Anyone who has been graced with living in any of the Butterfields—A, B, or C—has either asked their friends or quietly wondered: “Why do these bathrooms not lock?” It seems logical why they should. There’s one toilet, one shower, and for some reason, two sinks that are never being used simultaneously. For all intents and purposes, these are single bathrooms. If you’re lucky, you’re greeted with the friendly “Single Use, Please Knock!” signs, so you hopefully won’t be interrupted at your most vulnerable moment.
I like the Butts. I hailed from C last year and chose to live in A this year. The pros in my mind outweigh the cons: single room, close to WesWings (a good thing), and close to Summies (not as much of a good thing). In reality, I have very few complaints about living in the Butts, despite its not-so-positive reputation.
Despite the perks, I have always been dumbfounded about the bathroom situation. Locks on bathroom doors just seem logical. They seem like an easy fix. They seem so obvious. Without locks, you constantly must have in the back of your mind that someone might come in. Sure, this encourages efficiency: “Why spend more time in here when someone could disrupt my privacy? If I’m done faster, I can go get some more work done because I’m a studious college student!” However, it can also induce anxiety. Maybe you have a shy bladder. Maybe you have a nervous colon. Whatever the case, a secure bathroom would relax both these organs.
So how do Butts residents fight against this invasion of privacy? Well, there is a certain bathroom etiquette that we are expected to abide by. First, we are supposed to prop the door open when we leave. This lets our hallmates know that the seat is vacant (and also airs the room out). This sounds like a decent idea until NOBODY in the hall actually does it.
We also are trained to knock on the door every single time we go in. I find myself knocking at three in the morning to a bathroom I know is empty. In more normal circumstances, we knock and wait for the usual, “Occupied!” or “Someone’s in here!” My personal favorite that I’ve made my own is “Hang on!” It’s short, sweet, and gets the point across before the door can open. Who knew there could be so much strategy involved in using the John?
Unfortunately, this knocking method proves fatally flawed. Being the worrier that I am, my mind constantly runs wild with thoughts: “What if they don’t hear me. The stall is pretty far from the hall door. I need to make sure I’m loud enough. But I don’t want to sound mean….” You get the idea. Alternatively, you can get caught seconds before stepping into the shower, which is very close to hallway door. This proximity practically ensures an awkward encounter should someone walk in uninvited. Of course, there is also the dreaded “knock-n-push” method that many students have partaken in. Essentially, it involves pushing the door open while, at the same time, having the decency to knock. It’s a pseudo, almost symbolic knock for the sole purpose of knocking. You just don’t wait for a response. Obviously, the knock is relatively useless in this case.
These are just a few reasons why a lock would solve so many issues. There are also potentially more serious safety issues if an intruder has nefarious intentions.
One of the anti-lock reasons my friends and I pondered was that somehow someone could lock themselves (and everyone else) out, rendering the bathroom useless. I soon realized the error in this logic.
Take the bathrooms on the main floor of Fisk, for example. Last year, one of my classes was blessed with being right near two beautiful, single-and-ready-to-mingle bathrooms with lockable doors! Looking back, it’s as if they were beckoning me to give them a try. You go in, you lock, and the next eight and a half minutes are yours for the taking. No worrying about an unwanted intruder. Sit down, relax, kick off your shoes if you want. These bathrooms’ locks were created so it is not possible to lock yourself out. Who knew the answer to Butts’ bathroom problem has been sitting in Fisk all along?
As far as fixes go, locks are doable and realistic. It would greatly increase the comfort of Butts living, and it would stop the quiet murmurings of confused Buttsians. Plus, the beauty of the lock is that you can take it or leave it. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t care if someone is puttering around while you’re showering, separated by nothing but a flimsy curtain, then don’t lock it! However, the lock gives those of us who like our privacy the option to keep it. Since I arrived at Wesleyan in August 2016, I’ve always wondered the real reason why the Butterfields have been given the nickname “Butts.” Perhaps lockless bathroom doors have been the reason all along.
Ben Sullivan is a member of the class of 2020. Ben can be reached at email@example.com.