Should I warn coworkers that I've left the stall stinky?
October 9, 2010 10:30 AM   Subscribe

Question regarding work bathroom etiquette.

It sometimes happens that after I use the toilet to do #2 at work and am washing my hands, someone will come into the bathroom and go into the stall I just vacated- a stall that is at that moment very smelly. I'm mortified when this happens because it's obvious that I'm the culprit (not that it's anything to be ashamed of, but it's embarrassing all the same) and my coworker is certainly thinking "Ewww, this is gross!"

There are 2 stalls (it's a small company)- so if the person is about to enter "my" stall but the other one is free, how weird would it sound for me to say, "I'd use the other one"? What about when the other stall is occupied, what could I say then? "I wouldn't go in there if I were you" or some variation thereof?
posted by shelayna to Human Relations (42 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
As embarrassing as it is to have just laid an atomic deuce in a public restroom, it is far more embarrassing to lay claim to the atomic deuce. The polite thing to do for everyone involved to pretend the smell doesn't exisit.
posted by jamaro at 10:34 AM on October 9, 2010 [20 favorites]


If it is really, really bad (an the coworker going in there is someone with whom I could talk about bowel movements) I'd say "I'd give it a minute if I were you."

Otherwise? It's feces. If its smelled nice, we'd use it instead of potpourri. You're not a culprit. You're a person who took a dump. Much like the person about to go in there.

Also, ask your office manager for some petty cash and pick up a bottle of air freshener. Not only does it make things nicer, it's also a big ole warning that something smelly happened in here and you may go somewhere else.
posted by griphus at 10:34 AM on October 9, 2010 [10 favorites]


Light a match, say nothing.
posted by tetralix at 10:35 AM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


No, don't say anything. Bathrooms sometimes smell like poop, there's nothing to be done about it, and a stall door doesn't exactly keep the smell contained to one stall.
posted by brainmouse at 10:35 AM on October 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


You know what, I take my advice back about saying anything. The only time I've ever done that was when I worked with a bunch of punk rockers subject to beer shits and the bathroom was the size of a linen closet with no windows. Just keep your mouth shut. However, still try to get some air freshener in there.
posted by griphus at 10:37 AM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fresh Linen Scented Crap smell at work: Reason #143 that I now work at home.

I recommend saying nothing. It's not like the other stall smells like a garden at that point, either.
posted by theredpen at 10:43 AM on October 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Please don't say anything. I don't want the vivid mental picture of anyone I work with pooping.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:44 AM on October 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


If I were you, I wouldn't say anything. I'd find it strange if I was heading for a stall and someone told me this.

If they really care, they'll use the other stall.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:45 AM on October 9, 2010


"I'd give it a minute if I were you" is the perfect thing to say.
posted by Slinga at 10:50 AM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mod note: few comments removed - folks this is not the "let's talk about pooping" thread
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:58 AM on October 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think it's obvious to everyone present what just happened. I don't think there is a need to announce it.
posted by gaspode at 11:04 AM on October 9, 2010


The only thing that irritates me about someone taking a dump at work is if they don't flush twice if two flushes are needed.

Me, I keep a book of matches in my pocket, and use one should the need arise. Otherwise, if I am not "the culprit" but enter the bathroom while "the culprit" is washing her hands, I really don't even think about it. Everybody poops. It's not a moral failing.
posted by rtha at 11:07 AM on October 9, 2010


If you know the coworker well enough to joke around, I'd say something.

Though to be fair, I work with a group of people who, on a regular basis, ask out loud if there's anyone who needs to wee first because they had the extra-large Taco Bell burrito at lunch and it's newspaper time.

If your coworkers aren't the sort to laugh about regular bodily function, though, match and poker face is probably the best way to go.
posted by zennish at 11:16 AM on October 9, 2010 [2 favorites]



Also, ask your office manager for some petty cash and pick up a bottle of air freshener.


No, no, no! A match!

