Tom Ross: A brief visit to the ladies’ restroom
February 20, 2010
I can't be the only guy in the universe to ever accidentally walk into the women's restroom at work. But I might be the only guy to escape the ladies' facilities undetected and then write about it in the newspaper.
Let's face it — mistakenly walking into the women's comfort station is every guy's workplace nightmare. No matter how innocent your indiscretion, you run the risk of triggering an outburst of shrieking and the possibility of needing to make lame explanations that always will leave a shred of doubt in your co-workers' minds.
On a busy day at work this week, I was preoccupied with a complex story when I got up from my desk to answer the call down the hall. I was gazing at the floor and lost in thought, clutching a piece of the City Council agenda packet in my left hand when I made the familiar sharp right turn toward the men's room.
Without looking up, I hit the door with my right hand and took two strides into the well-lit facility when I got my first inkling that something was amiss.
"Why are the sinks on the wrong side of the room?" I wondered. I looked up in time to watch an expression of growing horror spreading over my face in the mirror. Fortunately for me, I did not see any other faces in the mirror, and I maintained silence. If there was somebody on the other side of the wall, where I presume there are several porcelain fixtures, they never knew I was there.
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It's interesting to contemplate how I would have handled it had one of my colleagues been standing at the sink washing her hands when I blundered into the room. Would I have had the presence of mind to nonchalantly say something like, "Hey there, we're out of soap on the other side. Mind if I wash up here?"
Or would I have taken a bold risk with a request like, "Can I borrow a smidgen of mascara? My tube ran dry."
I'm happy to report that we'll never know the answer to those questions.
Approximately two nanoseconds after I glimpsed my own panicked expressions in the mirror, I did an about-face faster than the Indianapolis Colts' Dwight Freeney can spin around an offensive lineman, and I walked calmly back out the heavy oak door.
Directly in front of me was the large window into the lunchroom. There could have been a table of four colleagues gazing up from their soup bowls and giving me puzzled looks. But the room was blessedly empty.
I looked left. I looked right. There was nobody in sight as I disappeared into the boys' room. Home free? I scanned the ceiling to see if I could spot any surveillance video cameras I might have previously overlooked.
"Wait, that's crazy," I thought. "Employers don't put video cameras in restrooms! Do they?" Just in case, I gave a sheepish little smile and waved at the heating vent.
After washing my hands, I took two deep breaths and returned to my desk as if nothing had happened. As of Friday, I hadn't received a single e-mail threatening blackmail. So far, so good.
I solemnly vow that from now on, I will always look before … well, let's just say I'm going to strive to reduce my risk factor by reducing my daily trips to the comfort station and in so doing increase my productivity. And while I'm at it, I'm going to stop outside the door of the men's room and make visual confirmation before I cross the threshold.
I know there have to be more of you out there who share this terrifying experience with me, and I forgive you for keeping your secret. I've elected to go public just so that other men know they are not the only airheads in the office. Feel better yet? Maybe we could form a support group.
Because it could happen to anyone — in the workplace or in a crowded tavern.
Some of you may have fallen victim to Mexican-style restaurants where a person has to be fluent in Spanish in order to decipher which is the appropriate restroom door.
Let me think for a moment. Am I a caballero or would I be classified as a dama? I'll take a chance on caballero.