . . .by a man.  A MAN!  A man, who though he was not in a wheelchair, was exiting the public men’s room on shaky, shuffling feet with an aide sporting a lanyard.  Did I fail to mention that he was a man?

We shall save the discussion about when and whether an able-bodied person is ever entitled to use the accessible stall for another day.  Better yet, read this well-reasoned post.  (The gist, if you are like me and too lazy to click the link, is that waiting in line for a public restroom is an equal opportunity fact of life.)  That’s a topic for the civilly advanced. untitledA Instead, rather, we seem to need a refresher on public restroom rules 101:

1.  You must respect boundaries. While it is reasonable to check your preferred stall for occupancy, once occupancy is established, you must back away from the door.  No one over the age of four may bang repeatedly on the door, look under the door, or stick an eye up to a crack.

2.  You must wait your turn. Duh.  This seems self-explanatory but let me break it down, just in case.  I don’t care who you are, not a single human on this planet is entitled to evict a stall’s tenant with dropped-trou while mid-business.  One evacuation at a time.  WAIT YOUR TURN. M-kay?

3. You must not presume to know anyone else’s medical history Even if you happen to be a medical doctor, but especially if you are not, you may not diagnose anyone with either a disability or a clean bill of health.  Some disabilities may in fact, require more roomy quarters, or handrails, or a higher seat, and yet not be patently visible.  Unless you are precisely said person’s treating physician. . . but you know what, no, not even then.  Because you should not discuss a patient’s diagnosis or treatment in public!  So there are no exceptions to this rule.  Keep your judgey-judgey diagnoses to yourself!

4. You must be an actual human If you are going to demand the evacuation of the occupied accessible stall on the basis that a “real handicapped” person is in need, said person must be an actual, real human being and not an imaginary friend, figment of your delusions, or ghost.

5. Gender Trumps When you gotta go, you gotta go.  I’m all for using the bathroom of the opposite sex, especially if the demand is great and the supply is low, or even if simply time is of the essence and the opposite-gendered bathroom is closer.  A quick check that the coast is clear and you’re all set. But that’s an allowance, not an entitlement.  The placard on external door trumps any placard on the interior stall doors.  20140609-115418-42858111.jpgThat is, there is no VIP seating for men in the women’s restroom and vice versa.

6.  Finally, do not wear sandals over stockings.  Ever.  But, especially if you are going to rave like a lunatic, peek into the crack of a stall door, claim the existence of a non-existent person and/or name-call.

Sandals.jpg

PSA for the day: wear wedge sandals without stockings. You’re welcome.

Now, your turn.  Have you ever been “caught” in the public restroom and want to dish?


To my editors, Jason and Bridget: thank you!

And to my dear fellow blogger, Meg, I feel you!

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30 thoughts on “6 Public Restroom Rules of Etiquette

  1. HA! That is a crazy story!! First off, yeah, you can use whatever freaking bathroom you want and hello! who does that?? and a man? wtf? but the worst part? stocking with sandals? seriously?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. C.C. says:

    I think Mrs. Wedge-Sandal-with-Stockings could very well have earned herself a spot on your list of People You Want To Punch in the Throat 😉

    Like

  3. tedstrutz says:

    I would have told her to shove it and shut the hell up. Actually I would have used a different word than ‘hell’, but I don’t know you… and even though you are damn cute, you are a lawyer and might sue me. Love your rules!

    Like

  4. Great story. So glad to have found your blog! I’ll be back… 🙂

    Like

  5. dimwhit says:

    Oh.My.Gawd. She peeked through the stall door?!?!? What the hell is with people?

    Like

  6. Amber says:

    Lol
    I love how you ended this with the sandals over stallings part!

    Like

  7. TheJackB says:

    If you look under the stall door while I am in there I will attempt to put my foot in your mouth. 🙂

    Like

  8. Natalie DeYoung says:

    It’s sad that we’ve come to this, the need for restroom etiquette rules. Seriously, were these people born in a barn?

