Toilet troubles

What’s the etiquette when you find someone crying in the loos at work?

I guess it depends on how well you know her, (and I’m assuming that tears in the toilets are an exclusively feminine form of retreat).

When someone I didn’t know found me blubbing into the bog-roll last year she said are you ok? in a really worried voice, terrified that I wasn’t, bless her. I just said Men! which was nicely generic, and she said they’re all the same and left as fast as she decently could.

I had a slightly trying time earlier this year which entailed daily trips to hide myself away in the disabled toilet. Eventually a lovely colleague came through, winkled me out of the loo, asked me what was wrong, and bundled me off home to cry in peace and sleep it off. I appreciate her patience and generosity even now.

The other morning I found another colleague in the loos dabbing her eyes with cold water and pretending she had hay fever or a cold. I asked her how she was. She said the atmosphere in her part of the office was really bad, but didn’t elaborate. The atmosphere has been rather lumpy recently, what with the heat, over-work and other more random stresses, and I suspect that one of the she-witches had been just a bit too bitchy to cope with.

I asked if she wanted to go for a cup of tea, but she didn’t, so back we went to our desks and I sent her a couple of e-mails through the day. Apparently she spoke to her line manager about her problems, and hopefully, that’ll be enough.

Since then we smile and say hi with no sense of constraint that I can see, but we haven’t spoken much. Maybe she’s embarrassed, maybe we have very little in common, or maybe crying in the loos is just something that all women do at one time or another, and the sisterly thing is to be supportive at the time, but not to acknowledge it afterwards. Rather like the mayor and the chief of police bumping into each other in a brothel.

Ach, what do I know?


3 responses to “Toilet troubles

  1. Well, I’m male, so I must know even less than you… I don’t know what I’d do if I came across a colleague crying in the loos, which is probably why I choose remote loos that the other librarians don’t use when I need a cry. I suspect I might be the only male member of staff at the LofD that needs to use the loos for this purpose, though. I don’t know what the women do (and I don’t doubt that things, possible even me for all I know, cause them to need to have a cry in the loos), and it’s not really a subject I’d feel comfortable raising.

  2. Even if that girl wasn’t able to explain why she’d been crying, she must surely have taken some comfort from your concern.

    When I was training, the whole business was so stressful that I regularly resorted to sobbing in the toilets at lunchtime. It wasn’t pretty – a great heaving, noisy, loud, gulping sort of sobbing which necessitated repeated flushing of the loo to disguise the racket I was making.
    I think my head would have burst open, had I not been able to relieve the tension in that way; it was highly therapeutic and enabled me to get through the rest of the day.

    And now I’ve started thinking about different sorts of crying – it’s an interesting area. Am I correct in thinking that humans are the only animals who cry for emotional reasons?

  3. This was me today, I just hoped everyone else would pretend not to notice. Mind you, if they don’t comment one could conclude that they *expect* me to look like a purple-faced, red-eyed, snot-covered, snivelling wreck. Mind you, I hid in the stall.

    I few months ago I myself came across someone bawling her eyes out in there. I asked if I could help or get her anything – she said no. I went out, asked the person who sat next to her how she took her tea, made a cup and took it back in to her. Don’t know if it helped. She didn’t want to talk and I’m too english to make her do so.

    There isn’t a right answer.

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