I keep thinking about the comment thread that followed a post by Angry Professor and I have to laugh a bit. The AP was a bit outraged by the notion that men conduct professional activities whilst peeing.
Here are only a few of my recent observations:
* Men have important discussions and sometimes make administrative decisions with male colleagues while standing at the urinals. There's rarely more than one woman in the restroom at a time in my department and at my conferences; there are too few of us.
No, that's not the funny part.
The funny part is the comment thread.
Jack: One correction. Men never have discussions at the urinals. It is a big faux pas to initiate conversation or even acknowledge one another's presence.
greybeard prof: Jack's right; men DON'T do discussions or decisions in the bathroom, either while peeing or otherwise. The men who excluded you are assholes and liers, and the urinal story is just a bad lie to cover up the fact that they deliberately excluded you
Anonymous: Men do not talk in urinals. It seems your colleagues are aware of your fight for equality and they are yanking your chain on purpose with that story.
Righto, boyo. Angry P is clearly one of those hysterical types, seeing sexism shadows where none exist. Sure.
Professor Zero: But my male colleagues report to me on conversations had in the urinals. They *say* it's one of the places work really gets done. They also say that if they can't get colleagues to talk in urinals, they sometimes have better luck in locker rooms. No kidding. I didn't know about all of this until men told me.
Nurseman: The "no talking" in the urinals is the rule of Gen X-Y. Older men do talk in the restroom. Not Talking to another guy at the urinals stems from the the same latent homophobia as the Generation X-Y tradition of not showering after gym.
Now that's just crazy talk!
Okay, here's the thing. Angry Prof is right. It is not quite so much that men are chatting away blissfully while actually peeing at the urinal. It happens, but perhaps infrequently. The question is whether men talk shop on the in or out of the bathroom and/or while doing non-excretory activities in the bathroom. They do. Period. Not all, I am sure. But some. And I see nothing that respects or adheres to generational boundaries either.
My first awakening on this was some time ago when a BigCheez asserted that he was going to bat for YHN by "taking a piss" with the superior of the underling who was troubling me. He was not kidding in the least, nor exaggerating (too much). He really would've done it if necessary although I am almost certain the metaphorical version would have sufficed. Still, the metaphor came to his mind for a reason.
Since then, I've noticed that yes, networking and business takes place in and around the restroom. At conferences and study section for example this is one of the places where you just say hello to your colleagues and casually ask what's shaking. Sometimes that is all that occurs and sometimes it gets into discussions of science, grant scores or what have you. If you are aware, you will notice just how much this casual stuff occurs. Just because it is casual, natural and unforced does not mean it is not still networking.
Networking that is generally not afforded to colleagues of the opposite sex.
Update: I couldn't resist one more amazing comment over at A Gentleman's C. Anonymous:
I will be walking with a group of men and we will be having an interesting discussion or argument about something, they will veer off into the men's bathroom, still talking; I wait outside, they emerge, talking about something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. I ask one of them "What happened? How did the discussion turn out? Did you agree/disagree about X?", and I always get told "I don't know" or "I'll tell you later" (which never happens later). OR, one or more male colleagues will say to me during a conference "We decided X. Don't you remember? Oh that's right, we were in the restroom when we decided that."