What's Taking So Long in There?
February 1, 2008 9:03 AM   Subscribe

What do people do in public bathrooms (besides the obvious) that takes so long? Why am I quicker at it?

I've had a number of people comment to me -- coworkers, friends, my husband -- that I take an inordinately short time to use the bathroom. Particularly in a not-at-home context.

If I go into the girls room at the same time as a male coworker goes into the guys room, I'm waiting for him outside (much to his apparent surprise). If I go into the bathroom at the same time as a girl, I'm done *long* before.

I'm a girl. Yes, I wash my hands. And use soap. Every single time (if there's soap to be had). I dry my hands, but quickly. I don't use a paper towel to open the bathroom door. I don't use those froofy seat covers, but those can't take an extra full minute, right?

I wear either jeans or a skirt with tights, so it's not a fast access thing. I don't touch up makeup, but since I'm beating boys as well as girls, that's not an issue, right?

Am I just less bladder shy than the rest of the universe? Is there some magical bathroom hokey pokey I'm supposed to do once I get into a stall that I'm missing out on?
posted by Gucky to Health & Fitness (44 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
A man attempting a onesie might be thwarted by urinal etiquette.

If you're talking about a twosie race... well who wants to rush that? Take your time and relax a bit.
posted by utsutsu at 9:08 AM on February 1, 2008


I had a girlfriend once that was pretty quick also. Turns out she would go in, pee for literally 3 seconds, and that was it. It seemed useless to me, but she insisted she had to go. Bladder like a thimble.
posted by sanka at 9:13 AM on February 1, 2008


I am picturing everyone you know laying down individual squares of toilet paper on the seat until a cover is formed, then using, then flushing, then gingerly removing each squares with flushes in between.

Basically since there's not a real way for us to know what is taking them so long or making you so quick, just make up your own damn narrative.
posted by piratebowling at 9:13 AM on February 1, 2008 [7 favorites]


Do you tend to do everything quickly? Some people (my husband is the example I can think of), unintentionally do everything at a crazy speed as if it's crucial to just get whatever task is at hand over with. Maybe you're one of those people.

Also, a lot of times people wait to make sure the toilet actually flushes (especially if you're in an office with a toilet that notoriously doesn't flush half the time and you don't want to be the jerk who leaves toilet paper in the thing). That could pad a few seconds onto the process. Also, washing with soap can take 5 seconds or 30 or more. Maybe you just aren't washing as long as other people.
posted by tastybrains at 9:20 AM on February 1, 2008


I too am quicker than most woman (or men). I attribute it to growing up in a large family and the pressure that brings with only 2 bathrooms.
posted by shaarog at 9:23 AM on February 1, 2008


Do you tend to do everything quickly? Some people (my husband is the example I can think of), unintentionally do everything at a crazy speed as if it's crucial to just get whatever task is at hand over with. Maybe you're one of those people.

Yeah, I am one of those speedy-in-the-bathroom people and I think it's just that I'm speedy all the time. I think for some people bathroom time is break time and so people go in and sort of chill out, stare at the wall, enjoy a little alone time or what have you, to say nothing about the contingent of magazine readers out there. It seems to me that women take longer actually in the stall, whether it's getting dressed again or putting on makeup or adjusting some feminie protection I have no clue but I am often standing in line thinking "what the hell are they doing in there?" when they're clearly standing up doing something, not peeing or pooping.
posted by jessamyn at 9:25 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


and, on preview: I grew up in a house with no locks on the bathroom doors which may have something to do with my speed proclivity.
posted by jessamyn at 9:25 AM on February 1, 2008


LOL. I'm like you, Gucky. I usually beat my male friends as well. (Unless I stop to fix my hair or face, or some other girlie notion.)

But I'm kind of a do-er. I really get it done, no matter what it is. At work I'm fast (and accurate), too. If something lands on my desk, I want to get it done and get it off my desk. I'm fast, I'm focused. And when I pee, I go into the stall, get it done and get out.

