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December 17, 2008 1:25 PM   Subscribe

BathroomFilter: Is it appropriate to give dietary suggestions to the person in the next stall or not?

It seems to me that most people just don't understand the necessity of fiber in their diets. More often than not, I am disgusted by the sounds of evacuation produced by the person in the next stall -- that poor fellow has obviously been in that stall for some time and, judging by his heavy breathing and grunting, still has some time to go.

I really just want to be all 'Hey buddy, cut back on the dairy and meat and eat more veggies.' It is a faceless conversation, but is it inappropriate?

(And no, I don't think it is the same person every time. I think I would be fairly accurate in saying that 90% of the men in my office building need to wise up before they get colon cancer.)
posted by dhammala to Health & Fitness (86 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
 
Uh, no.
posted by nitsuj at 1:26 PM on December 17, 2008 [16 favorites]


NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by caddis at 1:26 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ew. No!

(I would be really, really grossed out and embarrassed if someone did that to me. Unless you're immediate family, it's not something I want suggestions about.)
posted by sarcasticah at 1:27 PM on December 17, 2008


Definitely not. Mind your own business.
posted by peacheater at 1:28 PM on December 17, 2008


I'm of the mind that any conversation between stalls is inappropriate.

If you must offer dietary advice post some magazine articles in the breakroom, next to the Comic Sans reminders at their mother doesn't clean the dishes in the sink.
posted by bondcliff at 1:28 PM on December 17, 2008 [5 favorites]


No. Do your business, and don't mind anyone else's.
posted by yellowbinder at 1:28 PM on December 17, 2008


I think you know it is inappropriate if you "really just want to be all 'Hey buddy'"...
posted by GleepGlop at 1:29 PM on December 17, 2008


I would have to say that bathroom time is never, ever, EVER conversation time. Poop time even more so.
posted by knowles at 1:29 PM on December 17, 2008


No. It violates the most common rule. No talking. The breaking this rule can bring down society as seen here.
posted by wavering at 1:29 PM on December 17, 2008 [21 favorites]


No way. How is this faceless? You still have a voice to remember. Possibly shoes or pants the other guy can see as well.
posted by mkb at 1:29 PM on December 17, 2008


Besides the boundaries problem, this is kind of like giving your overweight coworkers dieting/exercise tips. You know why that's a shitty thing to do, right?
posted by pullayup at 1:29 PM on December 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Are you shitting me? You think that sort of crap would be appropriate?
posted by grouse at 1:29 PM on December 17, 2008 [18 favorites]


Isn't there some sort of policy where most people pretend like the other people in the bathroom aren't really there. Violate at your own peril, especially if anything you say betrays that you are listening very carefully to strangers as they poop.
posted by Alison at 1:30 PM on December 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh my god. Don't do this.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:34 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Dear God, no. Unsolicited advice on such a personal matter is rude.
posted by orange swan at 1:34 PM on December 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


I would fling my poop at you if you did this. Mind your own business.
posted by electroboy at 1:35 PM on December 17, 2008 [29 favorites]


No.
posted by sperose at 1:35 PM on December 17, 2008


Most people will be seriously unreceptive to advice from a stranger in the next toilet stall. If your question is in earnest, and you really feel the need to take action, hunt down the health & safety point person in your office (if you have one) then suggest posting flyers during colorectal cancer awareness month in March 2009.
posted by woodway at 1:40 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Others have correctly stated OH FUCK NO, so let me just add that doing this at work, where the grunter next to you that you're deeply annoying and embarrassing might have the power to fire your sorry ass, is size extra dumbass in addition to be catastrophically rude.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:40 PM on December 17, 2008


Perhaps that "poor fellow" is actually using a Flex-O-Pleaser on his prostate, hence the heavy breathing and grunting, and of course he still has some time to go because mmm ohhh yeah.

