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Public Inconvenience

Rob Lowe as young Number 2 (1969)

"Yep, she's still poking eyes."

This could get messy. I mean it. I would like to warn you now that things in this post may not be pretty and in fact, may be downright vulgar.

Ok, now that we’ve got rid of the prudes and the prisses, I’d like, if I may (oh, I may? Thank you), to discuss a topic that I have had on hold for some time.

I was reminded of it on my recently Freshly Pressed article (that’s right, I’ve been Freshly Pressed and I’m therefore kind of a someone), “It’s Good To Talk. Or Is It”, a post that discusses situations where talking is less than welcome. Some of you commented that I had missed out the lavatory. I hadn’t, I just felt it was such a weighty subject that it needed to be given its own full, glorious post. And here it is…

*Drum roll * Ladles and jelly spoons, I give you the Pretty Feet, Pop Toe print-out-and-keep guide to lavatorial etiquette!

Unless you have the nethers of a Ken doll or tote this season’s latest colostomy bag, you will need to use the loo/can/bog/littlest room (delete as applicable, I’ve got plenty more). It’s not rude, it’s biology and happens to all living people (exceptions noted above). While our inner pipes may all function the same way, our minds and manners do not and I feel it high time certain delicate issues were brought to the fore regarding the use and abuse of public conveniences.

Let’s get this out the way right off the bat. We all know there are rules when it comes to inane chatter and they apply here too. Using the water closet (W.C. to its friends) should be a chance for peaceful reflection and quiet meditation (or reading for some – no judgement but please don’t feel you have to inform me that this particular blog is your preferred reading material. You know who you are) yet some people just can’t grasp that this is the thunder box, not the chatter box!

I have a bladder that is rather shy. That doesn’t mean it’s rubbish at talking to boys and stays in playing Zelda all weekend, it means that no matter how close I am to wetting myself, if you utter so much as one syllable in my vicinity, I will simply be unable to perform. I could be faced with Niagara Falls and still not a drop. It’s nature’s cruelest trick (apart from facial hair on an attractive woman).

Some of you may be wondering how these babbling torturers know of my presence when secreted in the lav. I will tell you. Shoe Recognition Techniques. There are freaks out there who have learnt to recognise another person from the sound their shoes make on porcelain tiled flooring. If you think that’s avoidable (tip-toeing, taping cushions to your feet, hang gliding to the bathroom) you’re wrong. These lavatorial Sherlocks, when bested in the audio round, will think nothing of stooping for a visual. They will kneel down on that oh-so-sanitary flooring and shove their head under the partition to get full shoe-eye contact. It’s scary, it’s perverted, it’s true.

Apparently whatever they have to say simply will not wait until my peachy cheeks have left the bowl. They may be waiting some time…

This is an unfortunate quirk in biology but we all seem to eat and drink roughly the same amount and at roughly the same time. This can result in a synchronised bladder with what we shall call a “Pee Pal”. Sounds friendly and harmless enough – it’s not. You notice this phenomenon just as you reach the door leading to the lavvy at the same time as your workmate. The same workmate. Every. Time.

Awkward the first time, traumatic the second and totally unacceptable the third. One of you has to be the stronger person and pretend you actually got up to make tea. Why are they the stronger person? Because they have to go, with full bladder, to stand in front of a running tap and boil water! The alternative is far worse though so a slightly damp gusset is a small price to pay to break this cycle of uncomfortable encounters.

If this should happen in a place without tea making facilities, such as a restaurant, quickly make use of the hand washing facilities instead, regaling your Pee Pal with an elaborate excuse regarding mystery sticky substances. Insert nervous laugh aaaaaaand leave.

On entering a large, luxuriant public rest facility, one has the decadence of being able to roam through a rabbit warren of stalls, selecting one that has treasures such as a working door, a lock, a seat, paper and just as importantly, no neighbour on either side. When there are just three traps, as I have in my office, you’re left with a personality test style choice (also applies to urinals).

When faced with an empty set of three loos:

Personality type A will go for trap 1 because it’s furthest from the door and has only one adjoining trap. Minimal risk of contact while in a vulnerable state of pants-down.