I've tried to kind of observe what other female friends are doing in adjacent stalls, by sound only, of course. I think they're just taking their time. I think they disrobe slowly, then sit down, then it takes them several seconds before the peeing even begins (performance anxiety?), and after the peeing is complete, it's many more seconds before they stand up and zip (or whatever). Reactionarily speaking, my response to that is, "WTF are you DOING in there for all those quiet periods?" But after I think about it a while, I guess I decide that they're taking it easy. Relaxing for a minute.

I guess.

I'm also pretty competitive. I had over a foot of snow to shovel this morning (long driveway, plus sidewalks, porch, patio), and I found myself racing with the neighbor kid.
posted by iguanapolitico at 9:26 AM on February 1, 2008


Stronger bladder muscles= faster peeing?
posted by melissam at 9:28 AM on February 1, 2008


On after-preview: what jessamyn said. :)

(And we're not talking about doing #2, and we're not talking about people getting out books or magazines and reading. And you can hear it if there's feminine-protection matters going on.)
posted by iguanapolitico at 9:28 AM on February 1, 2008


Covertly removing boogers or picking at blemishes? Changing tampons? Crying? Taking a pregnancy test? Knitting a few rows of a scarf? Watching a bug crawl across the tiles and imagining how it got in there? Checking voicemail or texting a friend? Taking a very short nap? Stretching? Singing to the mirror? Attempting to get a hangover under control? Sneaking a cookie and then spitting it out into the toilet? Some of those sound utterly nuts, but I've done 'em all in public restrooms.

I also, very occasionally, will go into an empty restroom, and then when I'm in the stall a bunch of other people will come in, and I'd rather wait until they leave before I come out. Also crazy-sounding, I know.

I'd imagine your speed might be due to a small bladder. When I go to the bathroom just to pee, I'm pretty quick.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:29 AM on February 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


Another MC Quick-to-Pee here. I think it's because I don't wear makeup -- I get in, do my business, and get out.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:30 AM on February 1, 2008


Guy here. If I go in to use the toilet in a public restroom I may spend upwards of a minute wiping down the seat from the people who use it as a urinal. Seriously though, it shouldn't be a race. People do what they have to do and everyone has their own rituals.
posted by JJ86 at 9:36 AM on February 1, 2008


I take longer at work than I do at home.

-Carefully tucking in shirt versus not tucking shirts at home.
-Having to dry hands with crappy paper towels instead of absorbent terrycloth at home.
-Adjusting clothes and making sure my hair looks OK.
-Just generally spacing out a bit more at work compared to preferring to return to the comfort of the couch when at home.

Also, when I'm at work, I tend to hold it a bit longer until I really do have to go, so by the time I pee, it's just that much more voluminous.
posted by explosion at 9:37 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


How often are you going?

If you're going to the bathroom every 30 minutes, while everyone else goes only every couple of hours, you'll be producing less waste and taking less time to eliminate it. Right?

Maybe you need to find out how frequently your friends are going to the potty.
posted by AngerBoy at 9:38 AM on February 1, 2008


I'm the same. I've never understood why my boyfriend & father need to take a book in with them when they go to the toilet, I can't understand how you can be in there to read more than a paragraph, which hardly seems worth the effort - when I read a book, especially over a long period of time, I usually spend a couple of minutes refreshing my memory of what happened in the last bit I read.

I guess its a case of taking your time with it, especially if that's 'company time'.

I'm a do-er too, as a child I thought eating and sleeping were a waste of time; time that could have been spent playing. I tend to do the 'necessaries' - eating & bathroom stuff as fast as possible (I'd say I probably spend less than 30 minutes a day eating)
posted by missmagenta at 9:44 AM on February 1, 2008


I'm also quick. I don't know what the hell other women are doing in there either.
posted by desuetude at 9:46 AM on February 1, 2008


I'm also quick and used to wonder if there was some secret female ritual that I was supposed to know and was failing to perform. But now I suspect it might be a makeup thing. I was recently among a big crowd of lesbians, and I've never seen a women's bathroom line go quicker. There was very little makeup in the crowd.
posted by PatoPata at 9:48 AM on February 1, 2008


When I'm in a public restroom, I tense up and it takes awhile for me to relax enough to allow any fluid to...drain.
posted by HotPatatta at 9:52 AM on February 1, 2008


I'm the same. I've never understood why my boyfriend & father need to take a book in with them when they go to the toilet, I can't understand how you can be in there to read more than a paragraph, which hardly seems worth the effort - when I read a book, especially over a long period of time, I usually spend a couple of minutes refreshing my memory of what happened in the last bit I read.

