Man and the Can

A few weeks ago I went downtown for a protest march and there were no port-a-potties. The local businesses were allowing us to use their restrooms, and I was in line in a bakery before the march started. There was a long hallway that led to the two restrooms, one marked ladies and one marked men. Each restroom was identical and could only be used by one person at a time. There were many women in line ahead of me, and no line for the men’s. Every time a man came out of the restroom, a man would walk up out of nowhere and go in. It took the women about a half hour wait in line. The men had no wait at all.

Several hours later the march ended and I headed to the same bakery to use the restroom before boarding my train. Same scenario. A long line of women waiting and no line for the men. I stepped out of line and said to the other women, ‘Look, these restrooms are exactly the same. There’s no reason we can’t use whichever one opens up first. Are we all in agreement that when a man comes up we will explain the situation and ask him to get in the back of the line?’ They all gave a hearty yes and we started using both restrooms.

Within a very short time a man came up and started walking to the door of the men’s room. I stopped him and explained what we were doing and that in the interest of fairness we were all using whichever one opened up first. He listened to me, nodded his head, walked to the back of the line for a few seconds and then walked away. He would not wait in line. I wouldn’t have given this much thought except it happened every single time a man walked up! They’d listen to my spiel, go to the back of the line for a few seconds and then leave. It fascinated me, so I started asking people why they thought they all refused to wait their turn.

Someone said maybe they went outside in a bush, but we were in downtown Chicago and that doesn’t sound plausible.

Another person said maybe they thought it wasn’t fair because women take longer. My response was that’s our biology and we didn’t design ourselves, so isn’t it time we stopped being penalized for it?

Someone said maybe they didn’t like a ‘big-mouth broad’ telling them what to do. (definitely getting a tee shirt made)

I should point out that when it was my turn, I came out of the restroom to find a young Hispanic man waiting in the back of the line and he was fine with waiting his turn. I shook his hand and congratulated him.

Do you think it’s relevant that all of the men who refused to wait were white men in their forties or older? Was it a simple case of them not being used to waiting in line for the restroom? Or was it something else?

What do you think?

 

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