Funny Cross-Gender Bathroom Stories

JPRestRoomsLaws about bathrooms have suddenly become headline stories. Though media and politicians often manufacture issues, no one expected a nationwide debate about bathroom protocol.

People on social media have secured hardline positions, but few of the thousands of tweets and posts reflect any real world knowledge on cross-gender bathroom use. As a public service, therefore, I offer four true stories related to this subject.

The Newark Airport Dilemma

Several years ago, painters at Newark Airport refurbished a passenger boarding area but were careless in replacing directional signs leading to the
FullFinalrestrooms. The final signs before reaching either restroom door were confusing. If a man or woman passenger wasn’t paying attention to the sign directly on the door, he or she might enter the wrong door, causing momentary embarrassment. As regular passengers of that flight gate, my colleagues and I had all noticed the confusing signage, laughed about it, and avoided any erroneous entrances.

A new member of our group, a young woman, was unaware of the potential bathroom sign confusion. Experiencing a state of urgency before a long flight, she mistakenly dashed into the men’s room. Though the lady realized immediately that she was in the wrong room, there was no one else there, and she decided to use one of the stalls. Exiting the stall and washing her hands, she saw a middle-aged male executive entering the restroom. As soon as he saw her, he turned red, backed away, raised his hands in surrender, and croaked, “I’m sorry! Please forgive me. I just made a mistake.” Our young teammate looked him straight in the eye, feigned anger and disgust, shook a finger at him and said, “Don’t you ever let it happen again!” Leaving the room and laughing to herself, she immediately joined us onboard and told us the story.

An Engineer’s Shocking Decision

George, one of our company’s favorite clients, was a thirty-something engineer from a large Connecticut tech company. Before the start of a large conference at our campus, we saw George arrive at the lecture hall from a distant entrance and noted that he seemed to be wearing an earring. Though some men at that time wore earrings outside of work, they rarely wore them in a business environment. A few gay men were exceptions.They sometimes wore a single earring on the right ear, symbolically identifying themselves as gay. I was busy greeting new arrivals and asked a woman staff member to welcome George, to note whether he wore an earring, and if so, which side it adorned.

A few minutes later, our staff member, returned at a quick pace, and breathlessly told me, “It’s not a simple earring, it’s a set of two, one on each ear. And they’re not the usual gold buttons; they’re hand-painted daisies!” Our friend, George, would henceforth be called, Georgia, and was undergoing injection treatments to become a woman.

Georgia’s transformation set his entire company atwitter. Another tech guy at his company told me about the attitudes that had developed around Georgia. Some people—mostly women—voiced a laissez-faire viewpoint. Some loved the ongoing story as a staple of prurient speculation. Others had attitudes somewhere between condemnation, and “torches-and-pitchforks.”

But, of course, the big question was, “Which bathroom will she use.” The HR staff led an effort to determine new bathroom rules for the company. They generated a confidential questionnaire for all women employees, to determine their feelings about Georgia using their restrooms. More than 60 percent of the women could accept Georgia as a restroom user, apparently led by one woman, whose associates all wrote, “I don’t care what she does, as long as she does it sitting!”

My Adventure in a Roman Restroom

Entering a hotel restroom in Rome, I was surprised to see a rotund, older woman standing there, apparently ready to clean. She said nothing and made no move to leave. I stood near the urinals, unsure of how to proceed. Should I wait for her departure? Realizing that I was hesitant, the woman reached in front of me with a cleaning brush, tapped one of the urinals, and said something in Italian. Though I know very few Italian words, I was pretty sure that she had said something that would translate to “pee here.” I performed as instructed. She watched me, with scant interest. I completed my assigned task, washed my hands and departed. I remember chuckling, and saying to myself, “When in Rome…” To the best of my knowledge, the woman wasn’t a transgender person. It’s difficult to imagine her as a man, selecting special women’s clothing to participate in our thirty-second mini-drama. I don’t believe that I experienced any harm. Nor can I imagine any law that would have improved the experience.

A Young Woman’s Complaint About Transgender Bathrooms

When my daughter was a student at the University of California-Santa Cruz, I would visit and take her out for lunch. On one occasion she chose the restaurant, a student hangout in downtown Santa Cruz. A few miles from the University, Santa Cruz is a small city with a 1960s feel, largely populated by aging hippies and cannabis-loving street characters. My daughter’s chosen lunch venue mirrored that vibe.

Before we entered the restaurant, she warned me about its restroom policy. Instead of the conventional pairs of women’s and men’s rooms, management offered a series of small “People’s Rooms.” I was therefore not surprised an hour later when I found myself in line behind a young woman. As we waited for an available bathroom, I noted a framed printed statement on the wall, explaining management’s bathroom policy and philosophy.

Using more words than necessary, the restaurant owners wanted customers to know that the bathrooms were “like your bathroom, at home. There’s no need to put signs on the doors.” I didn’t pay much attention to this issue, until the young woman ahead of me, probably high on something, turned around and said, “I hate using these friggin bathrooms.” I asked why, expecting some remark related to feminism or personal privacy. But her surprising response was, “Stupid guys keep leaving the seats up!”

A Final Thought

None of these stories is directly relevant to the government lawsuits about bathroom usage. But as a group, they help to emphasize the ridiculousness of this national debate.

A question for both sides: How would law enforcement people know that someone is transgender? Do they have to carry a special card? Hmm…perhaps we need to design a tasteful transgender pin. A lovely piece of jewelry might satisfy both sides of the great bathroom debate and elevate America in the eyes of the rest of the world.