Sounds like a fiber problem.
posted by null terminated at 9:54 AM on February 1, 2008


On the seat, I build an elaborate ass gasket with toilet paper so my precious bum doesn't actually touch anyone's filth. Approximate time for this: 30 sec. to 1 minute.

At the urinal, it takes a while to get started, especially if there are other people at the other urinals, and even longer if one of them tries to strike up a conversation with me.

These neuroses do not effect home toilet use.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 10:03 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks everyone. As someone who grew up with one bathroom in the home, spaces out at her desk not the bathroom and has a fairly small bladder that's not shy, I think it's probably a combination of all those things.

It's also a relief to know there are other girls who are at the same pace. I was starting to think I was somehow doing it wrong.
posted by Gucky at 10:05 AM on February 1, 2008


I'm a guy... If I have a toilet stall to myself, I'll sit in there for a few minutes of relaxation and quite thought-time. If someone else comes in while I'm in there to use the urinal, I won't leave until they've left. I also obsessively check to ensure that I've left no signs that I've been there.
posted by drezdn at 10:14 AM on February 1, 2008


Do you tend to do everything quickly? Some people (my husband is the example I can think of), unintentionally do everything at a crazy speed as if it's crucial to just get whatever task is at hand over with. Maybe you're one of those people.


I'm one of those people that does things quickly. I think, for those of us who are like this, it doesn't feel like we're rushing around. I wouldn't notice my speed, if I didn't have other people to compare myself to. I guess my internal clock just runs quicker than normal.

But more key than this, I'm obsessed with efficiency. I am constantly looking for ways to shave time off of activities. For instance, it bugs me when people start daydreaming while they wait for a traffic light to change to green, and then when it does, they're spaced out and not ready to go. So I always stare at the light, and the second it's green, I'm off. I don't do this on purpose. My mind just naturally looks for such solutions.

Once, I realized that I was often missing elevators in my building, because from most vantage points, you can't see all of them. You either have to constantly spin around to see if one behind you is opening, or you'll miss some. They open and close pretty quickly, so if you don't notice one as-soon-as it opens, you'll probably miss it and have to wait for the next one.

When I figured this out, I searched for the best place to stand. I finally found a place, pressed up against a wall, where I could see all but one elevator. So now I go there every day. I don't even think about it. My legs just carry me to that spot.

But this morning, I realized I'm the only person who does this. I don't think it's the norm to examine every nuance of your daily life, looking for ways to tighten up routines. But some of us do it, anyway.
posted by grumblebee at 11:09 AM on February 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Most of my time in public restrooms is spent making sure there is little contact between my skin and the faucet, and my skin and the door. This involves getting two paper towels before washing my hands, one to turn the water on, and one to turn it off. Then I get another paper towel to dry my hands, then a final one to open the door, hold the door open with my foot and toss the door-towel into the trash (if there is one near the door), otherwise I carry it like toxic waste till I can find a trash can.

If there are no paper towels and only that germ-blowing air dryer, most of my time in the public restroom is then spent engaged in a monk-like panic attack as I desperately search for my anti-bac wipes to turn things on and open doors.
posted by necessitas at 11:32 AM on February 1, 2008


I don't use a paper towel to open the bathroom door.

I have seen too many women walk right out after using the bathroom (1 and 2) without washing their hands. I always use a paper towel so that the cooties they have deposited on the door handle do not jump onto my clean hands when I open the door to leave. If there are no paper towels I try to stand around waiting for someone to walk in so I can walk out without touching the door handle. Otherwise I always worry that someone's pee and/or feces will get on my hands. Yeah, this probably makes me a germaphobe but I don't care.
posted by GlowWyrm at 11:45 AM on February 1, 2008


Is there some magical bathroom hokey pokey I'm supposed to do once I get into a stall that I'm missing out on?