I, too, am glad to be working at home and not smelling air "freshener," which some people took in the stall with them.
posted by jgirl at 11:22 AM on October 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Say nothing, because nothing needs to be said. You and the next person are using bathrooms for what they are designed for.
posted by zippy at 11:23 AM on October 9, 2010


Flush halfway through: it's polite, and consider it a form of risk management.

Besides that: if someone chooses the stall that smells like death's arsehole, they can always choose the other one.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:50 AM on October 9, 2010


This is why I never use the bathroom on my floor but go up one floor or down one floor. Take the stairs; give your legs a little stretch!
posted by bukvich at 11:56 AM on October 9, 2010


Seconding that if it's a long visit, flush halfway through.

I've never heard of using a match... so after you're done, pants up, you just light it and ... wave it around the stall for a few seconds? I'd be worried my coworkers would think I'm smoking in the washroom. Does it leave any burnt-match smell afterwards? How well does it work?

I'm a klutz so I can just imagine setting my blazer ablaze :)
posted by SarahbytheSea at 12:27 PM on October 9, 2010


don't wear polyester and your blazer won't light up like a roman candle. And a little match isn't going to set the smoke detector off unless you regularly do your work on a plane and your bathroom is the size of - well - one in a plane. A match does not smell like cigarettes. It smells clean - like a match.

As for etiquette, I agree with the previous posters. Say nothing. Don't be apologetic. I remember I used to say something when my older sister would come out of the restroom, and she would look at me and reply, "That's what it's there for. Would you rather I use your room?"

That shut me up real quick.

Also, I've done the move where I go to a different floor to use the restroom. That's polite as well.
posted by hardsilver at 12:35 PM on October 9, 2010


Don't say a word about it. If it's a friend, just give an eyebrow raise. Otherwise no eye contact. Talking about the smell, (or noise, or duration), breaks a seal that shouldn't be broken. The bathroom stall is like Las Vegas: what happens in there is nobody's business.

Also, jessamyn, what a horrible and hilarious thing to have to post.
posted by monkeymadness at 12:35 PM on October 9, 2010


Say nothing, in a polite universe smells don't exist and if they do, they were always made by the person who left moments before you.
And no, please, no air freshener. it's the only thing worse than the original smell.
posted by smoakes at 12:51 PM on October 9, 2010


If you are open to ways that minimize the smell, I also work in a small company that has a little two-stall bathroom. While spray air fresheners can be suffocating, I have had good results with those ugly little Renuzit adjustable cone air freshener things that are filled with scented goop. The citrus sunburst, lavender, and "relaxing spa" ones are relatively inoffensive. Having one of these things in the bathroom has greatly reduced the embarrassment that taking a dump in the workplace can cause. They don't smell terrific, but they actually do a good job of getting rid of the poo smell while smelling better than poo.
posted by wondermouse at 12:51 PM on October 9, 2010


Just say nothing. If there's a vent fan, turn it on before you begin. Don't use air "freshener" or anything that could be described as fragrance (however mild it smells to you). I promise not to call you out on bodily smells but I will be pissed if I have a headache for the rest of the day.
posted by anaelith at 12:56 PM on October 9, 2010


I don't think your plan would do much good. Stalls aren't hermetically sealed unless you're talking about actual little rooms within rooms. They'd still be in the cloud if they used the other stall. They know within a second of walking in the room that some work has been done in there and they can either do the fake "I forgot about that meeting" reversal and walk out or they can go finish their business like a boss. Just get out and go back to pretending you don't poop.
posted by Askr at 1:23 PM on October 9, 2010


Light a match , drop it into the toilet and don't say anything. Miss Manners says this is not the sort of thing to which one calls attention.
posted by brujita at 1:36 PM on October 9, 2010


This is not an appropriate workplace discussion. Period. And it's not your responsibility to help people have an optimal bathroom experience.
posted by John Cohen at 2:18 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's a stall, for crying out loud. Pooping is what goes on in stalls. As long as you don't crap in the urinal, you've followed bathroom etiquette.
posted by porn in the woods at 2:33 PM on October 9, 2010


Nthing say nothing, and make use of the courtesy flush if it's extra stinky or you take more than a minute or so.
posted by AlisonM at 2:42 PM on October 9, 2010


Flush as you drop. 'Nuf said.
posted by kidelo at 3:11 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've never heard of using a match... (...) How well does it work?

