Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Tale of the Bathroom Ninja

I hate QA: "Using the bathroom is hard" edition
Today I encountered a new phenomenon at work. I was standing at the urinal doing the sorts of things you'd normally be doing at a urinal (not masturbating! Peeing while thinking about masturbating) when something caught my eye. A strip of toilet paper was visible through the seam between the wall and the toilet stall next to the urinal. Upon further inspection, I determined there was a two-foot length of toilet paper affixed to the inside of the stall, such that it hung down and blocked all of the seam. This prevented anyone standing at the urinals from seeing even a sliver of the stall. The seam itself is not noteworthy; stall walls are often above the floor and a half-inch off the wall to allow easy cleaning. But the mystery of the paper needed slightly more unraveling.

I couldn't get into the stall because there was somebody inside, and I wasn't about to wait. For one, I was at work testing video games and who's gonna test the games if not me? That's right, nobody. You begin to understand my terrible responsibility. Second, striding into a bathroom stall immediately after it is vacated by a Quality Assurance Tester is...well, let's say it's not done. It would be like Indy striding into the Temple of the Crescent Moon without a care in the world, just after that dude's head came bouncing down the steps. It's dangerous in there and you need to respect that danger. So I contented myself by peering at it from my "peers-eye" perspective. Clearly somebody had placed this strip of toilet paper there for the express purpose of concealing the goings-on in this particular stall.

The first question is obviously "Why?" For the same reason that Big Red dropped his pants down to his ankles: the kids in elementary school never shamed it out of him. Yes, they were remiss in their duties, but there's nothing we can do about it now. Clearly this fellow is under the impression that the goings-on in his particular stall are a) somehow radically different from what happens in other stalls; b) of interest to others besides himself and perhaps his personal physician; c) shameful; or some combination of the above. I will concede point C; my Catholic genes leave me convinced that basically anything to do with the human body is sinful and ought to be hidden.

Aside: my father is a recovering Catholic and while I support his battle, I am ever-mindful of the fact that I am, statistically, at severe risk for Catholicism. It informs everything I do. Just know that if you ever ask me to apologize for anything, I may fall off the wagon altogether.

But let's explore points A and B. I must admit the former may be true. There is an individual at work of such girth that he cannot wear normal clothing. Even the traditional tent-like garb of the QA Tester does him no good; he must send away to his tailors, Messers Barnum & Bailey, for a colorful work-appropriate jumpsuit. Those guys sure know their way around an acre of canvas. Anyway, I have been in the bathroom while this man emerges from a stall. Whatever he does in there is not what I do. I've never looked afterwards, but the smell alone is enough to shake the foundations of my personal belief system. Were anyone to actually enter the stall and look in the bowl, we'd have some serious Lovecraftian shit on our hands. Figuratively speaking. The point is, guys in my line of work endure physical processes you may not be aware of. So we have to concede point A as a possibility.

Point B? That's just silly. Let me be the first to assure you, Nervous Pooper: I have no designs on the information you work so hard to protect. Even had I, the best I could manage given the layout of the bathroom would be to squeeze my face against the tile wall and press an eye to the seam. This would give me access to...what, exactly? Maybe the identity of the man within? Half the time I can tell that just by the sounds of his labored breathing, intense enough that it's practically the guy's voice (QA guys eat a lot of red meat). The picture above is of the actual bathroom that Senator Larry Craig got arrested in! So there are some situations in which authority figured might want to know what's going on in there. But it's also pretty clear that Sen. Craig wasn't entirely sure what was "going on in there." Let's just call that episode a fluke.

Most likely, it's just the personal mania of one poorly-adjusted individual. It's actually kind of brilliant, at least from my perspective as an observer. Why? Because of the deniability. If you have an intensely weird personal quirk (I do!), it's important to shield it from the prying eyes of others. I refer not to the mechanics of this guy's #2 process, but the fact that he sets up a goddamn strip of spy-proof paper. Unless somebody actually saw you putting the paper up, it's completely deniable. After all, nobody aside from the janitor is taking that paper down once it's up. If I got in there and saw it, I would be weirded out. But I wouldn't take it down, because a crazy person put it there and who knows if you'll get crazy by taking it down? So you leave it up. But for this reason, anyone else looking at it from the outside wouldn't know who put it up or when. Thus, total deniability: even the guy who put up the paper could say it was already there when he sat down. I mean, he'd be saying it with tears of potty shame raining down his face. But he could say it, and you'd pretend to believe it.

I'd just like to offer some advance to Mr. Shamey McWorkpoop: go to your happy place. Reach a state of mind that allows you to do your business, then close your eyes and let it fly. Fiber helps with this. I'm in and out of that stall before you're done measuring the proper length of toilet paper to hide your shame. We all believe in you. Spread your wings and fly, much like Willy spread his fins and jumped over that breakwater with the kid going Yeaahhhhhhh! Speaking of which, weren't they at a marina? Wouldn't there have to be a way for boats and things to get out? Yeah, I see through you, "Free Willy." You've lost so much respect that you've gotta deal with the quotation marks. Even Biodome gets italics.

White Trash Recipes
Thought I'd share a few of these. Another way I keep my life simple is to cut corners on food preparation and grocery-buying wherever possible. For example, I rarely buy or cook meat because it has a short shelf life and it forces me to wash a lot of things after preparing it. Lunchmeat doesn't demand these things of me, and that's why it's earned a place on my sandwiches. I've discovered some really nice culinary shortcuts that allow you to enjoy the flavor of delicious foods without actually having to prepare those foods.

White Trash Nachos
1 bag tortilla chips
6oz cheese, in block form (any type, obv. Cheddar works best for our purposes here)

Cut open the bag of chips using a pair of sharp kitchen shears (I mean scissors. If you aren't Asian, these will be found in a room that is not the kitchen). Place the block of cheese on a bare table surface near a television; ideally a surface littered with empty beer cans and desiccated pot stems. Place a tortilla chip in your mouth. With a clean paring knife, slice the cheese to desired thickness. Place the slice of cheese in your mouth along with the tortilla chip, and chew to desired consistency. Swallow as appropriate.

White Trash Cherry Pie
1 container Trader Joe's Cat Cookies
1 bag dried cranberries

This is a nice simple dessert with minimal preparation. Open both packages, and place both cookies and cranberries inside your mouth at the same time. Ratio of cookies:cranberries varies to taste, but best results are reported at around 1:4. Creates a disturbingly accurate cherry pie flavor despite involving neither cherry nor pie. Kinda like how prairie oysters are neither oysters nor products of the prairie. Did you know that oysters are actually a marine animal and are not typically found on prairies? It's true! Anyway, it turns out "prairie oysters" are just balls. Not even balls from the prairie; just balls from balls.

What a disappointment.

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