I’ll admit it: I love striking up conversations with strangers. I’ll talk to people in line at the grocery store, on street corners, in airplanes, or even while lifting weights at the gym. But the most unique ones, the folks who never fail to fascinate, are the ones I’ve met after violently kicking open their stall doors while they’re going to the bathroom.
Just shattering the lock and having the door fly open and seeing someone sitting there, pants around their ankles, looking shocked and surprised and scared and vulnerable. Something about that moment always seems to get people out of their natural element.
The way I see it, though, what better time and place to start up a conversation? They’re sitting there with nothing else to do, and then suddenly I kick down that metal door and say, “Hi! I’m Dan Mayfield! What’s your name?”
Over the years I’ve met people of all races, ages, and nationalities by doing this. People from all walks of life. Even people who speak different languages and say interesting things like “Nein, Stoppen!” and “Dios Mio!”
But despite our cultural differences, people in bathroom stalls that I’ve kicked open are pretty much the same. What you learn about people—and I think this is fascinating—is that there is a certain universal language that folks use whenever they are seated peacefully on the toilet reading the newspaper and are suddenly and violently interrupted by a stranger bursting into the enclosed area they are sitting in.
Really, scrambling to cover your genitals and desperately trying to figure out what’s going on is the same whether you are Chinese, American, man, woman, or you work in finance. Or you are the hospital nurse I met at Mt. Sinai just yesterday.
Sure, you might be asking yourself why I don’t just knock first. Or try to meet people outside of bathroom stalls entirely. Fair questions. But then again, would I have ever met my current business partner if I hadn’t kicked open that bathroom stall at the YMCA on Courtland Street (where I’m not a member), ripped the magazine out of his hand, and initiated a discussion about telecommunications software?
Probably not. Now we’re not only business associates, but we’re best friends who go golfing and kick down doors of bathroom stalls together, trying to meet new people and potential investors. If I know one thing about myself it’s this: If you’re the type of person who is totally cool with me breaking into your bathroom while you’re sitting on the toilet, then you are somebody I can get along with.
Just as a side note: People I’ve met in bathroom stalls at movie theaters tend to be a little on the weird side. Maybe it’s the loud sound that’s made whenever the lock shoots off, or the fact that they are suddenly talking to a total stranger, or maybe it’s because they are worried about getting back to their movie and just don’t have time for a conversation, but yeah, they are weird.
Kids, too. Kids tend to be weird, quiet, and shy.
But that's what's so exciting for me. Every locked public restroom stall contains a new person to meet. All it takes is a pair of steel-toed boots, some brute strength, and a willingness to just start a conversation by saying “After you’re done in the bathroom here, you want to get a drink?” or “You look like a sports fan. Do you like college or pro basketball better?”
I’ve met foreign dignitaries sitting on toilets at the United Nations, and professional athletes relieving themselves at five-star hotels. Once I even busted down the door of a stall at a sushi restaurant and there was Johnny Depp! Captain Jack Sparrow himself, collared shirt slightly covering his penis, staring directly at me. I was so shocked and speechless that I just took one step forward and stared directly into his eyes. Talk about a celebrity sighting!
I’d be lying, though, if I said I wasn’t just a tad bit concerned that some people don’t like it when I kick my way in and start talking to them. Sometimes I think a few of these folks might just prefer to keep to themselves. But truthfully, that’s all the more reason for me to make an effort to barge into the little cubby where they’re defecating and meet them. Sometimes you just have to break down someone’s personal boundaries, ya know?
And if after several kicks I still can’t get in, I always carry a small extendable mirror to slide underneath the door so I can introduce myself that way. Of course, not being face to face detracts from the experience somewhat, but it’s much better than climbing over the top or shimmying under the door and making a fool of myself, something I’ve done more times than I’d like to admit.
I should also note that it’s not just friends I like to meet by kicking open the doors of bathroom stalls. Au contraire, my friend! Just the other day, in fact, I followed an attractive brunette into the bathroom at the Marriott in Times Square and kicked open the stall she was in. I won’t bore you with the details except to say that it didn’t work out between us.
But I’m not discouraged. As I like to say, nothing’s ever going to happen if you don’t put yourself out there.