Five Thoughts on Wall Street Bathroom Breaks
When you work 80-hour weeks regularly and the staples of your diet are $25 Seamlessweb pasta dishes and burger combos, inevitably, nature is going to call – on your office line. For the majority of analysts on Wall Street, working at an investment bank is your first time in a professional office environment.
To the uninitiated, the bathrooms at investment banks might be imagined as marble palaces, freshly stocked with the finest supplies for bankers' quiet time atop gold-plated commodes. To those in the know – well, you know it's not so. Five observations regarding your favorite place to catch up on Words with Friends while at the office:
1. Middle Urinal Guy
In most parts of the civilized world, we are taught at a young age to 1) not have sex with your relatives, and 2) not use the middle urinal if the side urinals are available. However, there are some who choose to brashly ignore this hallowed rule and will post up in urinal #2 of a three-rack, effectively rendering the entire row unusable to those of us with any sort of moral compass. Chances are, you've run into Middle Urinal Guy before, and have had no choice but to head for the stalls. At which point, you have to face…
2. The Presence of Unexpected Presents
Human beings' capacity for destruction never ceases to amaze me. This is true for the toilets as well. With a floor full of overworked, overfed folks running on 9a day, a little acute IBS is understandable. But all too often, you open a stall door, ready for some quiet iPhone time, and you're greeted with a grisly scene. Like a puked-in sink at a frat party… except it isn't puke.
3. Mister Chatty
Middle Urinal Guy is doing his thing and the stalls are full of either depressed 1st year analysts taking catnaps or MDs banging out emails on Blackberry. You sidle up next to a fellow banker at the urinal rack, you give the customary grunt-slash-nod, unzip, and do what any normal human being does – stare at the wall. At least 90% of people understand and follow the code – even clueless Middle Urinal Guy. However, there is a subset of the population that was taught neither to avoid the middle urinal nor to stare at the wall as if it were the latest Swimsuit Issue. Mister Chatty turns his head, and decides now is the time to strike up a conversation.
So! How is everything going with you lately? What are you working on?
Awkward. Why would you do this?? We're here with our dongs out, peeing an unhealthy shade of coffee-stained yellow, and you want to talk shop? Good god.
You force a wry grin and mumble some incoherent response, trying to hurry up and get out of there to end this godforsaken conversation. Which leads to…
4. The Splashback
You're in a damn hurry and you're not focused on aim (because someone, for some insane reason, is unnecessarily trying to make smalltalk) – and you hit the wrong part of the concave porcelain. Ruh roh. Your fresh-pressed grey slacks are now polka dotted on the thighs. You've just been victimized by the splashback. Aside from the fact that for the next 10 hours or so, you'll have to walk around knowing you basically pissed yourself and didn't change clothes, you now have to deal with the possibility of everyone else knowing it too. The only possible solution is to dab down a bit with paper towels, and either 1) cover up with a well-placed folder in hand, or 2) go for broke and make it look like a sink splash issue. Zip up and hit the sinks.
5. Look Ma, No Hands
The sinks. Nobody ever bothers to Zamboni, so there is water all over the counter. Paper towels litter the floor. Despite the fact that it (like the rest of the bathroom) looks like it belongs behind a gas station, the sinks are probably the most civilized part of the whole bathroom. This is the one place where it's acceptable to have a quick chat, where you can tie up your tie after showing up at 11 am, where you come to clean your hands. Or so one would think.
In the age of free running water and abundant antibacterial handsoap, you would think everyone takes five seconds to wash their hands of the billions of germs collected from filthy keyboards, door handles, and, oh yeah – peeing and/or pooping. But no – there's always someone to shatter the peace, someone who zips up and zooms out of the bathroom, brusquely waving hello before quickly exiting, with nary a drop of water or soap to cleanse the hands. Yuck. Think about that the next time you enter a crowded post-lunch meeting and begin gladhanding everyone.
In my experience, when it comes to using the bathroom, investment bankers truly are monkeys. Have you seen any of the above bizarre bathroom habits during your time on Wall Street? Are you reading this from the john right now?
Aaron Burr is a retired investment banking analyst and currently works as an associate at a private equity fund. He practices good bathroom etiquette – let him know if you do as well in comments section or at [email protected]gmail.com
Mod Note (Andy): Throw Back Thursday, Originally posted on August, 2012