Twice a week I do some consulting work. This takes place in a small office building in an industrial park. The building is run-down and airless, but it has one redeeming feature: It has a great Men's Room.
The Men's Room is in a prime location, at the cul-de-sac of a long hallway, far removed from the main work areas. I happen to be one of about three men in this building, and for some reason, the other two have the habit of turning off the light when they leave the bathroom. I don't know if this is meant to be some kind of signal, but the upshot is that when I round the corner of the hallway, I can quickly glance down towards the end and know instantly if someone else is in there.
It doesn't end with that. The bathroom has two stalls and a urinal, nothing special, but it is LOUD. By that I mean, there is some kind of fan or generator or condenser or something in there that is always making A LOT of background noise. That's right. It's what they call in the Bathroom business "covering fire." You can make all the noise you want and no one will hear you. I like to think of it as my own little piece of Heaven.
All was good until last week. Last week we moved to a new building. Aesthetically, it is much nicer. It has higher ceilings, more carpeting, big airy work spaces, and Muzak. But the bathroom...
I arrived last week and asked politely where the Men's Room was. They pointed me to a spot around the corner, right next to the lunchroom and directly across from where some woman sits. Hmm, I thought, there's a slight problem, but at least Muzak fills the air; it may provide some cover.
I ventured into the bathroom. I have to say, it was one of the best-smelling bathrooms I had ever been in. Some kind of active fragrance system. Whatever. I noticed only one stall. Now, in and of itself, the one-stall bathroom is not necessarily inferior to your multi-stall bathroom. At least you know someone isn't going to sit down next to you and attempt to smoke you out.
The Muzak was piped into the bathroom as well, but to be honest, it didn't provide the sort of noise-dampening I had hoped for. I could tell as I entered that the stall was already occupado. I opted to use the urinal in the meantime. Here's where the major problem emerged.
As I walked from the door towards the back wall, I passed the stall at an oblique angle, where the one major glaring defect came into full view: The Gap. There was a gap between the door frame of the stall, and the door itself. Now, I'm not talking about the upper or lower cut-aways. I've come to understand that for some aesthetic reason, or maybe it's a safety issue, bathroom stall designers have elected to progressively chop away at the amount of cover the door provides, both above and below. I can handle that. Although I'm still somewhat traumatized by that incident in first grade when those kids suddenly poked their heads over the top of my stall...
But I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about the side gap. As I walked past the stall, I came upon a certain angle at which I could now see a full floor-to-ceiling view of the stall occupant. True, it was only a 2-inch-wide gap, but as I walked past it, it panned its way completely across the man, who was obviously very intent on doing his business, and was just as startled as me when we made eye contact.
At that point I turned around and marched right out of there, knowing that I could never feel comfortable in that bathroom.
Alas, I have been cast down into purgatory.