The office bathroom

The office bathroom is like any complex ecosystem: populated by wild beasts you must detect and avoid, with names like the Mole, the Narcissist, the Mad Pinger, and the Howard Hughes. This is your guide to surviving the scariest place you go one to three times a day

The only place more tribal, more dangerous, more fraught—and yes, more sociologically revealing—than the white-collar office is the white-collar-office bathroom. You could even argue that it is the one place where grown men reveal their truest selves. Don’t buy that? Just think for a second about the director of sales who quotes Vince Lombardi in meetings and bats cleanup on the company softball team yet refuses to touch the doorknob unless he’s got a baby wipe. Think about the dude who brags about having spent not a minute preparing for the marketing meeting as he pees a full foot away from the urinal, just so you can see. Think about the shy, bearish guy who’s into the History Channel and goes to the lavatory carrying three newspapers, a Mitch Albom novel, and a Nook. These people, without knowing it, are categorizing themselves more clearly than any psych profile on file with HR.

To help you navigate this treacherous place, GQ presents its first (and possibly last) guide to the creatures that haunt the most important room at the office. It will help you succeed at work, get you a raise, and bring you satisfaction in your professional life. Or at least remind you that it is never okay to chat up the guy in the next stall.

The Mad Pinger
The most efficient of time managers. Sitting on the can? Why not e-mail the whole team about the agenda for the next meeting! Or forward that funny True Grit spoof video! Or a romantic message to the wife!

Likely office identity: Can’t sit through a status meeting without playing Angry Birds.

How to deal with him: By never, ever touching his phone.

Why he’s dangerous: After half an hour, kind of forgets that he’s sitting there with his pants around his ankles and that he’s lost feeling in his legs. Possible slip-and-fall workers’-comp case.

The Howard Hughes
Uses one fresh paper towel to flush the urinal, another to turn off the faucet, and still another to exit the bathroom. Flushes toilet with foot. Suspects his bathroom experience would be perfect if he could only finish it off with a hazmat-decon shower and some Listerine.

Frequent simultaneous afflictions: Problematically porn-addicted; weirdly suspicious of flu shots; possible latex fetish; full slate of Martha Stewart on the DVR.

Likely office identity: Perfectly drafted memos; uncharacteristically fun when drunk; religiously kept journal stuffed in bottom drawer that bears the inscription “Exterminate all the brutes!”

How to know if you are him: This magazine is in a plastic sleeve.

Distant cousin: The Dental Hygienist
Brushes his teeth several times a day; sometimes flosses, to the point where you know every inch of his exposed fleshy gums and have more than once been flecked by his lathery spit residue.

The B-52
A man with a shadowy identity, known only for the nuclear devices he detonates every day between 2:30 and 3:15 p.m., taking out lavatory services for the day.

Likely office identity: At lunchtime he’s the guy in the kitchen re-microwaving the Stouffer’s beef Stroganoff with extra lentils and a side of hard-boiled eggs.

How to deal with him: Know his schedule, get there before he does.

How to know if you are him: You can’t remember what you ate for lunch, but it sure seems like you had Chipotle.

The Concierge
This is the guy who, with his friendly banter and frequent exclamation of “‘Sup, bro?” at the urinal, violates the first rule of the office bathroom: In here, please pretend none of us know one another.

Likely office identity: He’s the guy you should never seat next to the big boss at functions, because not even he knows what’s going to come out of his mouth.

How to know if you are him: You once tried to chest-bump Gordon, from mergers and acquisitions, at the sinks.

Distant (creepy) cousin: The Stall Talker
Somehow cranes neck under stall divider to identify you by your brand of shoes and then asks you if you watched the Ravens game last night. This man has no boundaries and usually drinks too much at holiday parties.

Also related to: The Doorman
He’s there every time you’re there, every time your best friend at the office is there, anytime anyone’s ever been in the bathroom. Never peeing, never in a stall, never washing his hands, always affably nodding at you just as he’s about to leave. The friendly apparition that haunts the place. When layoffs come around, he’s always the first one to go.

The Sun Tzu
Work is warfare for this guy, and the men’s room is his battleground. Didn’t reply to his e-mail? Prepare to be frozen out when you say hi at the sinks. Just shot down his idea in a meeting? Get ready to be boxed out at the urinals. Not sufficiently respectful of his status? Dude might approach your stall ninja-style and rattle the door while your pants are still around your ankles, just to fuck with you. Not that this has ever really happened—but if it did, he would be the man to do it.

How to deal with him: Extreme vigilance; blow-darts.

How to know if you are him: You spend whole afternoons composing lists of who’s on “my team” at the office and who is “dead to me.” You also take the center stall, even when—especially when—no one else is in the bathroom.


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