If no one's waiting, and I have an enclosed stall to myself, I like to take the opportunity to stretch. Limber up. Get the blood flowing, Carla. Get the lead out, Susan. Reach, and hold.... okay, now relax. Good, good. Remember to hold each position for at least twenty counts. You want to be elderly before your time? No way, dude. Let's get flexible. Think like a cat.

Also, if I have a toothbrush with me, I like to meander over to the sink and brush my teeth. Then wash my face. Then I make some faces in the mirror. Why not? What's the big hurry? You've got a few decades left. Dawdle, man. Dawdle.

Face #1: SURPRISED!
Face #2: Suspicious.
Face #3: "Hey, handsome. What's your name?"
Then you mix-and-match, do a little freestyle, see if you can't come up with some new combinations for the eyebrows and mouth and such. Play around a bit. These are the best years of your life.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:52 AM on February 1, 2008 [20 favorites]


>I'm the same. I've never understood why my boyfriend & father need to take a book in with them when they go to the toilet, I can't understand how you can be in there to read more than a paragraph, which hardly seems worth the effort.

>Sounds like a fiber problem.

I have long toilet sessions. It takes a while before it feels like everything's out. Are you saying that if I ate more fiber, I might instead have one huge dump instead of several small ones and get out of the bathroom sooner?
posted by JimN2TAW at 11:56 AM on February 1, 2008


Sometimes as long as no one is waiting for the stall, I take my Blackberry in there with me. I'm pretty sure that the home bathroom of the future will have internet access within arm's reach.
posted by onlyconnect at 12:09 PM on February 1, 2008


I had a friend who used to fit the archetype of the woman who took forever in the bathroom, but she came back from two years in the Peace Corps an entirely changed woman.

Apparently when the toilet in question is either a poorly maintained pit latrine or around the backside of the nearest tree, just about anyone will take a lot less time.
posted by tkolar at 12:26 PM on February 1, 2008


I'm fast as well. In fact a female friend of mine who is a former marine once told me I peed at military speed.
Although I tend to slow down if there is no one else in the bathroom or if no one is waiting for me to finish.
posted by missmle at 12:55 PM on February 1, 2008


grumblebee -- is your last name Gilbreth, by any chance?
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:58 PM on February 1, 2008


To me, the obvious answer is -- reading.

An observation I'd like to point out is the men I notice dawdling in the restroom the longest are the vain, youthful types who fuss with their hair. I'd imagine women take even longer with primping, but it depends on the individual.
posted by Rash at 2:13 PM on February 1, 2008


Like grumblebee, I'm someone who finds the most efficient way to do things and then proceeds automatically to do them that way. So I've got bathroom stuff down to a science—but that doesn't preclude it from taking a few minutes at times.

If the toilet seat is soaking wet, I'll take a couple swipes to get it clean and dry before sitting down.

If it's #2, well, I may be wiping my ass. Unlike Sheryl Crow, I generally need more than two squares. I was once told I had the "blackest booty" the beholder had ever seen on a white girl. (Not dark, but shapely—this was a compliment.) Perhaps that has some bearing on the matter.

If I stunk up the entire bathroom (women do that sometimes), I may be waiting for you to leave before I leave so I don't have to make some pretend-conciliatory face or, worse, pretend I had nothing to do with it: "God, it's pretty bad in here, huh? Something must be going on with the sewer..." Don't. Want. To Talk. About It.

If I'm bleeding, I may preemptively sop up blood that I'd only end up sitting on for the next hour if I didn't get to it beforehand. That might take a minute.

If I need to change a pad while bleeding, well, I may be waiting for you to leave so I can do that in peace, without anyone wondering who the anachronism is that uses pads. (It's me! I'm an anachronism! Hooray!) There's a little process for that, just as there's a little process even if I'm wearing the Diva Cup.

