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©01 The Media Desk

NOTE: In a former life, the Desk was a maintenance man. So don't get any weird ideas about how it comes to know so much about the inner workings of restrooms.

Have you ever noticed the noise level differences between men's restrooms and women's?

         Several weeks ago the Desk was out in the hallway discussing a new computer virus with a coworker when the following happened. A lady walked around the corner and entered the ladies room. As the door opened and closed, a veritable bedlam of chatter floated out. In a minute or two a gentleman from another office came down the hall and entered the men's room. The Desk knew that in the restroom two other men already there, but there was silence from the room.

         Wondering if this was just a freak occurrence the Desk started to pay attention to this detail. And after study it seems to be the norm.

         At a local international airport if you wait outside the restrooms for another member of your party the difference is striking. From the women's room you can hear a constant murmur of voices. And it's not just the excited chatter of children like one female claimed when asked about it on another occasion. The men's room: almost dead quiet. If any child speaks in there, its voice is simply the exclamation point to the silence.

         The shopping mall. The entrances to the restrooms are side by side. You can stand between them and compare the decibel level. It's amazing.

         The same holds true at churches, truck stops, movie theaters, and hospitals.

         The layouts of the rooms in question is not all that much different, except the women's usually has more stalls, and occasionally a couch or padded bench where the Blue Laws still require furniture in the 'Women's Lounge'. Almost all public restrooms now have baby changing facilities in both as well as handicapped stalls. And in most the sinks, toilets, and urinals are so politically correct it's actually an inconvenience to anybody over five foot ten. Yes, the rooms are almost perfect echo chambers, so maybe one conversation can bounce around in there for three hours and seem like it's an auctionhouse, but that doesn't explain all of the yapping.

         Could it be that women go to the restroom in packs when in public so they have somebody to talk to? Some things are maybe best left unknown. Anyway...

         This is a sample of the majority of conversations that occurred during the study period in men's rooms over the better part of five states from Delawhere to Ohio.

         "Morning." "Orioles lost again." "You goin' out to lunch?" "Yeah, see ya later."

         There is no way to summarize the conversations overheard and reported by female accomplices over the same period. Everything from talk stories about diapers to the family's history back to 1575 in Lithuania happens in there. Husbands and boyfriends are subject to discussion, evaluation, and suggestion from total strangers inside the hallowed walls of the ladies room. Everything a child said and did from conception to college graduation is trotted out and held before the committee. Future plans are laid and vast conspiracies are formed between women who only have in common the fact that they had had too much coffee that morning.

         If a man laughs in the restroom he gets nervous sideways looks and frowns. Somebody may reach for their sidearm and eye the laugher with fear and loathing. He is as shunned and avoided as a leper. However, in the women's room, laughter is heard regularly and often. Sometimes open crying is heard. But mostly, it's talk. A man will sit on the pot and read the paper. To do so in the ladies room would imply you were anti-social and possibly even in the wrong bathroom.

         Unprovoked maximum verbosity.

         That's the phrase. And a good phrase it is at that.

         Why don't men talk in their private room? Why don't they discuss wives and girlfriends and kids and the Indianapolis Colts starting wide receivers? They do. And here it is: "The wife spent eighty five bucks getting her hair done yesterday." "Dang. ... Who's the Nets playing tonight?" "I think they're in Boston."

         See. Men talk in the bathroom. Of course during that conversation five guys passed through the room, they came in did their business and left, two of whom washed their hands. And the guys that were talking were ignored by the rest. Something else. When men are done doing what they came in to do, they leave. If they are waiting on one of the other guys to go back to wherever they came from, they wait outside. Women will wait in the bathroom until they are all done, then leave together.

         Is there some rules of restroom etiquette in play here? Not that the Desk knows of. But it points to those inherent differences between men and women that the feminists deny. There are differences. Big differences. A man considers throwing water on his face and washing his hands 'freshening up'. Elapsed time, forty five seconds. We won't discuss the grimacing contortions a woman puts herself through behind that closed door.

         Are all men silently quick and efficient in there? No. Some seem to meditate while relieving themselves. Others strike poses reminiscent of a proud four-year-old proving he's a big boy, hands on hips, head up, slightly leaning forward or backward. Others sigh deeply, or mutter to themselves about how they forgot to make an important phone call. But the general rule is, get in, get it over with, and get out. And sometimes, that is done in self-defense. Perhaps it is due to the fact that behind that closed stall door a three hundred thirty pound man is moaning loudly due to an overdose of Chinese food last night and that thunder you heard as you walked in was not due to lightening outside.

         The single largest restroom the Desk has ever seen in a public place was in Union Station in Chicago. The men's room was simply huge. Maybe it has it's own ZIP code. And the conversation in this huge room with dozens of men from all over the country coming and going? Not dead silence, but almost. Some guy was talking to the attendant up by the door. There were soldiers in there, college kids, a couple of winos, and so on. And for the most part all to be heard was water running and the exhaust fans. Across the passage, the noise from the women's room rivaled that of the main lobby where the loudspeakers announced the departure of the 'City of New Orleans' on track seventeen.

         Oh well. Such is life.

         It was just something the Desk noticed as it observes the human condition.



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