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Male Restroom Etiquette

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The disguised Ruby doesn't know the rules, but should be able to guess.

Urinal neighbor: I'm a big fan of the work.
Tycho: Like, here? In the urinal?
Urinal neighbor: No. Like, the comics and stuff.
Tycho: Oh! Thanks. Thank you.
Tycho: It's like, there are rules! You're supposed to pee in reverent silence, like monks.
Gabe: Tell me about it. That's why I use the ladies' room.

While the Wondrous Ladies Room may be a place for chatting, primping, and various Women's Mysteries, the men's restroom is a place dedicated to speed and efficiency. When using the restroom, men must observe certain unspoken guidelines that dictate their behavior therein and speed up the process of using the lavatory. Except in extenuating circumstances, such as overcrowding, any breach of these guidelines is discouraged and can lead to some awkward and embarrassing situations.

  1. Keep all interaction to a bare minimum. Do not make eye contact with other men, as this may be interpreted as an unwelcome invitation. Also, never let your gaze wander to any body part of another occupant, whether or not he is of any genuine interest to you.
  2. When selecting a urinal, stay as far away from other men as possible, so as to better comply with the previous rule. Strict adherents sometimes use a stall or elect to wait if no non-adjacent urinal is available.
  3. Avoid making unnecessary noises. While grunting is never appropriate, the occasional cough is usually all right, though there is always the chance that this could be misinterpreted, as per rule number 1.
  4. And finally, the one rule that must never, ever, be broken: Never say a single word while within the restroom. Not only is it an unnecessary noise, but it grates against the philosophy of speed and efficiency that governs Male Restroom Etiquette. It slows down the transaction process and makes using the restroom awkward and unpleasant for other occupants.

Whenever Male Restroom Etiquette is brought up in media, it is usually Played for Laughs as we watch some poor soul try to use the restroom while another man shows complete disregard for the above rules. And while many men can attest that these rules are indeed Truth in Television, most know that a breach of these rules is not so awkward as some make it out to be. Contrast The Can Kicked Him (or its subtrope Camping a Crapper), the ultimate breach of etiquette.


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    Comic Books 
  • One one-page gag of the comic Le Petit Spirou was dedicated to this.
  • Often referred to in Sid the Sexist in Viz, which also makes up some rules:
    Can't use the urinal until you've drunk 10 pints of beer.
    Anything more than three shakes is a wank.

    Fan Works 
  • In Empire, a Harry Potter AU Crack Fic, to Lucius's annoyance, one of his spies meets with him in the men's room.
  • In Succession (sub-story of Olivine Romance, a Pokémon fanfic), Steven Stone complains about violators of this trope while mentally appreciating his own private Executive Restroom.

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Simpsons Movie, Homer references the "more than three shakes" rule.
  • In The Angry Birds Movie 2, while disguised as an eagle, the team tries to grab a pass they need from one of Zeta's guards. Unfortunately, he's at the urinal, requiring them to repeatedly violate his personal space to try to get the pass. The guard is very uncomfortable throughout the process.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Real Genius: The hyperactive Jordan finds Mitch at a urinal and obliviously bombards him with questions. Doesn't help rather shy 15-year-old Mitch's composure in this situation that Jordan is female.
  • Spaceballs: President Skroob gets a video phone call while in the restroom, much to his visible consternation.
  • One scene in Starman has the titular alien watching a man using the urinal in a gas station's men's room. Once he realizes he's being watched, the man gets annoyed, thinking that Starman is a gay guy who's interested in him.
    Men's Room Guy: [sigh] Every god-damn place you go...
  • In Waiting..., this is what caused Calvin's phobia of public restrooms. One time a man was in the adjacent urinal, and just wouldn't stop staring at his junk. A few days later, he's in a similar situation, except this time the other guy was adhering to the standard rules. Calvin still yelled "QUIT STARING AT MY COCK!" and ran out.
    Calvin: In hindsight, I may have overreacted on that one.
  • Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle: Fridge tells Bethany (who is in a male body) most emphatically that you do NOT look at another man's penis while they are peeing. Spencer stresses the importance of aiming while you pee.
  • In Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Ace tries to get a look at a man's ring while standing next to him in the restroom. When the man notices Ace's gaze, rather than getting offended he offers up a big grin.
  • In A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song, an wannabe musical groupnote  follows Luke into the "facilities" and start singing while using the urinals around him. Fortunately they're really good.
    Luke: Look, you're right. They have potential, and they're great. But first, my talent-finding friend, promise me no more auditions in the bogs.
  • Hercules Returns. Several yuppies are shown using their mobile phones to make deals while using a row of urinals in the workplace toilet. When the protagonist interrupts to speak to one of them directly, he gets annoyed.