If my nose starts dripping during this process, I'll have to blow it. That might require some shuffling around of things.

If I happen to have my compact with me, I may powder my nose, so as to avoid doing it in the office, where it may look unprofessional. I may also blot my forehead and nose with a paper towel before leaving the bathroom.

And if you're taking any less than 30 seconds washing your hands with soap, you're not doing it right. Google "30 seconds soap hand-washing" (without quotation marks) or something similar.

You asked.
posted by limeonaire at 2:25 PM on February 1, 2008


grumblebee - I bet you maximize that 'wasted' elevator time too, untying shoelaces, getting house keys ready, unbuttoning jackets, anything that you'd end up having to do once you get off. How does everyone else in the world avoid thinking of these things??
posted by imaswinger at 2:32 PM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


i'm a pretty efficient lady but it takes me forever to pee. i hate public washrooms, so i save it up until it's a dire emergency. (come to think of it, i'm holding a pee right now). from this habit, i have developed a massive bladder and i pee TONS, it takes me over a minute of peeing to empty my bladder each time- and that's certainly not counting the pants-down or cleanup. i'm talking like 750mL of pee at a time (i've measured). it's really unhealthy- and it means i'll never beat you in a pee race.
posted by twistofrhyme at 2:42 PM on February 1, 2008


Embarrassment filter: Some people have IBS and find it's easier to just sit there for 20 minutes than run back and forth 10 times.

It also helps if you have a Blackberry that gets MetaFilter on it to pass the time.

/shame
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 2:46 PM on February 1, 2008


With guys, there's that "last drop" thing. It's never the last drop. A lot of time can be spent deliberating on whether or not to just pack up and leave already.

Oh, and you know that scene in A League of Their Own, where Tom Hanks is peeing for ages and ages, and then he stops, but then it starts up again and it just keeps on going? Sometimes it's really like that.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:53 PM on February 1, 2008


If I stunk up the entire bathroom (women do that sometimes), I may be waiting for you to leave before I leave

Yes. YES.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:55 PM on February 1, 2008


(males too)
posted by Sys Rq at 2:55 PM on February 1, 2008


Ok, I'm very amused because I've actually had this discussion with other women at one of the places I've worked. Answers have been: cleaning the seat, using the paper seat cover and then making sure it flushes (apparently they sometimes they don't on one flush), checking first that there's TP, readjusting stockings/hose, adjusting outfit, and then those who don't like peeing with strangers nearby and they have to psych themselves into being able to go. I know many people who have the later problem. Randomly makeup didn't enter into it.

The only thing that truly makes me insane in public restrooms are people talking on their cell phones in the stall next to me. Ugh. The paper seat covers always make me laugh - in that if the bathroom is gross the seat cover's not going to save me from whatever germs I'm going to pick up from other surfaces. But then I'd not seen these paper seat covers until after I moved to California - so are they everywhere now? Maybe I just never noticed the darn things before...
posted by batgrlHG at 3:12 PM on February 1, 2008


All of these stories are fascinating insights into the behaviors and (dare I say) psychosis of "bathroom habits". Seriously entertaining read (esp., you Greg Nog ! ) Thank you all for sharing.

Ok, fine. I'll share too. For me, its not really a "race". I go in, relax, and just let nature have its course. I dont spend an inordinate amount of time in there.. but its not super fast either. I will agree with the guys that its harder to relax to pee standing at a urinal when there is someone standing directly next to me. Although thankfully at my current job, there is only 1 urinal. woot. I do wash my hands but I dont fixate on germs. Life is to short.
posted by jmnugent at 3:31 PM on February 1, 2008


What do I do in a public bathroom that takes a really long time?

Disturbingly: Sleep.

Even more disturbingly: I'm serious.
Most disturbing of all: On more than one occasion.

And for the record, I'm not a homeless person who uses library computers to access the internet.
posted by BeaverTerror at 9:09 PM on February 1, 2008


Sometimes it's just nice to have a little sit down.
posted by penguin pie at 6:31 AM on February 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


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