A few days ago, I posed a seemingly mundane question to my Instagram followers, unaware that in doing so I was blithely slicing a fingernail through the skin of humanity’s proverbial grape, straight to the tender, fleshy mess of who we are and why: Do you knock on the door or jiggle the handle to determine if a restroom is occupied?
In an accompanying poll, 66 percent of people said they knock, and 34 percent said they jiggle, which puts me squarely in the minority. I find that a (gentle) jiggle is the most effective means of not only determining if a bathroom is locked, but also of (gently) alerting the person inside that there is another person waiting to use it. According to some–okay, fine, many–this opinion and corresponding course of action is an offense tantamount to squirting poison on someone’s birthday cake as they’re blowing out the candles:
“Only pyschos jiggle, right?” one person messaged me in response to my query.
“Jiggle!?!?!?! Are you insane!?!?!?!” another offered.
“I find it extremely rude to jiggle the handle,” said another.
“Barbaric,” chimed in a fourth.
“Real type of evil,” said another.
“That’s like a serial killer trying to get in!” said another.
“Name and shame the jigglers,” said another.
“Excuse me but you are a danger to society and should be put away if you’re a jiggler,” another added.
Amidst the deluge of #teamknock outrage, a few confessed to changing their approach when noise levels required it (“It depends on the loudness of the environment! If it’s too loud to hear a knock response then I’m going for the jiggle. But I think a knock is the more respectful approach when possible”), but for the most part, there was little gray area. Knocking wasn’t just a method for determining bathroom occupancy–it was a badge of honor, a code of ethics, an identity.
Though there were fewer responders on #teamjiggle, those who were responded with equal passion:
“Idk who these animals are that immediately knock without trying the door, like they’ve just arrived at a friend’s house and want to be let in,” one person wrote. “I am passionate about this topic! I have my pants down, I don’t want another human knocking.”
“Knocking is SO HARSH and it gives me anxiety when someone knocks if I’m using the restroom,” another said. “Like, now I feel an urgent need to hop off the toilet and frantically wash my hands, whereas jiggling is much more mild and patient.”
“A knock is so aggressive!” said another. “It demands an answer and is there anything worse than yelling from the toilet that you in in there? The jiggle is polite, quiet, and doesn’t require a response, which is most preferable [when] at your most vulnerable.”
One of my friends (a staunch knocker, alas) told me @the.wingdings, an account that posts memes about popular co-working space The Wing, had conducted a poll on this topic a few months ago. When I reached out to the account’s creator, Sarah*, I learned that the percentages of knockers vs. jigglers who responded to her poll were the reverse of those in mine, with 33 percent voting “knock” and 67 percent voting “jiggle.” Intrigue! I also learned that The Wing added “vacant”/”in use” signs to their bathroom stalls earlier this month, shortly after her poll. Though the connection between this development and Sarah’s poll is unconfirmed, the timing is striking.
When I asked what prompted her investigation, she said, “People knocking on my stall doors and me thinking, what is going through this psychopath’s head?” (Cue my delight at encountering a fellow #teamjiggle). “I realized that I was dealing with a completely different group of people,” Sarah continued. “That the way they operate in the world must be different in all ways, not just pertaining to toilets. I was curious how many of ‘them’ were out there.”
After polling her followers, she developed a theory that jigglers expect order—they assume a bathroom in use will be locked if it’s in use—whereas knockers expect chaos, and assume no such thing.
Leandra (a jiggler), shared a different interpretation with me: “Knockers are others-aware and jigglers are self-absorbed. Isn’t it obvious?”
I’m honestly not sure.
Graphic by Coco Lashar.