by Roger White
I sometimes wonder when I’m in private places—like making my choice-of-urinal decision in the men’s room at work or standing buck nekkid in my closet pondering the day’s wardrobe selection—if I’m being secretly spied upon by sociologist types through two-way mirrors or microscopically sized drones or what have they. I sometimes wonder this not because I’m of the mind that sociologist types are pervs necessarily (though they very well may be), but because I believe sociologist types could glean much human behavior information from observing everyday folks in their solitary moments.
We are creatures of habit, and nowhere are these habits more noticeable than when no one is noticing. Wait. Did that make sense? (writer breathes into cupped hands here, smells no whisky, continues on)
Take, for example, the urinal selection process. At my workplace, there are three urinals in the bathroom. Whenever I heed nature’s call at work and I see that nobody else is in the can at the moment, I instinctively go for Urinal #1 or Urinal #3. Urinal #2—the one in the middle—is never an option, unless
urinals 1 and 3 are caked in hideousness and chewed gum and random bits of human effluence. This natural selection process takes place on a subconscious level, I believe, for 91.73 percent of males because the great majority of males do not prefer to stand directly next to other males when doing their business. It’s a personal space issue.
My theory on this matter seems to be verified whenever I am Guy #2 in the john because Guy #1 is almost always at Urinal #1 or Urinal #3, leaving the other end urinal open so his personal space is not violated, either. The 8.27 percent of males who blatantly flout this societal convention and unashamedly bare their wares at Urinal #2 are for the most part raging extroverts or adamant alternative lifestyle proponents. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
I have a PowerPoint presentation on this theory available for viewing if you’re interested. I wonder if women experience a similar phenomenon with stall selection?
The buck-nekkid-in-my-closet-pondering-the-day’s-wardrobe procedure also bears out my creatures-of-habit theorem. Try as I might to vary up my workaday wardrobe, it’s always the same: Monday is my dour brown checkered shirt/black slacks; Tuesday is the infinitesimally cheerier light brown checkered shirt/black slacks; Wednesday is humpday blue and gray with the faux cashmere socks; and so on. It can’t be helped. And truth be told, there is a bit of comfort in the consistency. Somehow, I feel that all is right with the world when it’s Wednesday and I’m standing at Urinal #3 in my faux cashmere socks and Fred is at Urinal #1 intentionally avoiding eye contact with me and my wares, as I am with him and his boys.
Now, the problem arises when one is contentedly minding one’s business, following creature-of-habit protocol, and someone else—no matter how unintentionally—ignores or outright runs roughshod over one’s creature-of-habit comportment. Hall passings are a good example. At work, we have these inordinately long hallways. They’re a pain when trying to get from place to place—say, when you’re making your way urgently to what you hope is open Urinal #1—but in reality, these extraordinarily lengthy halls are conducive to maintaining creature-of-habit equilibrium. When all are cooperating, mind you. We all know that everyone walks on the right, with opposing traffic passing on the left. If, for some reason (e.g., texting one’s daughter to get the hell up and get to class; looking down to double-check proper fly closure; etc.), you find yourself walking on the left, these long, long hallways give you plenty of advance notice to get back to the right before oncoming traffic creates confusion. The difficulty arises when an opposing hallwalker is not observing the stay-to-the-right covenant. When clearing of the throat or dropping one’s keys fails to alert this wrong-way yahoo, options immediately become either (a) zipping to the left, which usually causes the wrong-way walker to parry your move and results in an awkward dance; or (b) walking so far to the right in an attempt to protect your lane that you actually begin generating heat and friction against the wall.
My habit in this situation was almost always to hug the wall—until in one instance the terrible friction actually caused my faux cashmere socks to catch fire. What I do nowadays is pretend to forget something and beat an immediate retreat.
Is it just me, or are these things universal?
Oh, btw (which, for you dinosaurs unfamiliar with social media, doesn’t mean “bob tickles wimmen”—it means “by the way,” I think), grand prize winner in our semi-quarterly Quizzical Quotes contest last edition was Mr. Greer Tedford. Or maybe it was Ted Greerford. I forget. Congrats, anyway. Greer won some wonderful parting gifts and a lifetime supply of Aunt Mildred’s Dehydrated Water in Cans.
Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a morbidly obese dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr Syndrome. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com. Or not.