the curse of the talking bathroom lady

Part of the hellishness of the office park my firm is located in, besides it being a dirty ghetto building just off the interstate that gets broken into on a regular basis, is that the bathrooms are not exclusive to me and my co-workers. Not that I'm a snob, or a misanthrope, or any of those bad things. Certainly not me. And yet......

You see, there is this woman that works in one of the office suites down the hall. She must drink as much coffee as I do, because she goes to the bathroom a LOT. And every time I see her in there, she says hi. It's not the usual half-whispered "hi" that most people give to strangers in the bathroom, acknowledging the other person and identifying oneself as Not A Snob Or Misanthrope while simultaneously respecting the rules of the bathroom, which are that you are all there for an EMBARRASSING REASON and therefore should not be too brash. Right? I mean, mostly the word "hi" doesn't even escape people's lips. It's just kind of a half-smile and momentary eye contact which is IMMEDIATELY discontinued the second it's made. That's just how it is. This woman from down the hall, however, says:


Loud, strident voice. I can actually hear her from my desk when somebody out in the hall has the misfortune to be caught by her. And caught they most certainly do get. The rules for interactions with Talking Bathroom Lady are this:

1. Do not make eye contact.
2. Do not -- and this is the important one -- do NOT respond with "Fine, how are you?"

Because if you do, she will tell you how she is. It's never a short story, nothing that could be summarized in 25 words or less or be described as "in a nutshell." She will also tell you how the weather is, how the air conditioning is in various rooms of her office suite, how her lunch was. It doesn't stop when the stall doors are closed, either. Usually if you're talking to someone by the sinks and then you both go into the stalls, conversation stops. It's like talking on the phone while using the toilet at home. You just don't do it. Talking Bathroom Lady sure does, though, and when she's finished she comes out of the stall and keeps talking while she washes her hands, and has been known to trap people in front of the office door they're trying to go through.

In my defense, it's not just me. One of my coworkers recently had a baby, and up until she went to maternity leave this woman would follow her into the bathroom asking intensely personal questions about her pregnancy. A couple times she even came INTO OUR OFFICE and sought out my pregnant co-worker. Since this co-worker came back from her maternity leave about a month ago, Talking Bathroom Lady has been asking ME about her. The reason: the co-worker herself has somehow managed to avoid Talking Bathroom Lady for an entire month. It's a mystery to me how she's managed this, because I sure haven't.

I've tried, though. I'm so afraid of her that if I'm in a stall and someone comes in, I will stay put in that stall until I either identify that person's shoes or actually see the person through the crack at the side of my door. If I can't do either of these I will stay there with my pants around my ankles, crouching and peering and very alert, until the person leaves. It's all very Seinfeldian. Kind of like the spare a square episode, really. Except that the characters on that show are famously misanthropic, and I AM NOT.

We're moving to a new building in late August. We will have exclusive rights to the bathrooms there. This will be great.

I'm not sure who's going to clean them, though....


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