Georgia Voice columnist Melissa Carter

Melissa Carter: Can we go to the bathroom in peace?

You never know where you’ll be when nature calls, but normally its an extra errand to run that is uneventful. A recent need to pee proved quite eventful, though, when I took my mother to her doctor’s appointment in Decatur. I had to use the restroom when she got called in, and was directed to use the facility down the hall. It was there that I experienced something in a public restroom I had never experienced before, and my jaw dropped.

First of all, ladies, you know there are existing rules in the women’s bathroom regarding what the bathroom is intended for, and how women should help out one another in all bodily situations. For instance, when entering the bathroom you must first look under the stall for feet. If alone, you can act like you own the place but if there are others in the bathroom you need to be aware of the sounds in order to proceed.

The sound of urination is open season, so feel free to talk and take your time at the sink while washing your hands or checking your make-up. If the only sound you hear is the sanitary napkin dispenser door, or the sound of hangers as someone is changing clothes, the same rule applies.

But if you hear no activity, that means the woman in the stall is waiting for you to hurry up and leave so she can release what she came there to. Pee fast, wash your hands fast, and don’t reapply make-up this time around. Be considerate, so she can get back to her business.

And if you’re the one having to release something, as unpleasant as this topic might be, you must flush as you go. Timing is everything. The trick here is to flush before anything hits the water. Waiting until after you are done will be too late to tip everyone off to what you are doing.
So when I recently took my mom to that doctor’s appointment, and went to the bathroom, I noticed several other women in there and took my place in an empty stall next to one of them. A few seconds went by before I heard my neighbor start a phone conversation. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she put the person on SPEAKER phone and began to take NOTES of the business call on her lap! That’s when my jaw dropped.

I’m not sure how that scenario fits into the aforementioned rules. Do I stop peeing until she is done? Do I not flush? Or do I lay all the responsibility of that onto her shoulders and do what I would normally do? I chose to continue to perform my duties normally and allow her colleague to fully understand where this impromptu meeting was being held.

I am increasingly frustrated at what seems like an invasion of idle chatter on cell phones in public spaces. Now that practice is hitting the bathroom stalls. Of course I can’t be a hypocrite, having cleared several levels of Candy Crush or FarmVille while upon my porcelain throne. However, I have the sound off and purposely try not to impose on my neighbors.

But where are we headed as a society with increased smartphone use?

Kent State University did a study on the amount of time someone spends on their phone, and more importantly how that dedication affects them. They found that being so connected doesn’t make you happier or relaxed. Quite the opposite. Researchers found increased phone use actually raises your anxiety level, due to your inability to disconnect from the device. So etiquette regarding your smartphone becomes more rudimentary as the technology gets more sophisticated.

I don’t know what it will take but we’ve got to become more comfortable putting our phones down, so I can at least go to the bathroom in peace.