  • Mentioned repeatedly in Isaac Asimov's The Caves of Steel and its sequels. In the society of the future Earth, the women's "Personals" are social centers, but the men adhere strictly to the no-interaction rule. It's presented as being a much stronger taboo there, as the protagonist nearly has a panic attack at the idea of being spoken to in the Personal, and can barely bring himself to do it when it's absolutely necessary and the only other "person" is a robot. It is stated the last time he spoke, he was about nine and cursed at stubbing a toe. A severe spanking followed. The fact that "Personal" also performs the function of a laundromat - one place where men do feel free to chat, in contemporary society, yet they've forfeited this habit to conform to taboos against restroom interaction, in the novels - further exaggerates this trope's stricture, for Asimov's future Earthmen.
  • Dave Barry's Complete Guide to Guys illustrates the urinal selection problem, and shows that five urinals can accommodate three guys using them by keeping a buffer urinal in between Guy C and Guys A and B (B will always take the far one even if it's located a mile away). Problems arise, however, if Guy D should happen to walk in at the same time. The possible outcomes include D waiting despite there being two open spots, going for an empty spot causing every male to stare resolutely at the wall as if the formula for Grape Nuts to platinum was engraved there, or go against the wall.
  • In the first Remnants book, Jobs is washing his hands in the bathroom when Billy comes in. The narration specifically says "Jobs gave him a civil, neutral nod; after all, guys didn’t chat in the rest room," which is so on-the-nose that it kind of gives away that the author is a woman. Incidentally, Billy is currently in some sort of psychic trance, so he winds up freaking Jobs out by a.) staring into space, b.) talking in his native Chechen, and then c.) uttering vague yet ominous Foreshadowing.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Averted in Babylon 5, where Garibaldi would from time to time have actually discussions with both Sinclair and Sheridan while using the facilities.
  • House: House and Wilson are often seen being quite loose about this; they often chat in the bathroom.
  • On How I Met Your Mother Ted and Barney actually met at the urinal. Barney thinks nothing at all of chatting with another guy mid-stream and instantly forming a friendship with him, while Ted struggles to be polite while barely saying anything and avoiding eye contact.
  • NCIS: Flagrantly disregarded by Ziva who (aside from being in there in the first place) has occasionally cornered Tony in the men's room for a heart-to-heart.
    Tony: How long have you been standing there?
    Ziva: Long enough to know you hydrated well for the desert.
  • Mentioned in Roseanne when Roseanne dresses as a guy and goes to a urinal. After unsuccessfully trying to start a conversation... "Oh! It's like an elevator!"
  • In The West Wing, Arnold Vinick violates it when he asks to "multitask" by taking his intelligence briefing at the urinal. Though not in need himself, the agent is visibly uncomfortable.
  • Witchblade: Ignored by Sara who at one point cornered her partner in the men's room.
  • Scrubs: Turk has been following Dr. Cox around the hospital trying to be friendly- and discovers he is on the same "pee schedule". Turk attempts to have a chat with Cox at the urinals. Cox is majorly annoyed at this and cuts him off, telling him, "This is a men's room, there's absolutely no talking!" Nevermind that they have a full conversation immediately following.
  • The Sketch Show: At least two sketches parody this.
    • In one sketch, Jim and Lee are in the restroom and awkwardly making idle conversation when Lee finishes and is about to leave. Then Jim finds himself unable to finish his own business so to "perform" he asks Lee to stay, who grudgingly obliges.
    • In another sketch, Tim, Jim, and Lee are all standing next to each other in front of the urinals. One of them is drinking a beer, another needs to light and smoke a cigarette, and another is minding his own business. Inevitably, at least two of them are no longer holding their own old fellas after the exchange.
  • Averted in Yes, Minister by proxy. Dorothy Wainwright insists that her office must be next to the men's bathroom so she can overhear ministers plotting while they answer the call of nature.
  • Seinfeld averts this in the cold open to "The Yada Yada", which shows Jerry and George having a typical Seinfeldian Conversation while using side-by-side urinals. "The Finale" shows where Jerry's line is drawn when George tries to use the bathroom at his apartment without closing the door.
    Jerry: Where do you think this relationship is? If you are thinking of instituting an open-door urination policy, let me disabuse you of that notion right now, my friend.
    George: You're so uptight!
    Jerry: I'm uptight. Let's all just have a big pee party. "Hey everybody, grab a bucket. We're going up to Jerry's, it's a pee party."
    • In another episode, the etiquette is violated by George's boss Mr. Wilhelm, who walks into the bathroom in the middle of telling George all about a big, important assignment he wants him to do. George dilligently waits outside for him so as to not violate the etiquette. However, after George has been wating for a while, he ducks his head in to see what was taking Wilhelm so long and discovers that he had kept talking the entire time he was in there without realizing George didn't follow him in. George now has no idea what his assignment is, and can't tell Wilhelm that he didn't hear it because Wilhelm has already reprimanded him multiple times for not paying attention.
      Jerry: He pulled an LBJ on you.
      George: LBJ?
      Jerry: Lyndon Johnson. He used to do that to his staffers.
      George: No kidding.
      Jerry: Oh yeah. He'd hold national security meetings in there. He planned the Hanoi bombing after a bad Thai meal.
  • Discussed by Chase and Nic in one episode of Growing Up Chrisley. They reference the "look straight ahead" rule and Nic apparently violates the no talking rule, as he believes it's a good time to talk. Samantha, who's listening to the conversation, finds it all weird.
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun: A "Freaky Friday" Flip sees Dick and Sally swapping bodies for a day. Sally, now in Dick's body, ends up using the bathroom at the same time as Don who has to remind "Dick" to "keep your eye on the road" while they're at the urinals.

