Rob Jenkins: How to be a guy: Public restroom etiquette

Rob Jenkins

Rob Jenkins

This is the first installment of what I hope will be an ongoing, occasional series on how to be a guy. (Disclaimer: my wife does not approve.) I'm going to start in the bathroom because, let's face it, that's where every guy's day begins.

In fact, for guys my age, it begins there at 2 am. And then again at 4. And then at 6.

But I digress. As the title suggests, this column is about public restrooms. For a guy, there are certain things you must do when answering the call of nature in public--wait, that didn't come out right. There are certain things you must do when visiting a public facility, and there are certain things you definitely must not do.

Begin by making sure you're going into the right restroom. There's nothing more embarrassing for a guy than accidentally walking into the ladies' room, unless it's not realizing you were in the ladies' room until after you walk out.

Remember that there are certain distinctive plumbing features you should look for when walking into a public restroom. If you don't spot them immediately, turn around and walk right back out.

Seeing a female exiting as you're entering is also a dead giveaway, although occasionally this can lead to mistakes. One time I thought I had accidentally opened the wrong door when I had to step aside for a young girl. But it turned out it was just Justin Beiber.

Once you have ascertained that the restroom contains the requisite wall-mounted plumbing fixtures, you must then choose one of those fixtures. This is harder than it sounds, as there are definite unwritten rules that govern your choice.

For example, you should never choose a fixture that is right next to one already in use, unless nothing else is available. This is especially true if the fixtures are not separated by partitions.

By the same token, if there are only three fixtures in the room, you must not take the middle one. That is a serious breach of male protocol, because the next guy who walks in will have no choice but to stand beside you.

If you do find yourself next to some other guy, because it's unavoidable, remember to keep your eyes forward until either you're finished or he is. Do not look at him, and at all costs do not glance toward him and downward -- again, especially if there are no partitions.

You may look the other way, if there is no one next to you on that side. You may look directly upward. You may look straight down at -- well, you may look straight down. But your angle of vision must never vary by more than a few degrees in anyone else's direction.

Follow these few simple rules and you will have the kind of bathroom visit all men aspire to: satisfying yet uneventful.

Rob Jenkins is a local writer and author of Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility. E-mail him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com, follow him on TwitterThe Book on Facebook.