The High and Loo of it
The High and Loo of it….
I am finicky about loos. I judge people by the standards of their loos. I also judge them by how they use or misuse their loos. Call it weird or crazy, but that’s me. These fixative behaviours have been with me since my childhood. Some of them have come and gone. I remember I used to have this strong fixation about toes. As soon as I would meet someone, my eyes would dart down south and desperately try to catch a glimpse of their toes. What do you look for in them, you ask? Well, many things…..To start off, a set of cleanly and adroitly aligned toes get my nod of approval. I can get acquainted with this person. If they are well pedicured, they can even become good friends with me. In fact, this sticky behaviour is a kind of legacy I am quite proud of; my younger brother has inherited this fixation for toes from me.
While many such fixations have come and gone, I repeat, this fixation about loos and their use, has stayed. I have meandered through the ups and downs of life, in lanes and by lanes, in mansions and tents, but I have always viewed loos with a critique’s lens.
My profession as a corporate behavioural trainer has taken me to myriad corporate loos, and I take great pride in the fact that my judgement of a company’s culture (through the loo, of course), could beat any human resource consultant’s rarefied observation, so what if he uses the latest human developmental or OD tools. Believe me, it’s the loo that holds the view. Of course, I speak only of the women’s loo. But, with the women’s populace on the rise in the workplace, the women’s loo is a brilliant indicator of the culture in the organisation.
Let’s get the basics right first. Loos come in different sizes, shapes, colours, formats and utilities. They also have varied nomenclature – rest rooms, wash rooms, toilet, cloak rooms are the run-off-the mill labels. Some progressive organisational cultures boast of more creativity – hers, ladies, for her, eve…Some even excel in their non-verbal communication – they paint caricatures or silhouettes of the female form. It’s a different issue, that sometimes, there is not much difference in the shapes of the silhouette on the men’s loo door and the women’s loo door. But, you can always resolve this by narrowing your eyes and staring sharply at the silhouette, or best, walk up closer and peer into the silhouette. But, take care that no one watches you watch the loo door so closely.
I am always a bit apprehensive about the loos of organisations that boast of an ‘open culture’. My apprehensions are not baseless. I have seen it all. This particular company has a loo that has a common lobby for both men and women. You do your job in the respective gender loos. Then, to freshen up, you come into this common lobby. So, while you are freshening up after your job, your neighbour at the next wash basin is freshening up after his job! Open Culture! What adds to the torture is a narrow glass pane that separates the lobby from the women’s loo. While you are on the pot doing your job, you can actually see the silhouette of the men at the wash basins! The only saving grace is that the glass is not a Saint Gobain! Don’t ask me what happens to the sound levels. Embarrassing. I mean, it’s quite a skill to hold back the sound. Those of you, who’ve been through such a thing, know what I am talking about.
Then there are companies where the women’s loo is hidden away in a nook and corner of a not-so-often used floor. Visiting the loo then becomes a group affair. Women adjust their bladder sensibilities and synchronise their ‘urges’, so that a group of them can trek up to this ‘out of the world’ experience. When one member of the group visits, the others keep watch over her dupatta, handbag, et al. Need I say anything about the organisational culture?
Every time a prospective client boasts of a transparent culture in his organisation, my heart skips a beat. My mind immediately unleashes memories of a nightmare I had at one such company. Alright, I know the mirror is a woman’s best friend. But, goodness, when you have them all over the loo, on the ceiling, behind, in front, there is no escape! You feel queasy when you suddenly see so many of you at the job. Even a narcissist will find this a little too stretched.
So, the next time, you visit the loo in an office, make it an enlightening trip. You gotta actually feel loo and behold!!