Every now and then, even the staunchest home-bathroom-only poopers will find themselves using the facilities in unfamiliar — even hostile — territory. Regardless of your feelings on the issue, keeping your impending dump from innocent eyes, ears and noses can be a tricky situation. So to help you navigate the intricacies of voiding your bowels near other actual humans (who you never want to find out that you were, in fact, voiding your bowels in their presence), we asked three qualified experts how to handle the most delicate of these situations.
On a Plane
Expert: Erika Roth, former flight attendant
Time Limit: Five minutes, 10 max. Twenty minutes will get you a knock on the door
The Best Time to Go: As soon as the seatbelt sign is off, before drink service begins.
The Method: According to Roth, who encountered numerous splashdowns in her eight years on the job, unless you’re on a long-haul flight with multiple lavatory options, your best bet is to hold it, as odor is a problem in the cramped cabin of an airplane. “Close quarters, poor ventilation and a lack of efficient plumbing — to be blunt, the stench can fill a cabin quickly,” she explains.
If you have to go, Roth suggests an old flight-attendant trick: “Ask an attendant for packets of coffee grounds, then hang them up in the lavatory. The grounds will soak up the odor.” Of course, the flight attendants will know exactly what you’re doing in there, but your fellow passengers will be none the wiser.
At a Restaurant
Expert: Eric Shani, restaurant GM
Time Limit: 5–7 minutes
The Best Time to Go: Before eating, or once the check comes
The Method: Not sure how to excuse yourself from the table for more than five minutes without giving yourself away? “One classic excuse you can make is a phone call that can’t wait,” says Shani, who runs the popular gastropub, The Pikey, in L.A. “Make it business-related. This does two things: It gives you time to use the bathroom and makes you seem important.”
As another point of etiquette, if the kitchen staff uses the same restroom as the diners, be a pal and “hold the door open for any staff going in immediately after you — that way, if they’re going straight back to cooking, they don’t have to touch the filthy handle.”
At the Office
Expert: Terry Petracca, HR guru
Time Limit: 5+ minutes, depending on the size of your office
The Best Time to Go: Early in the morning, or during lunch hour
The Method: “Don’t use the bathroom as your personal office,” says Petracca, MEL’s resident HR expert. “Talking on your cellphone when there are people who can overhear you isn’t something most people do, but if it’s single stall, they’ll spend inordinate time on their cell phone, browsing Facebook, sending and receiving texts or making and taking personal calls.”
Beyond that, remember that in some offices, bathrooms are communal. “Put the toilet lid down when you’re done, wipe up after yourself if you’ve got bad aim and let someone know if there’s no toilet paper — you might not need it all the time, but your female colleagues do.”