Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Better Bathroom Strategies in the Workplace

Today's topic is the bathroom, or loo, for my UK guests.

More specifically, it's the continuing circus that seems to have set itself up around the bathrooms where I work. Being the Twilight Zone, it simply couldn't be normal.

I'm going to take it on faith that the greater majority of bathrooms in the greater majority of workplaces are managed reasonably well, and by that I mean the fixtures are generally adhered to the walls and one doesn't have to swim to the urinal.

You probably think I'm kidding.

Work has introduced yet another great move forward in Bathroom Husbandry this week with its brand new Temperature Initiative.  If you were to go into the bathroom, you would notice that the heat was sufficient, that is to say it's so hot and dry there that you could hang laundry.  As most of the employees do not do laundry at work (one of the few things they don't do, in fact), the heat is somewhat of a puzzle.

At first I suspected Manglement wanted to make the area so inhospitable that mortals wouldn't want to spend any time there, thus cutting down bathroom breaks.  This was until someone reminded me of what the bathrooms are like normally.  Ok, there's one theory shot.

The remaining theory is that the bathroom is just getting all of the heat that's missing from other unimportant areas of the building, like employees' desks.

Then there's the continuing saga of Business Lake.   There is no official lake by that name but it is the name I've chosen to give to the lake in the bathroom.  It's a body of water that just seems to be there, on the floor, regardless of what else is happening.  We thought it might be the result of a stall overflowing or the urinal that drenches its user, but no.

Recently the lake disappeared, triggering a visit from the Bureau of Land Management as well as Clean Water Act volunteers.  Homeland Security can't be far behind but we're lower on their priorities as there's simply nothing to grope.

We had a urinal.

Ok, to be fair, we have a urinal.  As mentioned previously, it had a tendency to splash water up on whoever was using it.  Perhaps for that reason (but by no means definitely), it was removed from service.  The sign and the plastic bag over it did nothing to dissuade the hardcore bathroom enthusiasts from using the urinal.  Perhaps as a result (but by no means definitely), the urinal was removed.  From the wall and the bathroom.

For a month.

I want to qualify my statements: I have absolutely no knowledge of plumbing.  That said, this must have been some urinal replacement.   When I need something done in the bathroom, I call the local expert (my wife).  When the job exceeds my wife's expertise, we do what everyone else does and call the plumber.  The plumber does what he does to everyone else and doesn't call us back.

We have what appears to be a fully-staffed maintenance department so it shakes the foundation of my being to imagine the urinal issue that could not have been solved in under thirty days.  My head is starting to throb, so I'll drop this line of inquiry immediately.

And I'll head right over to the stall.  The stall holds within its walls a standard-issue toilet (or so it would seem).  It was fairly prone to flooding, which led us to believe that it fed Business Lake.  So at some point, the ubiquitous They closed the stall.  The stall didn't work but the lake was still there.

The stall, much like the urinal, stayed closed for close to thirty days.  We actually got a call from In Search Of, who wanted to do a show on the errant toilet.  Eventually, without ceremony, it reopened.


I work with an incredibly large population of germphobes.  I noticed antibacterial waterless soap dispensers appearing all over the building with frightening frequency.  It was only after I asked for some desk cleaner and my neighbor brought out this eighteen inch tall can of aerosol antibacterial spray that I knew what was happening: the building is full of people with undiagnosed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Naturally it wasn't long before the bathroom soap dispensers were replaced.  Not only was the soap antibacterial, the dispensers were automatic.  You only had to put your hand under them to get a premeasured dosage of that lovely and comforting antibacterial goodness.

And when you are done with all this antibacterial madness, you can dry your hands on the paper towels.  You know, the paper towels provided by the automatic paper towel dispenser.  Just put your wet hands under the dispenser and you get a premeasured (for your convenience and safety) piece of paper towel.  There is no word on whether the towel is antibacterial or not.

The white paper towels were ok but in order to save money, they went to the brown paper towels.  Shortly after this point it was discovered that the automatic paper towel dispensers weren't all that automatic.  The towels would get shorter and shorter.  You had to `swipe' repeatedly to get enough towel to dry your antibacterial hands.  Shortly thereafter the dispensers simply stopped working entirely, with an unsatisfying BEEP.

While we were waiting for the paper towel dispensers to be put back into service (hopefully under the thirty day minimum), the antibacterial soap dispensers ran out of soap.

For three days.

So to sum things up, we have urinals and stalls out of service for thirty days and now there are dispensers that require daily maintenance or refilling.  How successful do you think this program is going to be?  Perhaps the evil plot is to stop everyone from using the bathrooms in the first place, in which case Manglement is in for a rather rude surprise.

But don't worry - even if you have to wipe your hands on your pants, you can walk out the bathroom door and use the antibacterial waterless soap on the post outside the door.  And again halfway down the hall.


  1. Rather than subjecting everyone to a long dissertation about how to solve each of these annoyances, I'll offer a quicker, simpler solution - simply use the ladies room.

  2. You make a tremendous point but they have similar issues (or so I hear). And don't get me started on the transgender project we're working on :)

  3. Hmm... good idea, Buffet. However, in light of the fact that the same highly efficient organization is overseeing the ladies' bathroom also, it might be better idea to use the bathroom at the McDonalds across the street. That is assuming, of course, that the allow the employees to leave the premises before their shifts are completed.

    It's a frightening thought to contemplate, but isn't it odd that business seems to run nearly as efficiently as government? The only differences being that the government has a standing army and never makes a profit.

    Goodnight, Gracie...