Blog Week 42: Sensitive stuff.

Sunday 10 September 21.08

In my job as the office manager's stooge, all sorts of weird and wonderful matters come up. Some are merger-related, other ones are not. Most I don't tell you about. You understand ...

Well a sensitive issue has come up that Pierre has asked me to deal with. It concerns the use - or rather misuse - of the female toilets. We don't know who the culprit(s) is/are, but let's just say we have some messy, inconsiderate users and there have been complaints from some of the partners. There is a particular concern about the impression created for visiting clients.

So I am now "tasked" with spreading a quiet word" around the female half of the office about this issue. How do I subtly-yet-clearly talk about it?

Monday 11 September 23.11

Office life is full of small coincidences. After yesterday's entry, Mockney sent the following email about visiting a woman visiting a public lavatory in the US. Thankfully our problem is not on the same scale. Here's a part of the email:

"When you have to visit a public lavatory, you usually find a queue of women, so you smile politely and take your place. Once it's your turn, you check for feet under the stall doors. Every stall is occupied. Finally, a door opens and you dash in, nearly knocking down the woman leaving the stall. You get in to find the door won't latch. It doesn't matter.

The dispenser for the modern "seat covers" (invented by someone's mom, no doubt) is handy, but empty. You would hang your handbag on the door hook, if there were one, but there isn't -- so you carefully, but quickly, drape it around your neck, (Mom would turn over in her grave if you put it on the FLOOR!), yank down your pants, and assume "The Stance."

In this position your aging, toneless thigh muscles begin to shake. You'd love to sit down, but you certainly hadn't taken time to wipe the seat or lay toilet paper on it, so you hold "The Stance."

To take your mind off your trembling thighs, you reach for what you discover to be the EMPTY toilet paper dispenser. In your mind, you can hear your mom's voice saying, "Honey, if you had tried to clean the seat, you would have KNOWN there was no toilet paper!" Your thighs shake more. You remember the tiny tissue that you blew your nose on yesterday

- the one that's still in your handbag. That would have to do. You crumple it in the puffiest way possible. It is still smaller than your thumbnail.

Someone pushes open your stall door because the latch doesn't work. The door hits your handbag, which is hanging around your neck in front of your chest, and you and your handbag topple backward against the cistern of the toilet. "OCCUPIED!" you scream, as you reach for the door dropping your precious, tiny, crumpled tissue in a puddle on the floor, lose your footing altogether, and slide down directly on the TOILET SEAT. It is wet of course.

You bolt up, knowing all too well that it's too late. Your bare bottom has made contact with every imaginable germ and life form on the uncovered seat because YOU never laid down toilet paper - not that there was any, even if you had taken time to try.

You know your mother would be utterly appalled if she knew, because, you're certain, her bare bottom never touched a public toilet seat because, frankly, dear, "You just don't KNOW what kind of diseases you could get."

By this time, the automatic sensor on the back of the toilet is so confused that it flushes, propelling a stream of water like a firehose that somehow sucks everything down with such force that you grab onto the toilet paper dispenser for fear of being dragged in too. At that point, you give up. You are soaked by the spewing water and the wet toilet seat. You're exhausted. You try to wipe with a gum wrapper you found in your pocket and then slink out inconspicuously to the sinks."

I think most women will empathise with this email. So I have a cunning idea to forward this email with an appropriately jovial-but-threatening message about toilet etiquette and see if that works? I'll ask my boss.

Tuesday 12 September 23.58

Pierre has agreed. The relevant partner has agreed. I was congratulated on my sensitive solution to this problem. The partner and Pierre will draft the message and I will email it tomorrow.

Wednesday 13 September 21.43

The email was circulated, in my name, to the female part of the office this morning. Got quite a few replies saying how funny and true it was. More mess was reported this afternoon, so I am not sure what happens next ...

Thursday 14 September 22.57

We wasted time tying ourselves up in knots as today the toilet "vandal" was nabbed - and it was not one of us!

I was in the Ladies' this morning and a client, who has been visiting the office a fair bit lately, came out of one of the cubicles. We smiled, then she walked out (not even bothering to wash her hands).

Well I was a bit curious, so I peered into her cubicle. It was disgusting. I'll not give a description (closer to Monday's email).

I told Pierre what I had seen. He and the partners now face a dilemma: dare they bring this subject up with a client? If so, how?

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