Probably not, of course, but you're better off minding your own business either way.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:40 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


As a rule of thumb, it is never appropriate to give unsolicited advice. There are exceptions to this rule, but not in public bathrooms.
posted by box at 1:40 PM on December 17, 2008 [6 favorites]


This would be utterly and horrifyingly inappropriate, but like many things that are utterly and horrifyingly inappropriate, it might also be really funny.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:41 PM on December 17, 2008 [11 favorites]


If you do this at work, they will know who you are by the sound of your voice. If you want to be the Poop Guy, you go right ahead.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 1:43 PM on December 17, 2008 [7 favorites]


Here's a fun and way-less gross suggestion: Type up a small flyer with some nutritional info, fun facts etc. Tape it to the inside of the stall door. Then you'll feel better, folks will have something to read and you won't be a social pariah.
posted by GilloD at 1:45 PM on December 17, 2008 [5 favorites]


More often than not, I am disgusted by the sounds of evacuation produced by the person in the next stall

Actually, I think this has more to do with your own issues with regard to poop than those of your co-workers. All the stuff about diet is just a self-righteous, self-justifying pseudo-rationalisation...

People eat what they eat because they like eating what they eat - most of them are fully aware of the risks. Privacy issues aside, if you think for a moment that your addressee is going to turn around and say 'Gee, thanks pal, I never thought of that' then you are also incredibly naive about human nature.

To my mind, the questions you should be asking rather than this one are 'why am I so hung up on other peoples bodily functions? and 'why do I feel so compelled to turn everybody into a copy of myself?'

Apologies for the snarky tone, but a liitle self-analysis would go a long way here...
posted by Chairboy at 1:45 PM on December 17, 2008 [31 favorites]


Do not talk to me when I'm in the bathroom. Especially when I'm busy.

Unless you are my doctor, do not give me diet advice.
You might mean well, but your comments would be rude and possibly wrong.
posted by HFSH at 1:45 PM on December 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Just wanted to add my voice to din: Good God NO!!! This is a terrible idea. Terrible. I find it hard to believe that anyone would ever even consider this, let along post it to MeFi nonanonymously. That makes me think....Are you a troll?
posted by LunaticFringe at 1:48 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not.
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:52 PM on December 17, 2008


Wow, I never would have guessed this to be such a sensitive topic for people. When I asked friends the same questions, I got mixed replies and some good chuckles. No, this is not a joke question and no, I am not a troll.
posted by dhammala at 1:57 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


You need to be more positive. Congratulate and encourage those who #2 with acceptable speed and noise levels.
posted by 0xFCAF at 2:04 PM on December 17, 2008 [20 favorites]


This why I have begun wearing my iPod in public bathroom stalls. I don't like to hear the sounds of this activity. Nor do I want to hear anyone talking to me in any way that even hints at the idea that they are paying attention to my private activities.


Freebird!!!! Wooooo!!!!
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 2:05 PM on December 17, 2008


In my experience, the only time when talk between stalls is socially acceptable is when it's between two women who know each other, and who are continuing a conversation that began before they entered their respective stalls.
posted by rtha at 2:06 PM on December 17, 2008


Your friends were chuckling because they were enjoying the idea of you behaving so wildly inappropriately.
posted by the bricabrac man at 2:07 PM on December 17, 2008 [9 favorites]


I think I would be fairly accurate in saying that 90% of the men in my office building need to wise up before they get colon cancer.

I think it would fairly accurate in saying that if you did this, you'd be universally hated and the butt of many office jokes for years to come.

Go for it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:08 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
posted by Jacqueline at 2:08 PM on December 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


No, this is not a joke question and no, I am not a troll.

The fact that we poop in stalls is your first hint: it's a private affair. A time of reflection, concentration, and focus. Human beings have been conditioned from infancy to disregard their own feces, and react to it with disgust and shame. Some people have close, intimate relationships that last years without their partner ever being in the same room with them during a bowel movement. It is, in other words, probably one of the most private acts a human being performs.

