ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Mar 25, 2014

Join us next Tuesday to laugh, cry, and dish about the moments that amused you, shocked you, or caused you to yell things that frightened the other people on the subway.

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Connect on Twitter: @PostLive | @petridishes

Happy Tuesday, all! How 'bout this weather, eh?

My research indicates that the Chicken from Hell was made extinct by the Sandersaurous from Kentucky.

The Sandersaurus was a fearsome beast, but what makes you so sure it was not in fact the Chickfilaopterix? It seems likely to me that they were walking the earth at the same time.

Whenever I catch your chat I feel I've walked into a conversation that's been going on some time, because I haven't read the most recent ComPost article. Can you post a link to ComPost columns on the top of the chat pages themselves? Yes, I could search, and I do, but it would be so helpful to simply click a link. WaPo puts chat links on page 1, but regular columns don't get the same prominence--not your fault. Surely I can't be your only fan who feels left out of the conversation? Chats would be much more fun if I weren't lost at the very beginning!

This is a great idea, thanks!

I was hoping we could spend some time today in Awkwardland, actually! The most recent round of the Awkward Madness has some intriguing pairings, and I worry that my final four picks are facing stiff competition.

Restroom conversation is doing alarmingly well against Replying-All, for instance, although it's still a stiff battle. And forgetting the name of only one of two people you're introducing is actually beating Talking Pleasantly And At Length To Someone Not Talking To You. Is it really that bad? I suppose it's less of a victimless awkwardness than blabbing to a person not addressing you is. 

Awkward March Madness, Round of 32

I am who was looking for a forgotten children's book about a rabbit that dies peacefully at the end. For the last two weeks, I made it my mission to find the book so I could announce in this chat what boo is was. After searching over 500 books, I have to admit defeat and I am calling off the search. I am not certain why I can't find it. Perhaps I did find it and I skipped over it. There are a couple of theories that have been suggested. One, the rabbit part might actually be throwing me off. I believe it was a book about a number of animals so focusing on the rabbit may have narrowed the search too much. Second, there were a lot of small publishers in the 1960s and the book could well have been a limited run that has does not show up in current searches, The book would have to have been on a school book shelf in 1969-70. It would have been for a junior or high-upper middle school audience. I believe this is going to hopefully be one of those cases where, now I have stopped looking, I will wake up in the middle of the night and realized "that''s the book". I will then let you know what it is.

Thank you so much for the update! I was wondering!

I think we need to find a super librarian to add to the mix on this, because I am not yet willing to admit defeat. Isn't this kind of Google-resistant query the reason we still have people? I don't have any good working librarian relationships at the moment (I'm more of a buyer than a borrower) but who's got a fab one?

I think Buffalo Wild Wings caused its extinction. No doubt they made totally awesome wings but like the passenger pigeon demand outstripped supply.

I had a brief but embarrassing phase of confusing passenger and carrier pigeons (quickly following the equally brief and equally embarrassing phase when I thought 'opposable thumbs' were 'reversible thumbs') during which I assumed that the thing that had sent them extinct was that they were exhausted from carrying all our messages and had dropped out of the sky.

I guess it explains why servings of snake, alligator, lizard are all met with "tastes like chicken."


I think that's pretty gender-specific. To women, it's socialising. To men, it's kryptonite.

I was going to specify "when you can hear the unmistakable sound of someone doing business," which ups the ante for the ladies, but -- you are so right. If this makes the finals, that will be why. Everything I know about manly restroom conversation I learned on House of Cards, and that seems like a poor source.

The Sandersaurus killed off the Chicken from Hell. It knew the right combination of herbs and spices to kill the chicken beast. The Chickfilapoterix was too busy warning that homosexuality would lead to the extinction of the dinosaurs,


See, this is why everyone needs equal time on Cosmos.

We of the James Bond Washington Post Sex Club want you to know that you are our favorite columnist. You may be surprised to learn that we are actually quite a large organization. We have two members already, We bow to you, our faithful leader.

Hi, person who was lost earlier in this chat!

This is actually an allusion to something I tweeted yesterday, because I was completely baffled by the fact that two people had discovered the blog by Googling "www jamesbond sex wp". One might have been regarded as some kind of horrible mistake. Two sounds like a club.

I have been holding to be transferred to a Verizon representative for the last 20 minutes, I thought I would call before this chat and get it over with before the chat, Wrong.

Are you still on hold?

Keep us posted! How's the music selection?