Discovering Natural Laws That Change Everything

Natural Laws of SellingAuthor’s Note: This is an article about an important book, “The Natural Laws of Selling,” and its author Daniel W. Jacobs. It’s not a book review, per se, though I recommend the book highly. The article discusses parts of the book, but it is also about the author, who has helped thousands of professionals to become confident and effective. And though Jacobs focuses on sales, his “Natural Laws” are equally invaluable for professions like teaching, clergy, politics, law, personnel recruitment and entertainment—in fact, any environment that requires relating to other people and affecting their beliefs.

SeparatorA marketing executive, a young man who I’ve known since he was a teen, recently asked me for advice on how to improve his career skills. “Is there a great online course or a book you’d recommend?”  he asked.

He was apparently surprised when I answered, “No. Like most people who have held positions in the business world, I receive three or four business book promotions a day. Over the years, I’ve sampled many courses and read a ton of books, but few have been worth my time. There is, however, one new book that is different from the rest. It’s ‘The Natural Laws of Selling,’ by Dan Jacobs.”

“I’m not a sales exec. Why would I read a book on selling?” he asked.

“You don’t sell products,” I responded. “But you do sell ideas. It’s all about human relations, and how you persuade clients or colleagues—even friends—to believe in you. I’ve known the author for many years. I was pleased to see him write a book articulating what he teaches in the workplace.”

With that, I reflected back to the day I first met Dan Jacobs in San Jose. He had called me previously to discuss a VP job with a technology marketing agency in Southern California. To be perfectly honest with him, I revealed that I had already received an offer letter from a good company closer to home, and had therefore completed my job search. Unflappable, Dan suggested that we could just have a chat over a nice lunch. He was interesting and friendly, so I accepted his no-strings-attached invitation.

head-shot-smilingMeeting him in person for the first time, I was surprised. Expecting a typical corporate image, I instead met a man who appeared more like a college professor. And I was even more surprised at how he led me through his thought processes. There was no “pitch,” and no waterfall of information about the client company he represented. He didn’t push me in any specific direction. Though he asked me about my attitude on several subjects, he didn’t turn the luncheon into an interrogation.

Overall, it felt like a casual, though sincere, discussion between two friends; viewing a common goal from different directions. I surprised myself by agreeing to fly to Orange County in Southern California, for an interview with the company’s CEO.

The actual interview was like no other that I have experienced. I met with the CEO, a tough, aggressive woman, and her HR director. Dan Joined us and played the role of advisor, subtlely redirecting the conversation at various precarious points. The CEO’s style was challenging and combative. Feeling free to counter her barbed challenges, I struck back politely, though with equal vigor. Dan somehow kept the verbal scrum on track. The meeting ended with a surprise. The HR Director handed me an offer sheet. Dan reviewed it with me, and I accepted it.

As I began my new job over the next month or so, I noticed that Dan, still working as a consultant, would arrive once or twice a week, and conduct one-on-one sessions with people at all levels and functions. I realized that he usually spent the most time with the weakest functions, especially the sales force. Each person with whom he spent time appeared to become more confident and energized. I saw each person’s performance improving.

What was Dan teaching them? He was a bit like the Mr. Miyagi character of the Karate Kid films; giving instructions that each person trusted, even if they didn’t fully appreciate their power. In Dan’s situation, however, he was giving each person a new tool that they agreed to try. And each tool made each person stronger and more capable.

That’s why I was so pleased to learn that Dan has now packaged many of those tools in his book, “The Natural Laws of Selling.”


Why Choose the 1990s for an Alternate History Novel?

The Terrorist Who Wasn’t” differs from most alternate histories since It doesn’t focus TTWW-Tiny+Buyon a single momentous event, like the Civil War, WWII, or the JFK assassination. Instead, it focuses on events of the final decade of the twentieth century, a transformative period with equal or greater impact on America’s future.

My previous alternate history, “The Victory That Wasn’t,” focuses on the Vietnam War. Reader feedback brought many positive comments from former service members and civilians who were part of that era. They enjoyed the book because they could vividly remember the people, places, and events that support the story. However, many contemporary adults are too young to remember the Vietnam years. I, therefore, wantedBackground-layer my new book to be a story set in a time remembered by anyone over thirty.

The 1990s began as a victorious time for America and ended with great uncertainty. The decade included proud high points and devastating low points. It began with a resounding victory against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army. Supported by a broad coalition of thirty nations, the quick triumph repositioned the US as the undisputed leader of the free world. And after decades of covert Cold War struggles, the USSR dissolved. It’s former satellite countries regained independence. Germany tore down the Berlin Wall and reunified the East and West Germany into a single country.

The decade also included an unusual three-candidate presidential race and a president elected by far less than a majority of voters. Meanwhile, trouble was brewing, quietly at first. The 1993 attack on the World Trade Center seems forgotten in the shadow of the horrific attacks of 2,001. Nevertheless, the 1993 attack killed six and injured more than one thousand people.

Though Americans experienced high anxiety regarding terrorism, the 1990s produced a stunning transformation due to technology. In 1990, only a small number of Americans had ever heard of the Internet. By 1999 the Internet was part of the daily life of every individual and business. This dynamic technology explosion empowered the financial world and the stock markets while masking the simmering economic problems that a few years later caused the longest recession and weakest recovery in history.

That’s the enigma that we call the 1990s. It provides a great platform for an alternate history novel.