Personality type B will go for trap 3 because even though it’s nearer the door, it is less frequently used so is cleaner and again, only one neighbouring trap. Minimal risk of contact while in a vulnerable state of pants-down.

Personality type WRONG C will choose trap 2, (even if, for example, trap 1 is occupied and 3 is free) because they buy into the “love thy neighbour” thing waaaaay too much and cherish the thought of having a support group of their pee-ers (see what I did there) on all sides. Maximum risk that you will then have to sit next to them as they have left you with no other choice and you can bet your knicker elastic they will want to talk to you, thus enhancing your suffering experience.

Type A and B will happily co-exist because they will NEVER willingly perform their ablutions within 2 inches of each other. Type C needs to learn some personal boundaries and is probably the same person who walks around the changing room at the gym completely naked for about half an hour before getting dressed, starting with their watch.

I’m sorry wheelchair users, I have some disturbing news for you. Your specially designed, graciously spacious des res of dignity has been given a new moniker; The Poo Loo. It’s a little haven of privacy with no neighbours to speak of and I think some of the boys really appreciate the grab bars you’ve had installed along with the extra leg room.

Note to non-disableds. When using The Poo Loo, you will need exceptionally good hearing to check if the coast is clear before emerging from the scene of the crime. If you have fully functioning limbs, we know exactly what you’ve been up to. Those of you who nipped in to sleep off a hangover, take the shame and know that next time, you should just have crawled under your desk.

Number Two
Sorry to be so matter of fact but this is a serious debate and there’s little point mincing one’s words. If you are caught with a desperate urge to curl one out, if the Poo Loo is unavailable, if you can’t put off laying your cable until you return to your own private porcelain throne, at least be discreet when blasting the pan of one of the public cans.

No-one needs to hear how audibly strenuous your “job” is. No-one needs to hear your impression of a spitfire plane, no matter how impressively life-like it is. No-one needs to have their nasal passages assaulted by whatever it was you ate last night (dog vomit and medical waste by the smell of it) so please, bide your time until all the stalls are clear of civilians, even if you have to sit there until you buttocks are blue with cold, and try to be as quick as possible when the coast is clear. Form an air-tight seal between your cheeks and the seat and for the love of god, FLUSH FAST, GODDAM IT, FLUSH FAST! One last thing – after you have dropped your offspring at the metaphorical pool, I beg of you, if you’ve left skid marks the length of the M6 Motorway, that little stick with spiky bristly things? Not an upside down microphone.

For those who find themselves in the vicinity of an occupied stall and notice that it has been as quiet as a pillow-clad shoe for some time. Leave. The. Scene. You can comb your beard another time and that conversation you’re having with your Bathroom Buddy about Bernard in Sales getting caught humping the photocopier at the office party? Take it outside. You’ve done your business, now let Poopy McPlop do theirs.

There is an awful situation that I would beg you to avoid at all costs. Two of you are locked in a bitter game of Number Two Chicken (not something you order from the local Chinese take-away, trust me). Both adversaries are settled into their respective latrines, both deathly silent save for the pre-emptive rattle of the loo roll dispenser and an occasional nervous cough, both waiting for the other to give up and leave first before opening the bomb bay doors. This is a formidable battle of determination and can go on for hours at a time. The only thing that will resolve this is if another party enters the arena and flushes their loo, giving the two dumpers just enough sound cover to fire off a quick round. The tension is insurmountable as are the resulting piles.

Noah’s Ark Syndrome
This applies mostly to ladies. I am a lady and I still find it odd behaviour. When announcing that you are excusing yourself to relieve nature’s call, another girl will offer to insist on coming with you. Conversely, if she feels the need to be relieved of certain bodily effluence, she wants you to go with her, regardless of whether you needed to go or not. What for?! The sign clearly tells you where the bathroom is so you can’t need me to direct you. I’m pretty sure both of us were taught from an early age how to pull our undercrackers up and I’m sure as Hell not going to do the wiping honours, if that’s what you have trouble with! The mind boggles.

Some girls will take this a step further. They want you, and I’m not making this up, not to go into your own cubical, they want you to squeeze into theirs with them!!! They want you to stare them right in the eye, standing no more than mere inches from their half-naked, fluid releasing body while they attempt to hold a conversation. (Just pray it is fluid they’re releasing. You can’t be too sure with these Type C people.) The final blow? They want you to take your turn in the spotlight afterwards!