Any way we can see the current Awkwardness poll results? The "See Results" link appears to be useless.

This is the most temperamental poll I've ever built and I don't know why it sometimes works and sometimes does not, but if you take it straight through in Google Chrome, either incognito or un, it'll show you the results as you go. At least in my experience.

The big takeaway is that Life and other high-concept things like The 80s are losing instantly and bigtime to small specific moments of definable discomfort.

Have you ever eaten bacon and said "tastes like chicken"?


I should know what the pig's great ancestor was, but all I can remember is the Megatherium, a sloth four hundred times the size of your average sloth nowadays, and I am very very sure that was not the pig.

Stay on hold, I'll get back to you when the chat is over.

*hold music drum solo*

Hold music and airport music used to sound as though they came from the same supplier, but I think airport music has gotten better while hold music has stagnated.

I don't think that's a fair entry. Life is awkward, but it's mostly awkward in private which I think it not as bad as awkward in public (reply-all or waving in vain for instance).

Also, it was from a clear Either/Or first round: Life or Death. You could argue that Life is the Great All-Encompassing All-Awkward Moment, but I don't think most people voting have seen it that way.

Nothing listed comes even close to conversation in the restroom. I am a man and it is just not done. I will nod in ackowledgement of another person, but I don't even say hello. Though I suppose this would be a good question for Weingarten's chat today.

Wait, you don't walk up to people and say, "Nice member, Jim, but how's that story coming?"

I know you're supposed to stand as far as possible, but I thought maybe you could sort of yell over the dividers, if such existed in your 'stroom.


Passenger pigeons let the carrier pigeons carry the luggage.

Passenger Pigeons are the indolent pre-Revolution French aristocracy of pigeons.

kiss/handshake will win. Now everyone's going to try to thwart me. This is the Hawthorne effect as applied to your column.

I think that's a strong prediction based on its performance so far. I foresee a little unexpectedly stiff competition from room-elephants, but that might just be weird optimism on my part.

And how does all of this beat being a tween? Being a tween, guys! Look at tweens!

Oh, no. I looked over all the AMM entries and realized I've done all of them, sigh.

That's the whole point! Where do you think I got them, some kind of Awkward Moments Generator?

There's another term for an Awkward Moments Generator, and that's My Entire Life.

is worse than facing the back of the elevator.

So, if I'm ever in a men's room, as a man, because I'm deep undercover for some reason or other, what are some examples of things I could say? Just nothing? Can you whistle? Can you say, "Hey, I have no interest in taking a gander at you, what do you think about those score results from the game?" I always assumed that the reason women didn't advance in business for years was because the guys just chilled in the restroom and got all their business done there.

I got through. Here is the thing: I am in a rural area. I bought a Verizon jetpack because their sales agent showed me that Verizon reached my address. I said good, and I was planning to switch to Verizon. When I brought the jetpack back, it did not connect, I called Verizon and they told me I was outside their service area. I returned the netback, with they refunded except for a $32 restocking fee. That upset me that I paid $32 for something I could not use, but they had told me that beforehand so I was stuck. I have now received a bill for $16 from Verizon. They say that is for the time I had the jetpack. I questioned why I am being billed for something that didn't work. They said they would bring this to someone who would get back to me within 48 hours. Is it me, or is it getting expensive to buy things that don't work?

I am especially sad because the thing that didn't work for you seems to be called a jetpack. Maybe your mistake was trying to plug the jetpack in.

But in all seriousness, ugh. What a lousy waste of time and money.

Chicken from hell died out when it hatched on the first day of Spring and it SNOWED!!!! Augggggggggggggggggggh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!




If possible, never go to a stall or urinal next to an occupied stall or urinal. If you go into an empy bathroom, never go into a stall or urinal that would force someone to go beside you. For example if there are 3 stalls, you should use stall number 1 or 3 but not 2. Stall 2 would be used only if stall 1 and 3 are occupied. The only reason to talk in a bathroom would be if you are having a legimate emergency, like a heart attack. Lack of toilet paper just means you need to use your sock, not talk to anyone else.

Duly noted.

What about over by the sinks?

There is no conversation, ever. If there is a fire, you let people burn to death rather than speak. If you speak, we will presume you are a United States Senator trying to pick us up.

I assume tapping is right out, too?

The only female code for bathrooms I know of is that that you always flush with your foot. Otherwise everything seems to go.

Also, try not to type audibly.

