Give me an insight into the motive: pushing an occupied bathroom stall's door/others not occupied

Something really, really mundane which has intrigued me for a long time because I just cannot get into the head of those people:

I’ll have to begin with describing the setup. Here in Germany unlike in some other countries, bathroom stalls doors in public, office, restaurant etc. toilets almost invariably indicate their status by a coloured indicator (red for occupied vs. green or white for unoccupied), somethings with a verbal indication, occasionally with an indicator doubling as emergency opening coin slot, horizontal = occupied/vertical = unoccupied. Doors are stall-height so there’s no question of looking for the occupant’s feet, and they generally aren’t designed to be ajar when unlocked either.

So, the obvious way if you are looking for a free stall is on the lines of walking along the indicators thinking “occupied … occupied … curses, occupied … ah, free”. That’s what I do and what the large majority of other people also do.

Now what I sometimes hear from the inside is: someone entering the room and pushing on the handle of the first stall door, noisily and with some force. To no effect, of course. After some time, doing the same with the next door. Until finding a free stall.

One possible explanation for that might be that they are in a hurry, but I do not do this even when I do the knees-pressed-together shuffle - because it is simply pointless.
It also happens in offices where there are a finite, known number of users, neither of which is visually impaired, cognitively impaired or a recent immigrant from somewhere with different bathroom stall doors. Also, considering the time of day, not drunk.

  1. Do you (or, if you will, ‘a friend’) do this, and why?

  2. re the white spots of my world map: Does this also happen in women’s bathrooms?

I’ve had that happen in the US…obviously we don’t have the colored indicators, but you’d think people would be able to see legs/bags/etc. underneath stall doors…you can even see people through the cracks! I think people are just not paying attention/ in a hurry. Odd though, that they do this even with colored indicators.

Edit: I forgot to specifically answer your question…no, I don’t do it because I can tell when a stall is occupied, and I am a woman, and have witnessed this in women’s restrooms.

In my experience (no coloured indicators but doors usually ajar when open), it usually happens only on one stall per user. ie, Jane enters the bathroom and heads via autopilot to the stall she normally uses and pushes on the door. If it’s occupied she’s jolted out of her autopilot and actually looks at the doors to determine where to go to next. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the situation where someone repeats the same futile attempt at each door.

Reminds me of an old stand-up comedy routine.

“You can only really say two things if someone walks in on you. ‘Hey!’ or ‘I’m in here!’. If you say, ‘Hey, I’m in here!’ and they keep coming, just stand up and greet them.”

This is funny because this just happened to me, in the US, in the only bathroom I know of that does have an “occupied/unoccupied” sign. It’s at my rec center, and it’s a one-off - all of the other bathrooms in the place are multi-stall rooms. This is just a single bathroom with a door that has one of those signs.

Anyway, in the 6 months I’ve been going there and using that bathroom, no one has ever tried the door while the “occupied” sign was up. The door’s got to be closed and locked for that sign to be up. The other day, someone tried it.

I was flabbergasted. Like…really? How could this bathroom possibly NOT be occupied?

ZipperJJ, we have one of those outside of my old office. People that work in the office invariably check by looking. People that don’t invariably check by trying.

Don’t the locks in the US have indicators like these?

Why would someone not read them and try the door anyway?

In my experience, almost never.

Only on airplanes. (And people still try the door on an airplane bathroom! Jesus Christ, people!)

Well, and port-a-potties, and also Greyhound buses (and I presume Amtraks, although I’ve never been on one.)

And ferry boats

OK, so bathrooms on modes of mass transportation and port-a-potties.

But not in buildings, that I’ve seen ever in 30 years of going to the potty in the US.

Some stalls are preferable to others. Some people like to get one on either end, near the hard wall. There’s usually more room to stow things like briefcases and umbrellas, and there’s the added attraction that you won’t finally find yourself undergoing asphyxiation because two strangers are taking dumps on either side of you. So if the door looks like it’s closed but might not be, why not at least try it? If it is occupied it should be locked.

Undecided!? Is that like, I’m in here but might be up to meeting new people?

I don’t know about the OP’s situation, because he says they are not ajar when open. But the way it works here, the lock can be turned, so the indicator shows red, but the door is cracked enough that the lock has not engaged. This happens when people are careless, or rough about unlocking the door when they leave the stall. It happens more that the indicator is half red, like the ‘Undecided’ mode in the picture. Either way, you have to look carefully at the door to see if it is actually properly closed or not. It’s easier to just push the door. If there’s someone in there, it’ll be locked. I personally don’t do this, because sometimes the lock can be broken, and open when you push it even though there is someone in there. That would just be too emabrrassing.

If US toilets don’t have an indicator, how do you know if a stall is vacant or not?

Usually, the door will be open if it’s vacant, and closed if it’s not. If all the doors are closed, often there’s something off with the balance of the stall dividers, and there may be a few vacant stalls among the closed doors. If all the doors are closed, I look for visible feet.

Kids are the worst. There may be several open stalls, but many want to get into yours, and they’ll just keep pushing away until you yell “HEY! SOMEONE IS IN HERE!”

Usually one or more of the following:

  1. The door defaults to hanging half ajar (swinging into the stall), so you can see that it’s vacant.
  2. There’s enough of a gap at the bottom that, either by standing back or leaning over a bit, you can see if there are feet in there.
  3. There are thin slits between the metal panels of the stall such that you can see an outline of someone in there just by glancing.

I’m not sure I could be so definite. I’m fairly sure I’ve seen doors with some manner of signaling whether the pot is in use or not (although not of the type Kiwi Fruit linked to), but I’m not exactly sure where. Needless to say, they are definitely the exception and not the rule in the US.

It doesn’t even have to be as complicated as the explanations above. You could just gently push the door. If it opens, it’s not occupied (or somebody didn’t lock the door, in which case an indicator wouldn’t have helped anyway). If it doesn’t open, it’s occupied. Really, it’s not that difficult and I’m surprised anyone would be stymied at how to figure out this brain teaser.

Usually, though, the open stall doors swing slightly ajar in their default, unlocked state.
I never peek for feet.