Ladies. I’m all for sisterhood but seriously, using the toilet is NOT a team sport and I don’t need my very own micturition cheerleader.

This Noah’s Ark two-by-two “thing” isn’t just distressing for those of us who like to “go” alone, it also causes a huge queue as countless ladies form a squirming line of crossed legs, like incontinent Rockettes, waiting for the gossiping/drug taking/lesbian love action (I have no idea what you’re really getting up to in there so I’m going to paint it my way) to finish so they can relieve their rears. In this case ladies, one is the magic number.

There you have it. I could set out more rules and regulations but then I would be accused of being anal (again, see what I did? I know, you’re wondering how the Hell I got Freshly Pressed with gags like that. Did I mention I’ve been Freshly Pressed?).

Tell all your co-workers and friends, stick this guide on the door of the toilets, shout it in the streets (ok, maybe not the streets, I don’t want you calling me for bail money). Let us take back the glory of the powder room and unite in the fight against poor lavatorial etiquette. Now, where did I put my pillow-shoes…

About prettyfeetpoptoe

I live in London and have both my own legs so I am fortunate enough to get out and about on occasion. I form many views on the things that I see and do and love nothing better than a session of linguistic gymnastics in order to share these views.

67 responses »


    Great post! Have you been Freshly Pressed? 😉

  2. All that talk of Niagra Falls made me excuse myself halfway through to take care of business.

  3. What gets me is why are some blokes fearful of using the second urinal next to me and go into a stall instead? Being self-conscious, are they silently saying they can’t trust me to not look at their, er, package? Or are they worried that they can’t stop themselves looking at MINE? I mean we’re supposedly doomed to engage in penis envy but do they have to make it so obvious?

    • It’s because they’re a woman in disguise, trying to avoid the queue in the ladies, caused by five girls in each cubical.

      More worrying is when there’s a row of seven empty slots and they sidle up to the one right next to you. Move along buster!

  4. Diego Serrano

    Dear PFPT,
    A proper thank-you is in order in consideration of your adding me to your blogroll.
    I’m always amazed when real writers pay homage to my odd-ass-owl-shit-schtick, especially given its penchant for sophomoric humor
    So, with all due respect, thank you.

    btw, I may not have been waiting all my life for this event, but I’d be less than honest if didn’t tell you how very special it is and, how much it means to me.


    • You, squire, are more than welcome.

      I was hesitant on first seeing the title of your blog because I was in no mood for religious ramblings but was delighted to find swearing and blasphemy at every turn. Very, very funny.

  5. Thanks for bringing it all up… made my day! 🙂

  6. Ronnie Hammer

    What do you do with those toilet paper covers? They are in public restrooms and when you pull one out it is serrated. Are you supposed to tear it by the serrated part, put the whole thing on the seat and pee through?
    What is the rule?


    • We don’t have those here in England. We each have our own monogrammed velvet seat cover that our butlers carry for us.

      I’m guessing you fight with the paper version, rip it in half, dip one end in the toilet water, attempt to cover the seat with little sheets of loo paper, give in and just hover. Simple!

    • Push the rounded back of it down on the inside, then lay it on the seat so that part falls into the bowl. The front stays attached. Never could figure it out either until I found an instruction thingy.

      I’ve noticed a few differences too… I think we Americans are more squeamish about using the potty in tandem… and never with someone else in the stall. Trap. Cubicle.

      Spot on with all else, PrettyFeet, spot on. I pinned this on Pinterest, with linkback and author credit to you.


      • Thanks for clarifying the puzzle of the paper pooper protector. We can all sleep soundly tonight knowing that we no longer have to spend 20 minutes laying out individual sheets of loo roll. Well, my stateside chums can anyway, I’m happy with my velvet monogrammed version. 😉

        Thanks for sharing my wisdom, I’m sure others will thank you for that too. The more people we can educate, the safer our public bathrooms become and no-one need get poked in the eye.

  7. But you would appreciate it if a friend was there to tell you that you had toilet paper stuck to your shoe and it was trailing behind you (That happened to . . . well, let’s just say, someone I know).