This is actually a sad story. The last surviving passenger pigeon died in an Ohio zoo 100 years ago in April 1914. Martha was last of a group of billions of birds that once flew over North America. At one time, one in every four birds in America was a passenger pigeon. Yet, we managed to hunt them to extinction in a couple hundred years. These are a different species than the common rock pigeon that we see in cities today, and were actually quite a pretty little bird. Unfortunately they tended to nest in large groups which made it easy for hunters to harvest them in astonishing numbers.

Aw, Martha!

This is why we can't have nice things.

In some, you will find the front page/sports page of the newspaper hung over the urinal. I guess that's to discourage people who just HAVE to multitask from talking.

Whoa, this is like a magical dream-world!

There was a great video Gene Weingarten had on his chat a few years ago, Essentially, it explained men's bathroom etiquette. There are five urinals. The first man to enter takes either the first or fifth urinal The next man takes the urinal at the other end. The third man takes the middle urinal. A fourth man waits until one of those three urinals are vacant. No one ever uses the second and fourth urinal. They are just for decoration. And no one talks, Ever.

I am learning a lot!

What about the stalls?

This is why men don't understand why women all go to bathrooms together in a group. Men never speak to each other in a bathroom. Men never go to the bathroom together, Oh, and in case you are wondering, men presume that the women are having kissing orgies together in the bathroom and they are upset they weren't invited. Just in case you wanted to know what men think goes on,

See, so, actually the whole "Why do women all go to the bathroom together?" stereotype question is easily answered: the problem is the men's room, not the women's room. The women's room has stalls and camaraderie and it's not completely beyond the pale to initiate conversation, although it can be awkward if the conversation continues all the way through. Whereas the men's restroom sounds like having to do business in a terrifying etiquette minefield. It's on YOU, not on US!

I thought dates via and other dating sites were awkward moments generators. On those dates, I'm guessing, "Oh wow, you look like your online photo!" is NOT a recommended icebreaker.


My favorite awkward moment is Date Lab when one person had a 5 and is eager to re-meet and the other person thought it was a 3 and is eager not to return the other person's calls.

Don't get me wrong -- I brush twice a day and floss every morning. I exhort others to take good care of their teeth as well. However, there's a chick in my building who goes through a lengthy oral care routine in our public bathroom, and it's always grossed me out when people do that. I cannot imagine brushing my teeth next to a stranger taking a dump. Maybe that's just me.


Bathroom flossers are people I don't understand and could never become. Flossing is awkward enough as a thing you lie to your dentist about twice a year, but actually doing it in the company of defecating strangers? Nope. Nope, thanks.

Seems almost the opposite of the men's code. Other women must be acknowledged if you see them, either by a nod or brief hello. If you do not see them, but know they are in stall next door, then no talking. But if you see them, its someone you know and they go into the stall next door, then its permissible to talk through the walls.

To be honest, I'm not sure what the exact rule is for stall conversation, but I think the loose guideline is that it has to start before the peeing starts. You can't interrupt mid-stream.

Yes, the Verizon router is called a jetpack. For a moment there, I was worried I had misunderstood what it was called and all of you think I am some crazy person who thinks one can blast off from the backyard and fly to work. With my dog Astro, I checked, Verizon does call it a jetpack,


Never ever ever go into an occupied stall. Unless you're invited.

Thanks, Larry!

Close the stall door and mutter to yourself "One more day. One more day of this **** and it all ends here."

It actually sounds like the way to be left alone is just to walk in. The men's restroom sounds like a strange dysfunctional place.

Sinks? What are those?

Tell me you have sinks.

are a current fad, at least among wanna be politically correct institutions. However, the comments on men vs women's bathroom codes shows there are reasons for separating the sexes on certain occasions.

Thought experiment:

stalls for everyone in one giant restroom. Pros: men are in and out quicker, so the turnaround rate would be higher.

Cons: end to the elaborate etiquette dance you just described.

Pros: it sounds as though every single problem the men have that requires this etiquette would be solved if they had stalls as default rather than as an option.

One bathroom fixture that has forrtunately gone out of style is the trough. It was just a trough with water running from one side to the other and numerous men were supposed to walk up to it and begin relieving themselves at the same time. I am 35 and I can remember one of those things at the old VA State Fair in Richmond.


no to sofas.

Fine by me! I have never used the sofa except as a receptacle for things that you can carry into a restroom without attracting too much side-eye but are unwieldy to bring also into the stall.

