wonko's Guide to Awkward Social Encounters, Chapter XXXIV

As I’ve mentioned before, the office building I work in has a tenants-only locked bathroom on my floor. It has one toilet, one sink, and one urinal, and is only meant to be used by one person at a time. To prevent people from entering while the bathroom is in use, the door has an ingenious device called a “deadbolt” which, when locked, displays a nice red “Occupied” sign and keeps people from walking in while you do your business.

Sadly, it appears the concept of “lock” is not as widely understood as I had previously believed it to be.

This afternoon, I walked into the unlocked bathroom (after observing the friendly green “Vacant” sign on the door) and unwittingly stepped into a hellish torture chamber of social awkwardness. There was a man in the bathroom. This man was very much pantsless. This man was not sitting on the toilet. As luck would have it, this man was handicapped. He was in the process of very delicately maneuvering his pantsless ass from his wheelchair to the toilet. When I walked in, he twitched in surprise and lost his grip on the wheelchair, at which point he was supporting himself entirely with his arms, one on the toilet seat, one on the handrail.

Normally, when accidentally intruding on someone in the bathroom, the best way to minimize embarassment for both parties is to immediately avert your eyes, apologize profusely, and leave the room. However, it is also socially unacceptable to startle a handicapped person out of their wheelchair and then leave them, literally, hanging. Especially when they have to pee. I had approximately five milliseconds to decide which social rule I wanted to break. I chose the latter, and launched myself backwards out of the bathroom while explaining how sorry I was.

I think I did the right thing. I didn’t hear any screaming as I walked away, so I’m pretty sure the poor guy managed to get things under control. Hopefully he’ll remember to lock the door next time. Still, I think I’m going to be real scared whenever I open that door from now on.