What’s Worse: Walking in on Your Teacher in the Bathroom or Having Them Walk in on You?

Ann Karneus, Mean

Hey folks: while this week’s article may seem like a laughing matter, it is not. Those out there who are easily embarrassed: read at your own risk. I’m breaking down the question at hand because it’s something I have been personally agonizing and losing sleep over for the past few weeks. Allow me to share some background with you first in the form of an anecdote. The intrusive thoughts and paranoia fueled night terrors which prompted this question all started when I was taking my sweet time in a single room bathroom in a certain academic building. To protect their identity, I will not be disclosing the name of the professor involved. As I was sitting on the toilet bowl, deflated and flatulating, bowels churning away after foolishly drinking three cups of coffee before 3 p.m., I heard my professor shuffling down the hallway outside, their voice growing louder with each step they took towards my haven and simultaneous prison. Seconds before impact — before the inevitable handle turn — a loathsome and odious feeling of panic resounded in my chest, and a question pounded in my ears at the same speed and urgency as my hammering heart beat: had I locked the bathroom door? In that moment, I was reduced to my most primal state: vulnerable and half-naked, paralyzed on the toilet seat mid-shit like a sitting duck, helpless to my impending fate. And then the moment was upon me and over within an instant; they jiggled the handle and the door remained blessedly, firmly in place. I was saved! The nightmare was over, but the sticky terror remained as I played the scene over and over again in my head. While our Merciful Lord and Savior had looked upon me kindly that day, this event only sparked ghost-like feelings of crippling embarrassment that I would have surely felt in full if the deadbolt had not been in place. Horrifying thoughts came unbidden to me and my mind whispered insidious questions in my ear, supplying repulsive scenarios that I could not banish, try as I might. My life has been flashing before my eyes ever since that fateful day; I cringe as I picture my professor walking in; envision the brief and excruciating eye contact that would have inevitably been made before they slammed the door closed and fled to their office. And how would future interactions unfold after an undoable episode such as that? Would it be addressed afterwards? Or swept under the rug never to be spoken about again? Would I have dropped the class, the shame I felt more powerful than the desire for the four credits I need desperately for my major? This brings me back to my original question: would I have been worse off if the scenario had been reversed? Put less delicately, would it be worse for your professor to glimpse a sliver of your genitalia, or the other way around? I’m really not sure. My experience and the acute and irrational fear I felt indicates that them walking in on you would be far more horrific for both parties, but I am open to hearing out other arguments. DM me if you have an answer or an anecdote — knowing that I’m not alone in this agony might ease my perpetual suffering.