Sometimes you have to poop at work.
A quick Twitter search — or a glance at the sheepish faces of co-workers leaving the bathroom — tells you work poop is a subject of great anxiety. For some, it's a minefield of potential embarrassments. For others, it's a freeing and necessary escape from the frustrations of capitalism.
I understand the struggle: I never used to poop in public bathrooms. But a few years ago, after holding my belly in pain for the first six hours of a 15-hour flight, I had to let that fear go.
Work is different, yes. People that you know are there, hearing your grunting, sputtering evacuations, smelling the waste of your bowels, trying to identify your shoes beneath the stall door. (This is when having unique taste in footwear can backfire.) Fuck them. They all poop too.
I'll raise that banner of embarrassment for you to stand behind: I poop a lot. Sometimes (often) I eat Taco Bell for dinner, then have ice cream and red wine before bed, and don't poop until I get to work in the morning. It's gnarly and I'm sorry. But I won't hang my head as I see a co-worker walking into the enclosed space I have just poisoned with a military-grade gaseous weapon. They just have to deal with it.
Your workplace, surely, affects the poop culture. Whether it's a big office with plenty of stalls, or a cramped seven-person office with just one toilet, the struggles can vary. Maybe yours is a tiny backroom bathroom in a tiny retail shop, with potential customers looming every second. Wherever you poop, anxieties abound. It's time to flush them.
"But, but, but they'll hear me," you protest as you sit, holding in what must come out, red-faced and waiting for that person to leave the bathroom. (Or worse, when the cleaning person decides they're gonna clean the bathroom while you're trying to rid your gut of the 36 wings you crushed for lunch.)
What if someone turns the lights off on you? Or the toilet paper runs out? All reasonable fears dancing around the heart of what really holds you back: the cold judgment of other people.
OK, yes, other people are there, in the bathroom, and they will judge you for your poops. Let them.
In All Quiet on the Western Front a group of soldiers revel in the few hours (hours!) they spend sitting in a circle of open-air commodes, both bullshitting and literally shitting with each other in a wondrous respite from the horror of World War I.
Maybe your days aren't spent hiding beneath the specter of constant shelling or cupping your ears against the gut-wrenching screams of dying horses — but you and your co-workers are in some kind of battle together, and together you can find peace in the form of a mini, daily vacation.
This is why we work poopers have to step out of the stalls and declare ourselves, defecating and proud.
Solace in the work bathroom is found in embracing other people, not in hiding from them. If the person next to you sounds like they're giving birth, respect that journey. Silently nod in empathy. If the person next to you is dropping air-horn-decibel fart hammers or grapefruit-sized ploppers, toad-sized splashers, well, then, follow their lead.
As you let it fly, others too will let it fly. If you're not competitively driven to outblast your neighbors, let their aggressiveness give you the strength to let out the few toots you've been shyly holding in. In time your comfort level will sound as a stinky beacon to those next to you who are making their first audible forays into comfortable work pooping.
If you still need motivation, remember you're getting paid to poop. Cherish that. Calculate the amount of money you make while pooping, if that helps. Plus, you save money on toilet paper at home. Economically, you should be work pooping as often as possible.
You could spend a total of 45 minutes in the bathroom per day before anyone could reasonably question your absence. And if they do? "Hey, where do you go three times a day?" Just say "poop." And they'll leave you alone. Everybody, like the book says, poops. You can't be discriminated against for pooping.
If you're not pooping at work (are you really holding it until you get home?) you are missing out on crucial decompression time, time to catch up on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat (be careful of the volume, though). Shit, I poop at work more than I work at work.
Some people hate their jobs so much they sit on the toilet just to escape the drudgery, and you're going to deny yourself a bathroom break when you legitimately need it?
Look, only you know how much stress your bowels can take. The rest of us will be feeling much lighter, avoiding the urge to high five as we exit the stalls glowing and triumphant.