For this reason, for you to give unsolicited advice about anything - "Hey, I saw you were paying for the parking garage earlier. You know there's a free lot a few blocks down" for example - would be inappropriate. But to actually comment on the man's bowel movements themselves? And offer dietary advice? Here you cross a deeply ingrained threshold that should never be crossed.

So no. Don't.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:09 PM on December 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


How do you know that the person next door doesn't have a medical condition? Between 10 and 20% of westerners have irritable bowel syndrome for example, it can cause the issues you're describing, and who does or doesn't have it is none of your business. (I have it but I'm a digestive physiologist and very open about intestine stuff in general). If you made those comments to me I'd actually be laying a formal complaint because it's utterly discriminatory. Just like if I had another physical disability and your told me off for not taking the stairs or something. Adding extra fibre to my diet without medical supervision would make me very sick, I already follow a strict diet that excludes all animal fat, and being made to feel that I should have to explain this and justify myself to random co-workers just isn't acceptable. Particularly not when I'm in the bathroom.

That and your comment would be plain rude and judgemental of course.
posted by shelleycat at 2:09 PM on December 17, 2008 [15 favorites]


I could see the possibility of a short generic yet relevant article printed out and taped to a stall or mirror. Maybe.

But don't type up your own article. That's too much of a vested interest in other people's bowels.
posted by redsparkler at 2:10 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Unsolicited advice, especially when on the toilet, is rude.

I had an overearnest woman at Whole Foods try to tell me of the evils of my Nalgene bottle when I was on the toilet, as she saw it attached to my bag. I think my terse "I know, and I don't fucking care." was called for. Unless that Nalgene bottle is in imminent danger of killing me with its Bisphenol-A RIGHT NOW, it can probably wait a couple of minutes until I'm done with my constitutional.
posted by spinifex23 at 2:15 PM on December 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


I think you should gently approach the subject with the gentleman whose pooping style is in question. Tread lightly!

If more people made dietary suggestions to others in the john, perhaps it would cut down on the disgusting barnyard noises one has to endure in a men's room.
posted by porn in the woods at 2:16 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Urinal etiquette applies in this situation.

Just because you're sitting and not standing doesn't make it any less applicable.
posted by diggerroo at 2:17 PM on December 17, 2008


If you really want to encourage people to eat better, maybe when you're in the bathroom with others you should loudly announce, "Boy, I just made the best poo! Clean, hearty, satisfying! I wish everyone could experience this feeling of joy and lightness".

Better yet, don't wait until you're in the bathroom. Start bragging about your poos as soon as someone passes you in the hallway and says, "Hi, how are you?"

Pretty soon everyone will be coming to you for advice.
posted by Evangeline at 2:20 PM on December 17, 2008 [31 favorites]


As long as you're also willing to go over to examine his stool as well, I say sure.
posted by jquinby at 2:22 PM on December 17, 2008


Do you really think that the person next to you would say "Veggies are healthy! I never thought of that! Thank you so much for paying so much attention to listening to me take a shit!"
posted by ALongDecember at 2:22 PM on December 17, 2008


1. Nth to all the "any conversation is inappropriate in the bathroom" comments above.
2. Nth to all the "this conversation is inappropriate in any location, unless you're their doctor or dietitian" comments above.
3. Nth to the "why do you care, anyway? Mind your own business" comments above. (And if your gut instinct is to respond that you're just concerned for the welfare of your fellow man, first, I would be very skeptical of such a response, but if that was sincerely your only motive, it would be somewhat less offensive to put up a generic flyer about the benefits of fiber on your deparment bulletin board rather than individually shaming those whose habits don't live up to your expectations.)
4. Vegetables vary widely in the amount of fiber they contain. If your goal is to eat more fiber, "eat more vegetables" isn't great advice if you don't also look at what particular vegetables you should be eating.
5. Be careful what you wish for. Beans generally are a good source of fiber. If you were disgusted by the sounds of evacuation before...
6. It's possible some people's difficulties may be in spite of consuming sufficient amounts of fiber. You're hardly qualified to be playing armchair (toilet?) physician.