    • Oh the shame!

      You are right, they would indeed be an utter wretch if they didn’t say anything BUT I would hope they did it after I had left the stall and not while they were peering underneath it mid Shoe Recognition.

  8. All so very very true.

  9. Note to self: Don’t read this blog while at work for fear of being caught due to gales of laughter coming from my office. (“Number Two” done me in.) Thanks for the rules. I’ll … er … tape them on the lav doors in my office. Hmmm.

    • Don’t be afraid of getting caught, share the joy with all your office mates and spread the word. It will save a tree as you won’t have to print it out and stick it all over the bathroom stalls.

  10. Can you imagine how this required decorum would be impacted by the requirements and facilities of the Navy? I can promise that Brttania would have never ruled the seas!

    • I think it’s the lack of this decorum that caused us to lose said seas. If they spent a little less time learning how to hoist the mainsail and make rum and weevil parfait and a little more time learning how to let people pee in peace, they might have been rather more welcome in the Indies.

      • Well, that would be getting it down to basics, I agree. Let me congratulate you for having a unique way to describe not only the situation but all the potential solutions to your dilemma as well. I’ve really enjoyed your last two posts, and look forward to reading future ones. Keep up the good work.

  11. You’ve set waste management straight! Thanks, ever so.

  12. That was simply hilarious! I thought about your FP blog post when I had my massage on Monday. It’s very odd to be lying face down on that table laughing while the masseuse wonders what the heck you find so funny. I blame you – I really, really do.

  13. Missy Amber

    Once again, I’m going to have to add the mum perspective. One of the very few silver linings (and they really are hen’s teeth, you know) is that we get automatic access to the Poo Loo, as that’s where the fold-down baby changing tables are. Loads of room, comfy loo, and a tiny little someone to blame the stench on when we leave!

    BTW – am practically incontinent since the second birth. Please stop being so funny – or at least put an “evacuate in advance” notice first. I have to do enough laundry as it is.

    • Genius! I knew there had to be a plus side to having children (being granted an excuse to violate the Poo Loo with someone else to blame, not being left with damp patches every time you laugh).

      I shall issue no such warnings. It pleases my sadistic humour to think I’m causing grown women to let a little bit of wee slip out every Wednesday.

      • Missy Amber

        Who said it was wee? I was practically touching cloth.
        My life is over, I tell you……sob…….

        (And you can bloody well stop that demented cackling. I can hear you all the way from the Shire.)

        • You make me very glad of two things. Firstly that you’re my sister and I’m therefore allowed to laugh at your troubles and secondly, that I don’t have children and therefore still have full waste management faculties.


  14. I’m referring to you as the mad knicker-ladyy @ prettyfeet. 😉

  15. eremophila

    While you’ve done a fine job here (see, I can doo that too!) you’ve forgotten/omitted another vital factor – the toilet paper! I can remember sitting on the Paris express with another Aussie and a Canadian (male!) where we compared toilet roll paper between the various countries of our travels. Scandinavian countries far outperformed all of them – even the Germans! Just thought you needed to be told this vital information. 🙂

    • Nice punning!

      I think the quality and scratchiness of can-rag in various countries could need a full and thorough investigation. I look forward to your report! I can see a star rated ranking system on three levels: Does it chaffe? Does your finger go through it? Is it actually paper or a bucket of water/sponge on a stick/goose neck?

  16. I’m sorry to hear about your problem. Have you considered electrolysis? ha ha!

  17. Going to the lavatory will never look the same to me again. Now I’m going to be self conscious about everything next time I go !

    You’re hilarious!

  18. “FLUSH FAST, GODDAM IT, FLUSH FAST!” This should be posted on the door inside every stall. Why is people can’t figure that out? Hell, flushing before you break the seal is even better. Nobody wants to share that!

    You are outstanding and did I mention how deserving of being “Freshly Pressed” you are?

    • Coming from you, a fellow FP-er, that is praise indeed.

      As for the pre-seal-break flush, they don’t call it a courtesy flush for nothing. It’s just manners!

