When I'm in a public establishment and there's a wait for the bathroom, I prefer not to stand too close to the door, because then I'm right in the face of the person exiting.

Someone coming out of the bathroom with me in their face

In particular, I think exiting a bathroom is a time when most people would least like to have a stranger right in their face.

On the other hand, I find that if I stand back a distance, people don't realize I'm waiting for the bathroom and just go around me:

Someone not noticing me and going around because I'm too far away from the bathroom

This puts me in the uncomfortable position of having to constantly deliver the bad news that yes there is a line for the bathroom and I'm in it.

It may be that there's no good solution to this problem. But perhaps there's a way I haven't thought of to stand back a distance but still make it obvious I'm in line? Some way to make it conspicuous that I'm waiting without being intrusive?

  • @Jesse Good question. Since this happens multiple places there's not one answer, but imagine a coffee-shop type place where the bathroom door is in a back corner of the main room.
    – han
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 0:52
  • It might be a good idea to mention your general location (just country is probably enough), as bathroom line/queue culture varies (I remember how surprised I was the first time I traveled to a country with a per-stall queuing model, rather than the one long line I was used to).
    – 1006a
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 2:49
  • @1006a Mid-atlantic United States.
    – han
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 22:30
  • @Jesse No sink; sink is inside the bathroom. Outside the bathroom is just the public eating area, with maybe a small hallway to make it more private.
    – han
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 22:30

2 Answers 2


Your diagram was helpful.
Like you might have noticed, non verbal communication can sometimes be all about location.

In my modification:

  • You have your back against the wall facing away from the door but not in an angle that would hide your face.
  • You are close enough so there's not so much space for someone else to sneak in, but neither so little space that you'd be invading the personal space of the individual leaving.
  • You are not on their face.
  • You are not so close to make them scared.
  • Avoid having your hands hidden.
  • Some people probably won't even notice you are there in the first place, if they are the type of individuals that move fast or in a rush. waiting outside restroom diagram

Also, whenever someone else comes near with the intention to use the bathroom, you have options:

  • Do something that shows you are waiting, like looking at your clock
  • Or say something helpful and polite like:

    It's busy

This way you make clear you are informed of the status of the restroom because you are obviously waiting, the subtle denotation of the message is "I was here first".

Field testing experience: I'm a 6 feet tall viking-looking robust/endomorph dude and many people don't notice me using this method. They used to get scared/startled before.


I usually face the door from the opposite side.

face the door

Pass time by looking at your phone if you wish. This can also avoid awkward eye contact when the occupant exits.

If you notice or hear another person approaching, turn your full attention to the door to indicate your wait in the queue.

If the other person stands closer to the door than you, you can direct your attention to them and they may or may not get the hint or notice. There are two next steps from here:

  1. Let them go before you.
  2. Politely let them know you were waiting with something like: "Oh, sorry- I was actually waiting."
    If they disagree, I would leave it there as it's likely not worth the argument.

If possible, waiting by the hinge-end of the door avoids the exiting occupant from seeing you and indicates to others that you are waiting.

wait by the hinge-end of the door

  • 1
    The last version would make me freaking out, if I was blue guy and notice from the corner of my eye that someone is 'hiding behind the door'. Furthermore, it sets green guy into the risk of getting hit by the door if a very energetic person leaves. And it makes queuing more difficult IMO. So, I like your first version much more :)
    – Arsak
    Commented May 19, 2018 at 6:41

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