    Like

  9. Dawn says:

    I drove cross country in my early 20’s with some girlfriends and we still joke about how we could have written a book about the public bathrooms, and the lack of etiquette that went on in those disgusting places. Great rules. I can’t believe that chick peaked at you…not to mention the lying. I’d say that trumps your use of the handicap stall as douch bag-ish. I use that stall every chance I get. lol. It’s like the “first class” stall. Plus I usually have two little ones in tow as well. One of which is deathly afraid of automatic flushers so that involves me covering the sensor with one hand and trying to keep the little guy from crawling out of the stall with the other. Ugh.

    Like

    • Melanie L. says:

      Oops, I missed this comment when you first wrote it. Sorry for the delayed response! Thanks for the empathy. I totally know that stretchy feeling trying to cover the sensor with one hand and preventing a great escape with the other.

      Like

  10. Okay …. I lost my leg back in 2007 … so I can comment from the perspective of both *handicapped* and *non-handicapped* person. And I say, “when you gotta go, you gotta go!” I have never ONCE raised an eyebrow at a person for using a handicapped stall! Even if it IS marked “handicapped” it’s not like it’s a handicapped person’s private domain! Parking spots reserved for the handicapped? Check. Toilets? Not so much. Ol’ wedge foot needs to get a life. Or a finger in the eyeball. Your choice. 😉

    Like

    • Melanie says:

      Thank you. Yes, agreed accessible parking spots are exclusive. In fact, so many people agree that there are laws to back it up. When it comes to using accessible stalls, I think there is a moral code that we should follow, like maybe allowing a person in need of that stall to cut the line when that stall opens up, but otherwise there’s no limit on the use of those stalls. Thanks for visiting my blog and for the thoughtful comment!

      Like

  11. Oooooooh – controversial 😉 I must admit it bugs the heck out of me when I see non disabled people park in wheelchair parking bays (and so on). On the whole, I’m anti using accessible anything unless it’s an utter emergency. Which, in your case, it sounds like it was, so I shall let you off this time 😉 hehe
    This women sounds completely crazy and I’m delighted you gave her what for right back! A really humorous read, thanks for sharing. Ps: I LOVE that Curb episode!

    Like

    • Melanie says:

      It’s definitely illegal to park in a handicap parking spot without a permit. People who abuse those spaces are worse than rude, they are violating the law. Bathrooms, however, are not the same category. The laws surrounding accessible bathrooms place the onus of the law on the establishments themselves, not on the bathroom users. Nonetheless, there is nothing controversial about my point, which is that once a stall is temporarily occupied, by any human under the sun, able-bodied or not, no one has the right to demand immediate vacancy. One evacuation at a time, infants excepted. (They like to have multiple evacuations simultaneously and never in the bathroom!) I’m glad you found my post funny! And, thanks for the dialogue!

      Like

  12. I almost choked on a Triscuit reading this. I think the woman was mentally handicapped. Perhaps that is what she was referring to. If someone looked through the crack at me while I was exposing mine, there would be an issue.

    Also, I have a hard time justifying bringing my son into the ladies room. I make sure the men’s room is empty and then stay outside the door until he comes out. If she would have brought that man into the ladies room, a manager might have been called.

    Finally, who wears stockings with sandals? It goes along with the rule that inner wear should not be worn as outer wear. Tights are not pants, people!

    Thanks for bringing a smile to my day!

    Like

  13. innatejames says:

    Man, people have issues. More to your point, people have entitlement issues.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. kvkegel says:

    Perhaps being a mother helps relax the privacy issue when doing one’s business, but if an aggressive stranger peered through the crack and under the stall, and then proceeded to castigate me, I would have died of mortification on the toilet… Then they would have had a REAL problem on their hands. On another note, great writing style.

    Like

  15. […]  That’s nice except that what makes me me is that I’m an actual human: the kind who uses the commode.  Yet, this information is not likely to stoke my suitor’s passion and therefore […]

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  16. […]  That’s nice except that what makes me me is that I’m an actual human: the kind who uses the commode.  Yet, knowing this information is not likely to stoke my suitor’s passion and is therefore […]

    Like

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Behind the Blog

Melanie L.

Melanie L.

I'm a happily re-married, full-time lawyer, and full-time mom raising two adorable vilde chayas (Yiddish: wild things) named Monkey and Peanut (not their real names!). I am often seen in public counting to three. In addition to parenting and writing, I also love photography, cosmology, evolutionary anthropology, and all things Israel.

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