Friday 16 October 2009

Public Toilet Etiquette

WARNING: This post discusses toilets.

I could say something pretentious like:

Please don’t read any further if you are offended by toilets.

Or something puerile like:

EURRGGHH!! Toilets!! Plop plop plop!!! (snigger snigger snigger)

But I’m not going to. You see I personally believe that people do not discuss toilets enough. Every human being in the world goes to the toilet:

The Queen of England goes to the toilet.

Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister, goes to the toilet.

President Barack Obama goes to the toilet.

I think you get my drift.

So why are people so unwilling to discuss them? And why are people even more unwilling to discuss toilet habits?

You see, I think that people are getting away with murder in toilets around the world, particularly public toilets. There is no etiquette for proper toilet behaviour, especially in public toilets. Most people do use them responsibly and certainly do consider others when they have finished. Others have no consideration at all and do not even bother to think about:

(1) People who are in the toilet with them (Note – when I say “in” the toilet with them, I don’t actually mean that there are two people standing in the toilet bowl together nor do I mean that people should go to their own toilet in their own house and invite groups of people to accompany them and share the experience. I am talking about public toilets here).

(2) People who may use the toilet after them (Yes – people DO actually use the SAME toilet as other people though not at the same time).

(3) People who have to clean the toilet.

I am here to attempt to educate you in public toilet etiquette based on my own experience.


Okay – let me get one thing straight. I am not the kind of pervert who hangs around female toilets with a note pad trying to research a blog post on toilet etiquette.

Men should NEVER, EVER, EVER set foot inside a public toilet intended for members of the opposite sex.

This is a law that is built into the DNA of most men.

Even when the situation is desperate, all men should resist the temptation to even peer inside when they happen to walk past if the door is open.

You can read here about the kind of thing that happens.

Guys – just don’t go there.

I made that mistake once. A group of us were in a night club many years ago and one of our number, the only young lady, suddenly became rather ill. She had had far too much to drink and suddenly announced, in a slurred voice, that she felt sick. A kind hearted male member of our party supported her and led her to the LADIES. After about ten minutes, three of us started to become a little concerned because neither had returned. We found our male friend standing outside the toilet waiting.

“Where is she?” we asked.

“She hasn’t come out,” he replied.

Apparently he had asked a couple of women to check on her but, this being a night club and most of the patrons being a little drunk, he had no success. After a brief discussion we decided to walk into the LADIES en masse.

I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Most male public toilets are worse than seventh level of Hell (see later). This particular toilet was pristine with a pervading scent of roses. We gawped around like four lemons, completely forgetting our friend.

A couple of women came in and started moaning.

“We’re here to check on our friend,” said one guy. Another, walked up to the each cubicle, tapping on each door, saying:

“Are you in there? Are you OK?”

Within minutes, female security staff descended on the toilet like a SWAT team with a set of male bouncers who, unlike us, remained outside.

“WHAT THE $%*& are YOU DOING IN HERE?” screamed a very big and very angry woman. We stood there too shocked to speak while our comrade continued to knock on the cubicle doors.

A split second before the female security killed us, our female friend staggered out of a cubicle and said in a very slurred voice. “It’s OK – they are just checking on me. I’ve been violently ill.” She then burst into tears for effect.

I found my tongue and said “Yes – we were worried. Are you OK?”

The head female security staff member glared at me. “GET OUT!!!!” she screamed. We didn’t need to be asked twice and walked out as quickly as possible with our female friend in tow, so that the male bouncers outside didn’t beat us to a pulp outside.

Actually, before I leave female public toilets, can I just ask a couple of questions?

(1) Why do women always go to public toilets in pairs?

(2) Why do women TALK to each other in public toilets?

(3) Why are female public toilets a lot cleaner in general than male public toilets?

I know, having spoken to Mrs PM at length, that female public toilets can be disgusting. She mentions “hovering” and my mind boggles.

I think we’ll leave it there.


I wish I could convince women that they should never, ever, ever go into male public toilets, but I know I would be wasting my breath. You see, women have no qualms about walking into a male toilet and, worse, they never, ever get threatened with extreme violence if they do find themselves there.

