Toilet.

I Went to the Bathroom. You Won’t Believe What Happened Next.

Are you the kind of person that enjoys shamelessly public accounts of deeply personal experiences? Is your guilt over reading the lurid details of appalling individual choices assuaged by a faux emphasis on larger social trends? Well, I went to the office bathroom, and you won’t believe what I learned about work-life balance.

It all happened one afternoon, about an hour after a very filling lunch. I think it must have been the 1,500 calories I consumed, or perhaps the fact that I accidentally ingested some tomatoes on my footlong sub. I can promise you no fruits or nuts were involved, which sometimes generates the problem I’m about to tell you about. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not a strict carnivore. I try to eat an apple slice every single month, but only when I know I’ll be home for several hours straight with no responsibilities and a few Model Railroader magazines I’ve been meaning to get to. But something in my Quizno’s salami, bacon, and mayonnaise sandwich or oversized chocolate fudge brownie disagreed with me. I could tell that no amount of Minute Maid Pure Lemonade Flavored Drink Liquid® was going to make it go over easily.

Before I continue, let me justify this trashy clickbait: Every year, hundreds of millions of man-hours, and some women-hours—the ones who don’t eat yogurt—are lost to unproductive workplace bathroom breaks.

Okay, I’m glad that’s out the way.

I was in a bit of bind, because I had a conference call in two hours. There was no way I would be back at my desk in time. So, drawing on the spirit of American ingeniousness, I grabbed my Plantronics Savor M1100 bluetooth headset, forwarded my office phone to my cell, and grabbed some Birder’s Worlds from the lobby. I was hoping for at least a Cigar Aficionado, but times were desperate.

Everything went swimmingly. I ensconced myself in the handicapped stall—I’d need extra room to maneuver—and stuck the Birder’s Worlds between the wall and hand railing. I settled in to my comfortable ritual of periodic bursts of abdominal pain and regular foot pumps to prevent deep vein thrombosis. I heard others coming and going; learned about swallow mating rituals; and was briefly given a stroke by the automatic flusher. Nevertheless, I was determined to see it through.

Then my conference call started. You may think it’s difficult to participate in a client call while passing several pounds of cured meats, but I can assure that it’s impossible. My tactic was to pretend I was in line at Starbucks, which has a lot of sounds similar to what you’d find in public restrooms (whooshing, grunting, running water, pee spattering), but it wasn’t the perverted sound of someone soaping their hands/making cappuccino that became the problem. Right before I was called upon to deliver an update on the financial status, I heard our project leader ask a few questions—in the next stall next to me. “Sorry for the noise,” he said, “but I’m at an airport McDonald’s.”

I had to get out of there. I clumsily pulled up my pants, left the Birder’s Worlds in their bar-holster, and uncomfortably waddled out. I shuffled into the hallway just in time to mention that we’d closed the fiscal quarter with a significant underrun. Whew. Crisis averted.

But the real crisis is the burden of trying to meet our bodily needs and our work responsibilities at the same time. According to a report from the W. E. Upjohn Institute that I think they should write, the economic losses from white-collar throne-time are enormous. Instead of productively surfing the web while secretively playing on their cell phones, workers are taking those cell phones to bathroom stalls and toggling between surfing the web and playing games. That kind of economic inefficiency is crippling to businesses. Employers are now combating this trend by going to the bathroom and listening for suspicious hotel reception bell chimes. This awful struggle won’t end until we realize all the damage it is causing to our bottom lines and colons. We cannot deprive our workers of the right to have all their productivity increases flow to MBAs who were hired last week.

But you don’t care about that. You just want to read more about my delicate situation. Well, I never did get to make a deposit at the sewer bank. I have an appointment next week with the backside doctor, whom I’m sure will straighten me out. I’ll be sure to write about it, because whatever happens next will astonish you.

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