The Office Annoyance No One Really Talks About

Forbes has a piece up today about the office habits of the clueless and the obnoxious, and the story started off with an anecdote about a young Wisconsin woman whose female coworker yaps too much on her cellphone, unwittingly sharing such intimacies as the status of her menstrual cycles, her relationships, and her problems getting pregnant. (Apparently, cell phones are not only an annoyance outside of the office, but in it as well! Where did we hear this before?). Forbes went onto list other office pet peeves like using a speakerphone with the office door open; smelly food; unkempt communal kitchens; and intrusive instant messaging alerts. But strangely, (suspiciously!) there was nary a mention of bathrooms. Which is funny because, as many know, there's almost nothing more disgusting than a workplace restroom, particularly one shared by women. In fact, for a gender that's notorious for fastidiousness and cleanliness, many women are almost as disgusting — if not more than — men when they're at work. But why? And who are they?

Back when we worked at one particular ladymag for a particular company notorious for its high-gloss sheen (and hatred of garlic), we routinely encountered things like vomit, leftover cocaine lines and unflushed toilets... sometimes with no toilet paper in them. (Yeah, we don't really want to know either). Professional positions elsewhere yielded similar (though not so raunchy) results: Blood splatters on floors, paper strewn this way and that, and, that old standby: Urine all over the toilet seat. All of it was enough to make us want to call the company's corporate office managers and demand they give the after-hours cleaning crew big raises. It was also enough to make us take a closer look at just who the hell we were working with, and wonder if the mousy, quiet assistant down the hall was in reality public restroom offender Number One. We never figured out who was doing what, but we did collect some theories!

One friend says she thinks women trash office bathrooms because it's one of the only ways for them to express their anger or assert their power in the workplace. Another (a philosophy major, she!) wonders if it isn't the The Tragedy Of The Commons, where, when something "belongs" to everyone, everyone treats it like, uh, shit. We wonder if it has something to do with former NYC mayor Rudy Giuilani's belief about graffiti (that the messier the environment, the higher the crime-rate) or contemporary corporate arrogance, i.e. the fact that there's always someone lower on the food chain whose job it is to clean up after you, no matter how minor or major the mess. But maybe, as a certain other Jezebel puts it, it's simply about female bonding: That is, women leave messes in order to encourage conversation with other women. After all, who hasn't run into a colleague in the bathroom, seen or smelled something disgusting, and (assuming the co-worker was not the culprit) began bitching and moaning about everyone else she works with? "The bonding process is that much quicker and more intense when another woman's stuff is there messing up the place," explains the Jezebel. "Bonding in the bathroom is just about having a convenient common female enemy, like an olfactory version of Ann Coulter."

How Loud Is Too Loud? [Forbes]
Related: Another Problem With No Name: Gals In Public Stalls [NY Observer]
The Ladies Room [Media Projects]
Earlier: Smart Phones, Foolish Women