I don’t like making stall talk.
Let me explain. You and a friend go to a public rest room together. You’re in the middle of a conversation and you enter adjoining stalls. That’s when it gets kind of iffy.
Do you take a conversation break out of respect for the business at hand? Or do you continue your conversation like nothing is happening?
I’ve tried both. I prefer silence, but generally keep talking to distract from any potentially embarrassing sound effects.
And I appreciate it when others do the same. One of the nice things about stall talk is that the raised voices allow for some interesting eavesdropping if you’re a third party. Recently at Maggiano’s, for example, I overheard the following stall talk between a mother and her teenaged daughter.
“I was really glad Dylan didn’t come over today, Mom,” the daughter bubbled. “My hair is really greasy because I don’t think I got all the conditioner out.”
“Yeah. The light in my shower is out and I couldn’t see crap.”
“We don’t need to say that word,” the mother said primly.
The daughter paused a moment before saying in a quietly obedient voice, “Oh. Sorry.”
End of stall talk.
A few stalls down, I decided to take matters into my own hands.
“Well, I don’t know why she can’t say it, because I can smell yours all the way down here!”
Only kidding. But I really did want to say something to that mom, because it’s hard enough to coax a coherent conversation from a teenager without chiding her for saying “crap.” Just ask 15 and 13 at my house. You’re much more likely to be text-messaged than actually spoken to.
Anyway, the whole thing reminded me of my own mother, who is, I’m pretty sure, the world’s only stall troll.
She uses the anonymity of the stall to comment unseen on others’ bathroom behavior. Growing up, I was her unwilling foil, and it caused me no end of embarrassment.
“Gahhhh!” she said from a stall one day when we stopped off at the Hecht’s ladies’ rest room. Beside her, a woman had been peeing for about a minute without stopping. “Take a break, why don’t you!”
Standing at the sinks, I turned bright red. Not again!
“Mom,” I whispered when she came out. “That was so rude.”
“No, using the bathroom that loudly is rude,” she said forcefully, leaving no doubt that the now deathly silent woman inside the stall could hear her.
“You can’t help having to go to the bathroom,” I responded.
“But you can help peeing like a racehorse!” she shot back. It was no use arguing with her.
On one memorable occasion, though, her strategy backfired.
We entered stalls together at a Cracker Barrel. I quickly finished up and exited, stepping aside to let a heavyset older woman take my place. As I washed my hands, I heard a short “toot salute” from my former stall.
“Oh my!” my mother said from the stall next door. “Did you order beans or something?”
Silence. Then another, louder toot.
“Gracious!” my mom laughed. “Sounds like someone majored in Fart History!”
The woman, probably mortified, said nothing, but instead emitted a veritable symphony of tooting that lasted a good 10 seconds.
“Now that’s just gross!” my mother declared. “What’s your problem?”
With that, she flushed and opened her stall door, only to find me doubled over in a spasm of soundless laughter by the sinks. Her mouth dropped open. She looked back to the closed door of the stall beside her, then turned and ran for the door. Even the World’s Only Stall Troll didn’t want to have to answer for that review.
Unlike my mom, I do believe good manners are essential when it comes to making stall talk. But there’s no need to be truthful. In fact, white lies are encouraged. Because when it’s all said and done, stall talk is the only time when no one can tell you you’re full of shit.
Read more Suburban Turmoil at http://www.suburbanturmoil.blogspot.com or on the Scene’s blog at http://www.pithinthewind.com.