I seem to have a knack for mistakenly entering men’s restrooms. Usually I figure out the error of my ways quickly, and without too much embarrassment, but there was one incident last summer that just about did me in.
As I hurried into the restroom of a familiar jaunt (translation, “I am well acquainted with this particular bathroom”) I noticed something was amiss. “I don’t recall the sink being on the left; I thought there were three stalls; I wonder when they changed it?” all went through my head in the 2.5 seconds it took me to get from the door to the stall. And then, as I turned to close the stall door, there he was; a young man, thankfully facing away from me, using the facilities. What is the proper etiquette in such a situation? Does Emily Post have a section in her book labeled “wrong restroom etiquette?”
I was afraid to say anything as I didn’t know if he’d seen me, but my lime green sandals and painted toenails would surely betray my gender should he glance under the door. So, I did what any normal woman would do in such a situation. I quietly waited it out, and stepped as far back into the stall as I could so as to avoid garnering attention.
Once he’d finished his business and washed his hands (I was impressed) I waited what I thought was a reasonable number of seconds before darting to the door. I would have made it, too, had another young man not come in at that very moment. The poor guy; he was horrified. I could see the wheels turning in his head. “I’m sure the sign said ‘men.’ Why is there a woman here? I must have read it wrong. I’m so embarrassed.” And, like me, those thoughts probably skipped through his brain at breakneck speed. I tried to explain but really, there were no words. Oh words came out of my mouth alright, trying to assure him that he was fine and indeed it was my mistake. But they came out so fast and mashed together that it felt more like I was just throwing them up.
After my hasty retreat I made my first move, which was to get to the women’s restroom. I figured it would give me good cover for a few minutes while I planned my escape from the restaurant. Plus, I still needed to use it. Knowing that both of those men were probably still in the restaurant, I determined that a quick exit was in order. Thankfully, we were done eating.
I went back to the table where my husband and son were waiting for me. “Quick,” I said, “hand me the keys. I’ll meet you in the car.” Thankfully, my husband didn’t ask a lot of questions. Had you seen me you might have thought I was racing to a fire or something. I quickly made my way to the car, climbed in and scrunched down in my seat so as not to be noticed before our departure from the parking lot. It was the only reasonable option.