If you really like to freak guys out, go on a double-date. Then you and your girlfriend excuse yourselves to go to the bathroom. Exchange dresses. Watch their reactions when you return.

*sighs exaggeratedly* as if the men would even NOTICE!

(Hey, as long as this is turning into Gender Stereotypes Tuesday...)

Men's bathroom etiquette has been designed to be highly functional. Men go in, do their business and get out. That seems pretty functional to me. maybe the smells and sounds in the men's bathroom have forced such etiquette to minimize time spent there.

Efficient, yes. But the off-the-charts-awkward, completely-verboten rating you've been giving any interaction whatever in there makes me wonder.

I once set up a male co-worker with a woman. I thought they would be perfect together. One day, I noted the co-worker does not wash after using the facilities. That alone made me change my mind and tell her I don't think he's right for her after all.


Thank you for doing the honorable thing.

Still have them at Fenway Park men's rooms.

Remind me not to be a man at an old-timey baseball stadium.

If only mature adults used them, maybe. But I would never, ever be able to pull my pants down in such an environment, even in a stall, unless it was one of those floor to ceiling types. Too many bad experiences with perverted little boys looking over or under at camp ground bathrooms and the like.

Yeah, didn't really address the Pervert Problem.

Is there no way to pervert-proof a facility? Besides having those giant floor-to-ceiling stalls. Maybe a multi-cabin experience?

A bench could (theoretically) be cleaned. but a sofa?

Ah, but it's on the outside of the stalls in the vestibule area!

What, really, is the point of it? If you want to see pictures of my newborn niece or ask my opinion about this latest ukase from Human Resources, why don't you ask me at my cubicle? Why are you talking to me in the bathroom?

I concur. But often people who want to talk to you in the restroom, as a general rule, are people you don't want to talk to anywhere else.

The loud music in club vs nodding over loud music one I just saw in a tv rerun. 'Only one of u thinks it's a date' beats 'going in for a kiss and getting a fiustbump in return.' = my pick.

They say a kiss with a fistbump is better than none.

Sure there are sinks in the bathroom. We just thought they were decoration, Like the 2nd and 4th urinals.


(1) I'd say that dividers in men's rooms were the greatest thing since sliced bread - except that if asked to choose, I'd take the dividers and rip the bread with my hands, and (2) We don't have conversations because we're not there long enough to say much beyond "hey". Remember what we're working with. We finish quickly. --space cadet

But surely, at the sinks -- yes, I realize I am really pushing sinks here -- as you wash your hands, you might exchange a pleasantry -- not pleasantries plural, mind you, but an individual pleasantry?

For women minimal amounts of interaction relieve bathroom ackwardness, where it seems for men nothing can reduce bathroom ackwardness, it can only be increased.

I'm not sure the minimal amounts of interaction actually relieve it for us. I think our default is a pretty non-awkward experience. You do your business in private. Whereas your default is that for speed and efficiency everyone does it in public, and consequently you have all these lane restrictions to make it as private as possible. If everyone were a little less relaxed you'd have stalls as a default, and if everyone were a little more relaxed nobody would have a problem, but instead we are where we are.

Its so much more efficient, especially at crowded bars and stadiums. You can fit 5 or 6 guys in the same space as 3 urinals. Also, have you been to El Centro in Georgetown where the men's and women's rooms share a couple of big sinks in the middle and there's no mirror between them? Its weird.

Whoa, no, I haven't! I know there used to be a bathroom in Georgetown (listed as Best Bathroom of 2009, I believe, by the Express) where everyone had a stall and common sinks, but it was at the restaurant formerly known as Mienyu.

That's what the 2nd and 4th urinals are for.


Good work, men. We have once again continued our deception that woman believe we do not interact in bathrooms. They shall never learn we have beer and wine stashes in our bathrooms. Women must never find this out Good work, men, at keeping women at bay on our secret. Wait, did I just write that out loud?


My boss told me a story about how, many years ago, he ran into a certain famous male liberal political pundit who might happen to be married to a famous female conservative political pundit - trying to make sure no one gets sued or anything here. Anyhow, said pundit was at the urinal and my boss walked into the restroom. I don't remember the details of exactly what happened, but the pundit turned around and had some sort of conversation with my boss, however he had failed not only make sure he had "put himself away", so to speak, he had also failed to stop urinating. I'm pretty sure this is why men don't talk in the bathroom.

