One of my pet peeves at work is standing at the urinal in the men restroom when somebody comes up to the urinal next to me, unzips his pants and strikes up a conversation. Not the manly grunts to acknowledge the other person existence, but the “Whazzup!” conversational opener. I cannot talk and pee at the same time, a level of multitasking has always eluded me. Talking at the urinal means I need to stop peeing, think about what I need to say, say my piece and resume peeing again. Talking shop is the last thing I want to do at the urinal.
As a child prodigy tragically misdiagnosed as being mentally retarded (whenever I blew the evaluation exam on the genius side the teacher called it a “statistical fluke” every time), the boys restroom was a dangerous area for a fat white boy like myself in the Special Ed class. If someone turns off the lights, the student next to me always turned sideways to spray me with piss. An accident they told the teacher. Yeah, right. Because I rode the little yellow school bus, my mother didn’t drive and my father worked in San Francisco, I had to sit in piss-soaked pants for the rest of the class day and the two-hour bus ride home. My classmates would taunt me that I needed to wear diapers. I’m surprised that I never developed homicidal tendencies towards my classmates.
When I worked as a lead tester at Accolade/Infogrames/Atari (same company, different owners, multiple identity crises), we had more testers than the men restroom could accommodate. The custodians had to clean and stock the restroom three times a day to keep up. Someone always “forgot” to flush one of the toilets in the stalls. If you “read” the toilet bowl like tea leaves in a cup, you can figure out what they had for lunch at Taco Bell. The splatter pattern was different each day, as if someone tossed in a cherry bomb for good measure. I wrote up a proposal for management to install Porta-Potties out in the parking lot. The mad bomber of the restroom eventually left the company.
I did a six-week contract at Sony in 2005 to test what later become the Sony eReader. With no possibility of an extension, I looked for a new job while working on this one. I was standing at the urinal when a woman recruiter at Microsoft called my cellphone, answered the call and stepped away as I zipped up my pants. The urinal, of course, had an automatic flush. She asked if this was a good time to talk. I reassured it was, although my voice echoed in the restroom, Indian coworkers gave me strange looks, and toilet seats got plopped down for business. I conducted many interviews there since I couldn’t find a more private spot elsewhere.
My boss recently asked me for a status report while at the urinal. I had a catastrophic brain freeze. A status report meant collecting data, analyzing it and offering an interpretation relative to yesterday’s status report. That wasn’t a yes/no or one-sentence answer. I hemmed and hawed in answering, both verbally and peeing. As we were washing our hands (separately, of course), I stammered out that I would send him an email and ran out of the restroom. I was fortunate that I didn’t piss my pants.