"However, a 2006 Mythbusters episode claimed to debunk the theory that matches neutralise offensive odours. The team isolated hydrogen sulphide and methyl mercaptan separately in small sealed flasks, in which they then set off matches by remote control. The Mythbusters found no difference in the concentration of either H2S or CH4S before and after lighting the match.

When they enlisted researcher John Hunt to actually smell – and rate – the offensiveness of each gas, he found the match ignition made no difference to his perceptions of H2S, but reduced the smell of CH4S by half. The Mythbusters concluded that the smell of the match being lit and then burning masks our perception of the odours, rather than the match neutralising the gases."
posted by iviken at 3:22 PM on October 9, 2010


>> ... air freshener. Not only does it make things nicer ...

Strongly disagree. Feculence and air freshener is worse than just feculence.

Also, another vote for silence. Unless, as zennish noted, you already have the kind of cameraderie that would allow you to say something like, "Oooo, eeee, sump'n musta crawled up my ass and died.
posted by Bruce H. at 4:41 PM on October 9, 2010


Regarding the Mythbusters thing, I must say that if burning a match "masks our perception of odors", isn't that good enough? I just don't want to smell dump anymore. If I can smell a burnt match instead, that would be perfect, because in my experience, it masks it completely. (And I have a lifetime of experience!) Also, everybody poops.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:19 PM on October 9, 2010


Matches are magical for this sort of thing.
posted by pearlybob at 6:23 PM on October 9, 2010


My building seems to have anonymous air freshener fairies who distribute those sorts of things in every stall in the ladies'.

Other than that, don't claim you dealt it, just walk out. That's the risk you run every time you go into a bathroom anyway.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:44 PM on October 9, 2010


Shut/pull the door to on the stall you've just used. People are more likely to head for the stall with the open door than one that looks like it might be in use.
posted by wackybrit at 6:45 PM on October 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you don't like any of the above answers, get some Poo Pourri. The stuff is amazing. You spray it into the toilet before you sit, and as they claim on their website, there's no odor. And it doesn't smell like a chemical cover-up, it just smells like lemongrass.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:23 PM on October 9, 2010


You are assuming the person's olfactory senses aren't working. Assuming this assumption is true, nothing needs to be said.

And if they are working, you shouldn't have to say a thing.
posted by xm at 9:57 PM on October 9, 2010


Personally, I think Febreeze Air Effects and Oust don't leave air freshener poop scent. We use Febreeze at work. It wipes out the poop scent. Get a light one like linen or something.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:13 PM on October 9, 2010


When I do a number 2, I do something called a courtesy flush. Works each and everytime. :-)
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 7:18 AM on October 10, 2010


Just do what Alan Partridge does.
posted by caek at 7:52 AM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Long time sufferer of bathroom issues, I use One Drop. So awesome. No scent and it's small. I keep it in my desk at work. My small office has a one person bathroom. You won't have to worry about any spray noises from a Lysol can or its instantly recognizable scent. And a bonus: I am at ease throughout since I don't worry about who's coming in after me.
posted by alice ayres at 8:36 AM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


No need to say a thing. Really, none of us want to think about each other pooping. We maintain a polite fiction.

Ever walked into a smelly empty bathroom because you had to pee? Of course you have. The person walking in has no idea if the poop came from you or not.

Anyway, they'll forget who preceded them as soon as they walk into the stall, because they'll be worrying that someone will walk in and think they stank up the bathroom.
posted by desuetude at 8:36 PM on October 11, 2010


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