I think I would be fairly accurate in saying that 90% of the men in my office building need to wise up before they get colon cancer.

7. I think I would be fairly accurate in saying that you are suffering from confirmation bias.
8. Insufficient fiber increases the risk of colon cancer, but it's not some death-sentence guarantee of contracting colon cancer, as you seem to believe. 90% of the men in your office are not going to get colon cancer, no matter how bad their eating habits are.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:23 PM on December 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Unless you are tapping it out in Morse code with your toes, this has no place in a bathroom stall. And if it's the kind of bathroom where the toe-tapping code is well-understood, there will be different sorts of noises coming from the next stall over.
posted by Forktine at 2:26 PM on December 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


When I asked friends the same questions, I got mixed replies and some good chuckles.

If you asked me this face-to-face I might tell you to do it, but I can be a bastard like that.
posted by ob at 2:30 PM on December 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


must I really be the first one to point out that many very healthy, high-fiber foods (I am looking at you, delicious beans!!) will cause your stall-mate to be ever the more ahem musical in the bathroom. fiber causes flatulence.
posted by supermedusa at 2:31 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


All unsolicited advice about a person's (especially a stranger's) health and diet are completely inappropriate.
posted by kimdog at 2:35 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think Marisa Stole the Precious Thing summed it up perfectly with ...probably one of the most private acts a human being performs.

Do not violate this boundary. The consequences could be dire.
posted by ezekieldas at 2:41 PM on December 17, 2008


Are you really just trying to get material for a Monty Pythonesque skit?

"I say there my good man, are you getting enough fibre in your diet?"
"What?! Are you talking to me?"
"Indeed yes. I couldn't help but notice your explosive flatulence. Your odiferous emanations. Your vocalizations dangling on the egde of both pain and pleasure. It is quite clear you are suffering from some kind of bowel malfeasance."
"Dude, I'm dropping a load here, what the hell are you talking to me for?"
"Proper gastro-intestinal care is an important part of your overall health, my good man. Do not neglect your intestines! With your obvious distress, I dare say you would be appalled, appalled I say, if you could see inside your colon!"
"Damn right I would! Dude, you're freaking me out. Shut the hell up!"

It can't end well.
posted by elendil71 at 2:43 PM on December 17, 2008 [30 favorites]


Wow. You should see someone about that exaggerated sense of responsibility. People's poops are not your problem. If you don't like the sounds they make, wear ear plugs in the restroom.

In this situation, I think the only appropriate stall-to-stall conversation is a good old austin powers "who does number two work for"

Butt seriously, no. Critiquing someone's pooping strategy and assessing their diet based on the sounds they make while pooping is highly inappropriate.

By the way, Mr. Fiber-eater, you shouldn't really have to be in the bathroom long enough to hear many groans and heavy breathing. Poop, flush, wash and be on your way.
posted by necessitas at 2:47 PM on December 17, 2008


no no no.
if i knew someone was paying that much attention to my bathroom habits, i'd call security.
posted by thinkingwoman at 3:07 PM on December 17, 2008


No. I mean, I love it. But, no.

And I love all the serious, earnest, finger-waving answers. Get over yourselves and get a sense of humor.
posted by Zambrano at 3:14 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Dear god no. Their diet is not your business.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:18 PM on December 17, 2008


Just turn the situation around. You sit and grunt (because you've been at a dedicated no-fiber party, or didn't have your bowl of potato peels for the day, or whatever). Some wise dude next door gives you that bit about dairy, veggies and colon cancer. How happy will you be?
What I'd do if were on the receiving end of a remark like that: I'd conclude what you call 'evacuation', get out and wait.
posted by Namlit at 3:22 PM on December 17, 2008


Print out this thread and leave a copy on the floor of each stall.
posted by escabeche at 3:25 PM on December 17, 2008 [9 favorites]


Adding another vote for no.
posted by Effigy2000 at 3:34 PM on December 17, 2008


Print out this thread and leave a copy on the floor of each stall.