Men, on the other hand, react in one of two ways if a woman walks in while nature is taking its course:

(1) They become one with the urinal in an attempt to cover their pride.

(2) They suddenly forget the basic rule of male public toilets: DON’T EVER, EVER SPEAK IN A MALE TOILET and start actually trying to chat up the woman, as if suddenly they think they are more attractive while caught in the middle of their natural duty.

I fall into category (1) and have on one occasion had to stay in the toilet for ten minutes under the hand dryer trying to rectify the obvious mistake I made.

Men’s public toilets are, in general (and let’s be kind here) absolutely disgusting places that no human being should ever see.

Why? Because there is no toilet etiquette at all in these nauseating pits of despair.

Actually, that's not quite true. Strangely, etched into the primeval database of all males, there IS etiquette when it comes to urinals. I won’t discuss this further because people like Dave Barry have done so at length and it is illustrated here:

However, there appear to be no rules when it comes to the use of the stalls, or as I prefer to call them, traps.

So, how should men behave in the traps?

(1) Do not become a bogeyman (read about it here):

(2) Always flush the toilet and, most importantly, MAKE SURE IT THAT EVERYTHING IS WASHED AWAY. Do you really think that I want to see the deposits you have made?

(3) Never, ever talk to the man in the adjacent trap. First of all, before you go about your business, ALWAYS check that there is enough toilet paper. If there isn’t then either go to the next trap or wait for another to become free. In an emergency, if you underestimate how much toilet paper you require, you must stay put until another trap becomes free rather than asking the man in the next trap to “pass you some paper under the dividing wall”.

(4) If you had a curry the night before, always carry some deodorant spray with you. I’ll leave that to your imagination.

(5) Always lift the seat if you wish to pee. Why on earth wouldn’t you?

(6) Always aim for the water and not the rim of the toilet. Again, why on earth wouldn’t you?

(7) Always put the lid down (unless of course the toilet has no lid).

(8) If you make a mess, clean it up. It is courteous and makes the toilet experience for the next person that little bit more pleasant. As a rule of thumb – always leave the toilet as you would wish to find it.

(9) Do not, under any circumstances, grunt and gasp while allowing nature to take its course. It’s bad enough listening to the noises that can’t be helped but when you start adding to the sound effects, the experience somehow degenerates into something I can barely cope with. I have started taking my mp3 player into the cubicle with me, which has led to me singing in there – an experience that is equally distressing for others. Help me out here!!

Together we can make the toilet experience a pleasant one. I know that there is nothing like your own loo and sitting on your own personal toilet in the morning, reading the newspaper; it is a strangely fulfilling experience.

At least it is for me anyway.

I told you I was weird.


River said...

Rules number 2, 6, and 8.
Yes, Yes and Yes.

I've been a woman all my life and even I don't know why women go to the ladies in pairs.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

I'm glad you agree. Mrs PM says she doesn't know why women go in pairs either - yet she actually does it.

I'm confused.




Kath Lockett said...

I'm with River. And You.

There's some weird vibes on the internet because my 'boss' (ie the guy at the Age newspaper who commissions my articles) wrote a very similar guest column about this same thing yesterday.

As for me, I'm no longer shy. We're all in there for the same reason - drops and plops!

Plastic Mancunian said...

G'Day Kath,

People talk about toilets rarely and write about them even less.

I wonder why; I felt a little odd posting about toilets but I'm glad I did.

People should do it more often - then we would have better toilets, I reckon.



bingkee said...

I previously discussed a similar topic on my post---toilet habits of Filipino and Americans.

What I think about men's public toilets? Well, they all reek of stench---like a combination of pee, beer, and puke......why in the world do they have to smell like that.

My brother calls his own bathroom like an "animal kingdom"---according to him , where it stinks like all animals in the world peed there. Hahaha!

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Bingkee,

I don't know why men's toilets smell so badly. I'm in and out of them as quickly as possible usually.

There is no loo on earth as nice as your own.




Perplexed said...

I was just about to blog on my site ( about a comment made on radio the other day about females taking their male children into public toilets and how this shouldn't be allowed. Is this part of social ettiquette?

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Perplexed,

Actually, I think its worse if men take their daughters into male toilets - and that DOES happen and should not be allowed.