Is It Better to Knock or Test the Knob on a Bathroom Stall?

One of the pleasures of working from home is that I never have to worry about the intricacies of potentially awkward social interactions. It’s just me and the cats.

I was reminded of how lucky I am today when I watched a debate between Ed Helms and Stephen Colbert about a common office situation: If you need to use a shared bathroom and you’re not sure if a stall is in use, do you knock or test the knob?

At first, I didn’t even think it was a debate. Of course you just test the knob–why would you put someone in the awkward position of acknowledging that they’re current mid-poop? By simply testing the knob, you allow for anonymity on both sides of the door.

Ed Helms agreed, but I was willing to hear out Colbert. He made a solid point as well, not so much advocating the knock, but pointing out the trouble with testing the knob. If someone on the toilet sees the knob start to turn, there’s a moment of panic. Did you properly close the lock? Will the lock hold? The shock of seeing the knob turn is enough to interrupt whatever you’re doing in the stall.

Given that I’m on the fence, I’d like to propose a third solution: Instead of testing or knocking, hoist yourself over the stall door so your chin is resting on the top of the door. Lock eyes with the person on the toilet, mouth their name without making a sound, then slowly lower yourself to the ground before trying a different stall.

Again, I work from home, so I can’t test this, but you should give it a try! Let me know how it goes. Or share your preference between knocking and testing the knob.