  • KROQ's The Kevin and Bean Show used to have a recurring segment where Kevin would sit in a men's bathroom stall and try to spark awkward conversation with the men pooping in the stalls beside him. His conversational gambits usually began, "Hey... what are you doing?"

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Engineer-turned-comedian Don McMillan has a routine discussing this trope from an engineer's perspective, focusing on the spacing and efficiency of usage of urinals. His approach is a bit different in that he thinks the "stay as far from those already in use as possible" rule is insulting to the guy already there because it implicitly says, "You're weird, I'm staying the hell away from you." Conversely, using the urinal right next to an occupied one when there's a whole line of empty ones available says, "I'm weird." He concludes that users should go for the empty urinal exactly two spots away from the nearest occupied one to achieve maximum efficiency while still giving sufficient personal space. And the absolute worst solution is to pick the same urinal the first person is currently using.
  • Rob Riggle has a routine about how men have to observe a different kind of discipline at football games and that they have to organize themselves into ranks before marching and peeing in synchrony to ensure everyone is back in their seats before play resumes.

    Video Games 
  • In Custom Robo, Harry has to go to the bathroom when nearing the Big Bad. You can choose whether or not to follow. If you go in, two Mooks will confront you after using the urinals. Harry makes a comment about them not washing their hands.
  • In The Sims 2, Male Sims were programmed to use urinal bathroom etiquette as an Easter Egg.
  • In Stacking, you can break rule #4 in the male restroom at the station. This is actually required for one of the Hi-Jinks.

    Web Animation 
  • In the animated short Welcome to Hell, Sock annoys Jonathan in the male urinals, causing Jon to yell, "Dude, I'm peeing!" Hilarity Ensues, due to Sock being invisible to everyone but Jon.


