In the stall next to me, a woman is on her cell phone.
She’s booking an appointment. I can’t tell with whom. Is it nails? Her therapist? Her oncologist? Her voice echoes over the empty bathroom stalls.
I snap the paper toilet seat cover down and sit. This is really uncomfortable. I’m going to make pee noises. The woman in the stall next to me is chatting away.
I hesitate, then I get mad. She’s the one breaking the rules, I think, not me. I am going to pee as loud as I want.
When I get up to flush, I’m frozen again. I’m thinking how awkward it must be for the person on the other end of her phone to hear all the noises of a public bathroom. I’m actually thinking about the feelings of the person the woman beside me is not thinking about at all. This is ridiculous.
I flush. It’s really loud.
As I’m washing my hands I realize that I have just seen what happens when you break a social norm. It’s not embarrassing the woman next to me to talk to a stranger while using the bathroom. But it’s embarrassing me. Because I go around thinking that everyone feels like me: I would never call someone from inside a public toilet stall. Ever. I think that everyone else thinks like me, too.
Until someone snaps that idea in half.