Wasn't there also a thing with Rick Perry, where he --



A bad back doomed any chance Perry stood to break through. It became an open secret that he was using painkillers in sufficient dosages to keep him standing through the two-hour debates. The manager of a rival campaign was at a urinal in an empty bathroom in Hanover, New Hampshire, before the Bloomberg News debate on October 11, when he heard someone come through the door loudly singing “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” Wondering who was making all the noise, the campaign manager turned his head and saw, to his surprise, the governor of Texas. Perry came down the row of about twenty urinals and stood companionably close by. Nonplussed, the campaign manager made a hasty exit; as the bathroom door closed, he could hear Perry still merrily singing away: “I-I-I’ve been working on the ra-a-i-i-l-road, all-l-l the live-long day . . .”

Asked about the episode, a top campaign official said, “He whistles. I wouldn’t read anything into it.”


(from Politico's Inside The Circus)

Oh, and now that I've linked your chat to 1876 medical librarians... why does it have to be the week that all the talk is about bathrooms!? You couldn't talk about Bertie Wooster this week?

I'm sorry, this was unforeseen!

We've just doubled the awkwardness of this restroom conversation.

Any chance it's The Tough Winter by Robert Lawson? Rabbits and other critters try to survive on Rabbit Hill while The Folks are away? There's a cantankerous older rabbit, Uncle Analdas, and he may die at the end.

Cantankerous Older Rabbits are the best kind.

speaking of unwanted conversation in the bathroom, it's always amusing when someone's taking a business call whilst doing one's personal business. But I actually asked my gynecologist if she'd ever had patients talk on the phone during an exam. Yes, the answer is just what you think, and it's not even an unusual occurrence.


I always wonder what the people on the other end think. The callers must assume they can't hear, but -- can they?

I liked this commenter's misspelling, as it captures the exclamation one might make in a moment of awkwardness -- ACK!

I liked it too!

The issue here is space. Companies want to meet the minimum requirements of building codes as inexpensively as possible. Thus the lack of stalls. After all, aren't accessible stalls the best to use? Wide and comfortable and little chance of snagging your sleeve on the wall? Wouldn't it be good if every stall were accessible? It's not, because it costs $.

Ah, yes, a dose of reality.

A man in a public restroom can, with ingenuity, accomplish No. 1 without touching anything except his own clothes. So he thinks he can escape without washing. Personally, I have always washed every time since the birth of my eldest child.

Hi, librarians!

this is the librarian invited to this chat I can confirm there were no children's book on men's urinals in school libraries in 1969-70.

(Audible laughter on my end)

This is very good to know, and I don't think the chat can top this.

The sinks are there as an alternative to lanes #2 and 4.. --sc

Well, that's certainly a possibility.

I know of two places in DC that have one restroom with floor-to-ceiling stalls for everyone -- Cafe Asia (on I Street west of Farragut Square) and The Coupe (on 11th Street in Columbia Heights). Maybe a review is in order!

I'll add 'em to the bathroom list! The bathroom list that I am starting just now!

Maybe Watership Down by Richard Adams (1972)? I know the date doesn't match, but I've found when library users are *sure* something was published in a given year, they are often off by several years.

I think we are still pretty sure it's not Watership Down, but there have been three suggestions today from varying sources asking if we're sure.

I was in a restroom in a restaurant where the walls were tinted windows such that you could see out but others could not see in. It was incredibly disconcerting.

That is quite literally a nightmare scenario.

Where I went to school, men talked. We discussed our current topics. It is until we were studying the Native Americans and I went next to a fellow student and asked "so how's Little Big Horn going for you?" that it was decided we should all be in silence from there on.

And that's a chat, everyone.

Have a great week! Don't talk to anyone, inside or outside the restroom! Keep reading the Compost, and feel free to join me on Twitter!

In This Chat
Alexandra Petri
Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost, a lighter take on the news and issues of the day, and she contributes to the Post editorial page. Her work has appeared in venues such as The Huffington Post, The Week,,, Collegehumor, and The Harvard Crimson. She has appeared on Jeopardy!, Showbiz Tonight and Canadian radio, and she has performed at Boston's Comedy Studio and Comedy Connection. She would love to be on your TV show, radio show, Daily Show, HBO special, or to be an honored guest (or regular guest) at your Bar Mitzvah. She is the author of two books (unpublished, but contact her!), two screenplays, three plays, one musical, and one memoir (Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast.)
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