  19. Potty Humor at it’s best!

  20. You’ve done it again! Such brilliance! 😀 Hats off!

    • I’m glad to have avoided disappointment and really, a topic as hot as this one just writes itself. 😉

      You can put your hat back on now.

      • The funniest coincidence is that I had a first draft of a bathroom-related post lying around unfinished since last night because I wasn’t sure. And this evening, I read yours! Hahahaa!

        Definitely writing mine. And track-backing!

        • Ooh, I need to see this when it’s up. It seems to be a very popular topic and everyone has their own take on the pitfalls of the bathroom.

          I wish I’d remembered to include the little rhyme in mine:
          If you sprinkle when you tinkle, please be neat and wipe the seat.

  21. Your post was very amusing.

    And then… it became informative as well.
    I always wondered why women would go off to the loo in pairs, or in packs even.
    Something to do with secret women’s business?
    Maybe some sort of conspiracy going on, that all males are left out of?

    Now I know, it’s all that “gossiping/drug taking/lesbian love action”.

    • LIke I said, I seem to have missed out on the Noah’s Ark gene so it’s an utter mystery to me but I think my version of events is far more entertaining than the alternative realities.

      I dare someone to contest my point…

  22. Very funny. And alarminly accurate. But count your blessings – shy bladder is way preferable to gregarious bladder. I’m also wondering about the rules for those people who are comfortable relieving themselves in nature (W.C. Fields, as it were).

  23. You have an awesome style, my friend! Young Number Two rocks, as well!

  24. This is the most wonderful piece of observational writing I have read in a long time. Pure genius, to take this subject matter and do this with it. I am the owner of a very shy male bladder (like you say, nature’s cruellest trick) and so much of this rings so true. I’d always thought it was different for girls.

    • Welcome to a world where the truth as we know it is blown out the water. Girls (brace yourself) go to the loo too!

      I hope your life is better now you have a cut-out-and-keep guide to show offending toileteers.


  25. I just got back into town last night and I was at Frankfurt International. I stepped into the mens room and I saw something that will scar me for life.

    Fellas, when you’re done you put it away. It’s that simple. You do not continue doing whatever you’re doing down there and you certainly DO NOT make glaring eye contact with the large man next to you.

    I still feel violated. 😦

    • Awww, he showed you his little Frankfurter! Don’t feel violated, it’s something of a traditional European greeting. Ok, that’s a lie but you really brightened my morning and how very considerate of you to experience such topical violation on your travels.

  26. I like this a lot. I do think you should have covered poop as point No. 2. (rim shot)

  27. Noah’s Ark! I didn’t realise there was a proper name for it so I will steal that one.

    • There wasn’t until now. I’m hoping it will secure my place in history as a key social documenter.

      Go forth, spread the word. Just remember, credit where credit’s due and all that, especially when they start handing out the awards and royalties.

  28. Oh if only someone would stick this on the doors and walls of EVERY public toilet so people might finally understand! Thank goodness you’re around to say it like it is. People just really have no more toilet manners or etiquette in the world of today. 😉 Great post!

  29. I have experienced many unexpected things in my life, but I am still taken aback by the fact that I got so much enjoyment out of reading a blog post about bathroom etiquette.

    WORST etiquette I have ever heard of: my friend walked into the men’s room at just the right time to see our professor’s 60 year old boyfriend (manfriend?) waddling from one stall to the next WITH HIS PANTS DOWN to get toilet paper from the next stall…I guess he didn’t check in advance. Even worse, after he got what he was looking for he waddled back to the initial stall, pants still around the ankles, rather than finishing things up in the second stall. He claims he’s still scarred from the scene, rightfully.

    • I spy false modesty. Admit it, you LOVE a good toilet joke!

      I can’t believe your friend caught someone doing a brown-eyed penguin impression! Some people have just about as much common sense as they do shame.

      My deepest sympathies go out to your friend and the poor therapist who must hear about this tragic story every week.

  30. wwweelllllllll fuck. you beat me to it hahaha. I’ve had a draft post for a few weeks now regarding bathroom etiquette (but not really etiquette because look who’s talking, wait, that sounds bad for me, nevermind) but haven’t had the motivation to finish it yet.

    ehhh oh well, you can get the good pickings, i’ll take the scraps later when i post my side that nobody will read haha


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