Yes, this would be the most tactful way to rectify this issue.
posted by sixcolors at 3:44 PM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow, I never would have guessed this to be such a sensitive topic for people.

Bob from Accounting, of whom you know only two things: his name is Bob and he shuffles numbers for a living, is standing near you at the urinals. He takes a few big sniffs of the air and says "Hey buddy, your piss smells awfully sweet. Perhaps you should get a diabetes test."

Would you be likely to act on that suggestion, or just think that he's a pee-sniffing weirdo? And even if you did act on it and it turns out that he was right, wouldn't you still be just a little creeped out by that exchange?

Woodway's suggestion is a good one, if you're that concerned.
posted by CKmtl at 4:03 PM on December 17, 2008


So let me get this straight: you've been silently judging other people's shitting technique, and your question is to whether or not you should remove the silence from that equation?

I join the chorus of those who say this would be ill-advised. Unless it involves an Olympic scoring system wherein your workmates emerge from the stall to see you standing there holding up a card reading "4.9", in which case I think you have the basis for a fantastic short film.
posted by scody at 4:13 PM on December 17, 2008 [14 favorites]


If you did this to me, I'd start making noises of sexual pleasure at the disgusting, fiberless colorectal torture that was my poop, and I'd do it until you fled in terror.

Just like "Don't touch me when I'm touching me" is the primary rule of the urinal, "don't make noises about my noises" is the primary rule of the shitter.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 4:17 PM on December 17, 2008


Not even remotely appropriate. I eat a balanced, high-fiber diet, but I'm on medication that makes me constipated at times. If someone commented on it, I'd be simultaneously embarrassed, hurt, angry, and amused by their utter cluelessness.

So, yeah, keep in mind that your co-workers' "problems" might not be the result of eating poorly.
posted by arianell at 4:37 PM on December 17, 2008


Etiquette is a funny thing. Any conversation between stalls occupied by strangers or not-so-close acquantances would be unwelcome, as you've seen by the landslide results of your poll.

But I bet you if a bunch of frat boys or a football team came in to take shits at the same time just before getting back on their bus, they would be whoopin' and yellin' between stalls and offering more than just unsolicited advice. But you generally want to zig when they zag.
posted by randomstriker at 4:38 PM on December 17, 2008


It's absolutely appropriate. If you want to get punched in the face.
posted by katyggls at 4:53 PM on December 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


Just sneak in there with a Sharpie and write on the stall walls.

"Having trouble taking a shit? Try some veggies! Or dial 555-EVAQ-POOP"
posted by monocultured at 5:39 PM on December 17, 2008


I really just want to be all 'Hey buddy, cut back on the dairy and meat and eat more veggies.

Dude, you should feel totally free to say such things to me, provided you are also willing to listen to my lecture on how you are utterly misguided to think that meat is the problem, and that those whole-grain loafs you eat are far worse for your heart and your digestive process than any fatty cut of steak.

But now I think of it, you probably wouldn't believe a word I said. Likewise, I wouldn't pay much attention to your advice. So, maybe better that we take our respective bathroom breaks in peace. :)
posted by artemisia at 5:42 PM on December 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Wow, I never would have guessed this to be such a sensitive topic for people.

And that, dhammala, is part of the problem. The rest involves your obsessive fascination with, and need to judge/condemn, toilet practices of complete strangers.

Seriously, talk to a therapist. That will help alleviate your problems far better than any advice you could give others.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:51 PM on December 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


You are certain that the grunting, panting, and straining is due to low fiber? Not dehydration, medication, sedentary lifestyle, stress, hemorrhoids, laxative use, hypothyroidism, or irritable bowel syndrome?