    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • This YouTube video explains these rules in greater detail and links them to the very fabric of our civilization.
  • One LoadingReadyRun skit had a guy in a university bathroom freak-out when not only does a guy break the "no talking" rule, but specifically starts chatting him up. Turns out that it's the designated Gay Cruising place on campus, and it's just assumed that everyone knows it. Turns out, they don't.
    Graham: [sighs] Peeing or gay sex?
    Jeremey: Uh... peeing?
    Paul: See, was that so hard?
  • EvAbridged has Kensuke repeatedly trying to talk to Toji, who is "pee-shy" and desperately needs to concentrate. He is not happy at all.
    Toji: Hey Kensuke. Remember when I told you I was pretty desperate for the toilet?
    Kensuke: Mm-hmm.
    Toji: I told you once that I get pee-shy around people?
    Kensuke: Mm-hmm.
    Toji: ...Don't look at me. Don't speak to me. Don't breathe my air. Not. A. Fucking. Word.
    Kensuke: (in a sing-song voice) I can see your weiner!

    Western Animation 
  • Invoked in one episode of Family Guy: an employee at the brewery is trying to talk to the new boss, Bert, about something while they're both at the urinal, only to be told that he doesn't talk to people at the urinals. The scene then flips to them at the sinks with the conversation starting again and Bert thanking the employee for waiting. Ironically, Bert's aversion to talking at the urinal doesn't stop him from talking to Peter while he's on the toilet a minute later.
  • One Robot Chicken skit has two men carrying on a conversation at the urinals, followed by an announcer showing up and stating:
    Announcer: Two ordinary men having an ordinary conversation. But what's amiss here? Their dicks are out!
  • In The Looney Tunes Show, the characters (especially Bugs) have violated this on more than one occasion by talking to each other or themselves, and the awkwardness of doing so is clearly evident.
    • In "Double Date", Bugs is done giving himself a pep talk and leaves… but not before outright telling the man using the urinal next to him the gist of what he said to himself. The man keeps an awkward expression throughout the scene, clearly trying to ignore him.
    • “To Bowl or Not to Bowl” has Daffy call Bugs into his “office” (the bowling alley’s restroom) to explain why Bugs shouldn’t be in the teamnote … In the middle of which, the man using the stall beside them comes out. He confusedly and briefly exchanges glances with Bugs and Daffy before leaving.
  • Interestingly gender-inverted in Bless the Harts; one episode focuses on a woman occupying the only working toilet in Last Supper and female restroom etiquette dictates that Jenny and Louise can't simply tell her to leave, as it would be rude, even though, according to same etiquette code, the woman is violating the rules by staying in there for so long. It soon spirals out of control, with Jenny trying various ways to get her out and a literal news story develops around it. Jenny eventually realizes the woman probably has a good reason for occupying the stall for so long (which she does, she's suffering from a nervous stomach) and she's probably just too afraid to just ask to be left alone, because that would break the etiquette code. Thus, she simply tells the woman to take as long as she needs and keeps everyone out, solving the problem. The whole thing becomes a discussion on how women often limit themselves out of fear of seeming rude or breaking etiquette.
    • It also subverted, as none of the men understand why they don't just tell her to hurry it up and Wayne even goes as far as claiming there are no rules in the mens' room; anything goes.

    Real Life 
  • Violated by U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, who would discuss business with people while he was on the john (note, in person, not on the phone, with the door open—though he also handled business over the phone while on the toilet and making no secret of where he was). It is uncertain whether he did this because he was genuinely uncaring about the whole thing, or as part of a power trip showing off that he was the boss and you had to deal with him even while he was on the toilet. However, considering he was known for invading his colleagues' "personal space" specifically to unsettle them into compliance with his wishes (a maneuver known as "The Johnson Treatment"), it is likely the latter. It is possible he was inspired by the Biblical story of Ehud (See Judges 3:12-30) which described a king who demonstrated his superiority by receiving messengers while "at stool".
  • In Mel Blanc's autobiography, he talks about his son Noel coming in, sitting on his lap, and making Mel read to him, even when he was on "the can".


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