May 052011
 

Something struck me as odd today about the bathroom habits of the other inhabitants of my office building. I understand that this may seem like an odd thing to consider, but seeing as I use the restroom here at the office at least as often as the one at home, perhaps it’s not so strange.

The first thing to mention is that each of the three floors has an identical restroom in identical locations on the floor. This, in and of itself, is not unusual in the least. This is about where the normalcy ends, however. All of them are “public” to the daytime residents of the building. We’re in the largest suite and do not have private facilities, so I doubt anyone else does either. However, each floor’s men’s room has a distinctive quality.

On the first floor, there is always reading material in the stalls. Most of it stays there for about a month before being refreshed by someone who has decided to use that stall as his domicile for an hour or so. There is also the strange habit from our eastern friends of leaving soap-and-water filled dishes on the bathroom sink. I understand first-hand the difference between their culture and ours, but this still seems slightly unsettling in the U.S.

The second floor, by the appearance of the men’s room, must be abandoned entirely. I’ve never walked into it at a point in time where the lights were not off (they are on a motion sensor). This differs form the first and third floor, where I’ve never walked in on the lights being off unless I was working late in the office. There’s never reading material, it’s always clean, and it’s never out of toilet paper. Perhaps, in this sense, the second floor is the place to go for all of your nature calls.

The third floor men’s room, aka Restroom Prime for my office, has no reading material or dishes, but constantly has paper towel and toilet paper on the floor. Apparently Pigpen from Peanuts works in one of the adjacent offices. Also, people on the third floor apparently are not familiar with the flushing mechanism of the toilet.

Despite these differences, there is one thing that ties the three together–the sinks. There are three sinks in a row on the same wall on each floor. Everyone appears to favor the leftmost sink. Because of this, the leftmost sink on each floor has developed quirks, most of which are related to the dispensing of soap. The soap and water are both released by a motion sensor. However, on those leftmost sinks, the motion sensor is either completely uncalibrated, or has developed sentience and is combating our overuse of it. When drawing one’s hand under the dispenser, it does not deposit soap in your palm as it should. But moving your hand under the faucet turns on both water and soap. This creates a small dance by where you must place your hand under the soap dispenser and move your other hand in a broad stroke under the faucet. It’s sort of the CTRL-ALT-DEL of the appliance world.

When someone is already at the leftmost sink, people seem to gravitate to the center sink, thus enforcing my theory that there is some sort of subconscious stigma attached to the rightmost sink. The center sinks have yet to develop their sentient (and anti-human) autonomy; they function as expected. I would think this would cause people to utilize the center sink more often, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

The rightmost sink usually has no soap (or the dispenser simply doesn’t function at all). Perhaps after years of not being refilled due to lack of use, the soap dispensers on those sinks have simply gone on strike. Or, in some cost cutting measure, it was determined that the stale soap in those dispensers just doesn’t need to be replaced, since nobody ever uses them. To shore up my hypothesis, I just tried the soap dispenser on the right after a failed CTRL-ALT-DEL dance with the left sink.

No soap came out.