If you are gravely concerned, you'd have to give your stallmate a blood test, barium enema, and/or colonoscopy to determine the true source of his discomfort. But YANHD.
posted by terranova at 6:53 PM on December 17, 2008


Zippy: Sorry, the poo point-rating system is already taken -- and online.
posted by webhund at 6:59 PM on December 17, 2008


dhammala, I would advise that you should indeed give dietary suggestions to the person in the next stall, if only because it is amusing to think of you going out and doing so, and then consequences of doing so, when you're next in a public washroom.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:09 PM on December 17, 2008


Well there you go. You asked "is this inappropriate" and most people said: "No."

(but seriously, don't do this)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:15 PM on December 17, 2008


Please, go ahead and do this so I may feel entirely justified crawl over the wall and poop on you from mid-air like some kind of poop-bombing spider monkey.

Anyway, more fiber? Buddy, you have no idea what "more fiber" means. If it's been a long day or night I can polish off about a gallon of oatmeal and half of an economy sized bag of raisin bran. The results are pretty predictable. The words "creamy" and even "frothy" are inadequate.
posted by loquacious at 8:29 PM on December 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


I think Durn meant the majority of responses is "yes, that's inappropriate."
posted by Pronoiac at 8:30 PM on December 17, 2008


[this question is now in MetaTalk, please take lulz there -- many many comments removed]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:31 PM on December 17, 2008


I'm gonna say "yes". This should be done.
posted by Dumsnill at 8:41 PM on December 17, 2008


You are not a doctor, and you are not their doctor.
posted by Eideteker at 9:51 PM on December 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Well, let me ask if you think standing at the urinal and giving advice on pissing techniques is good social etiquette? Cause you really are not that anomalous if the other person decides to find out who you are. All it takes is leaving the rest room and waiting till you walk out. Your shit doesn't smell like roses so just walk away from it and all will be happier.

nothing worse than a bathroom stall preacher.
posted by edgeways at 10:17 PM on December 17, 2008


No talking. No laughing. No talking to someone on your cellphone, although clicks beeps and boops (reading email, playing games on an iPhone, etc) is acceptable.

The bathroom is the one place where it's OKAY to fart loudly and TRY to make it echo.
posted by mrbill at 10:32 PM on December 17, 2008


My IBS bothers you?

Just think about how much it bothers me!

And trust me: if you gave me any advice I would tell you about it in fine detail.

I don't have IBS, but I also don't think about how perfectly formed by poo will be when I'm eating.
posted by Ookseer at 12:16 AM on December 18, 2008


NO. See the no talking section of the International Center for Bathroom Etiquette.
posted by mhh5 at 12:20 AM on December 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Most certainly, emphatically, YES! It is only through this level of communication that we will find ourselves as human beings. Every animal species but ours is intimately connected through encounter and inspection of each others feces. I would love to see a personal critique of my fecal production, and eagerly look forward to your new business providing that service!
posted by telstar at 2:30 AM on December 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm just flabbergasted that this impulse would ever cross anyone's mind.

Also, nth-ing the OH NO JOHN RINGO DHAMMALA NO comments upthread.
posted by magstheaxe at 5:42 AM on December 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


rtha: "In my experience, the only time when talk between stalls is socially acceptable is when it's between two women who know each other, and who are continuing a conversation that began before they entered their respective stalls."

No! I don't even accept that. Bathroom stalls are magical cones of silence. Nobody can hear me, and I can't hear them.

la la la I can't hear you la la la
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:54 AM on December 18, 2008 [5 favorites]


Do it
posted by eeyore at 11:53 AM on December 18, 2008


Man, my boss is always talking to me while I'm blasting one. I think it's just because he knows I can't escape. I hate it. Don't talk to me, man, I'm busy pooping.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 12:11 PM on December 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


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