Tales from the bathroom
The other day I got trapped in a bathroom stall at my health club. It’s not that the lock stuck, or the door wouldn’t open. I was trapped by a conversation that started out by the sinks while I was, um, answering nature’s call. It quickly became apparent that the women didn’t know anyone else was in the locker room.
Now, I like to eavesdrop with the best of them, but this conversation made me feel uncomfortable, voyeuristic even. It started off innocently enough, two women discussing swimming and the benefits of regular exercise, but it quickly got more personal. The dialogue shifted to body image and being with new boyfriends and they began talking about other things to which I shouldn’t have been privy. But the longer I was in there, the more I felt I couldn’t leave, like I would be bursting into a confessional if I were to exit the stall at that point.
Since I was imprisoned and not a part of the conversation, it allowed me to notice the maze-like quality of it. Though the exchange began with swimming, it moved through about a dozen topics ranging from taking care of ailing family members and court battles to manicures and restaurants. And here’s the kicker. About five minutes in, one of the chatters introduced herself to the other woman. Apparently they swam at the same time several days a week, but never actually met!
After I finally made my escape, I started thinking about how the situation would have been different had the two people chatting had been men.
First, I’m not sure how I would have explained being in the men’s locker room. Second, I don’t think the conversation would have taken so many twists and turns. Men seem to communicate in a more linear fashion than women. They start on a topic and continue until they hit all the points, then the conversation ends. Third, I can’t imagine men going into such personal and emotional issues with a virtual stranger. And fourth, I don’t think men chat.
I did another field study a few days later when my husband and I went out to dinner with another couple. We sat down at the restaurant, ordered our drinks and began talking about the men’s recent fishing trip. There’s only so much fish talk I can take, so when my eyes started rolling back in my head, I turned to my girlfriend and we began chatting. As the dessert dishes were cleared, we had planned several more outings, talked about family dynamics, work, travel, food, music, shoes and world peace. The men were still talking about fishing.
The guys did join in on our conversation from time to time, but were able to go back to their discussion and pick up where they left off. Fascinating! What an amazing skill, which apparently I don’t possess.
So the moral of my story, dear readers, is twofold: No. 1 Enjoy good conversations with friends. No. 2 Check for feet under the bathroom stalls before you start talking. VT
Linda Boyne is an Edwards resident and a regular columnist for The Vail Trail. E-mail comments about this column to email@example.com.
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