In the course of the workday I realized something that not everyone may be aware of when it comes to office restrooms in the typical corporate American setup. In an effort to be of assistance to my international friends who may have yet to experience this phenomena, I hereby post the following public service advisory.
If you find yourself in a corporate restroom, and someone knocks at the door of said restroom, respond with a simple verbal emission that alerts the knocking individual to your presence. The reason for this is that the person knocking is most likely a member of the janitorial/custodial staff, and they have arrived to service the restroom. The majority of the time, they are of the opposite gender. This knocking serves to offer you the opportunity to prevent them entering the restroom while you are still conducting your restroom transaction(s), thereby saving yourself some degree of embarrassment and/or awkwardness.
A simple “yeah” with sufficient volume is usually adequate to alert the custodial staff member. This would be the same “yeah” you have observed coworkers issue when someone calls out their name from a short distance, such as across several cubicle walls. While cross-cubicle yelling is generally annoying, the use of the same “yeah” in the restroom context is entirely appropriate. Do not attempt to use clearing of the throat as a more polite substitute; this tactic regularly fails for individuals throughout North America.
Finally, be aware that some custodial staff view the embarrassment of individuals when they enter the restroom to be some of the only entertainment they have in their job outside of smoke breaks. At times even the adequate verbal response will be ignored, because they simply get a kick out these awkward encounters.
This has been a public service announcement brought to you by Yep, That’s Me.