Most public restrooms for men in the US have a row of urinals separated by a small wall shingle bolted to the wall. These are usually around shoulder height on me, so do not block vision sideways.

While at the movies last night, the man that came up to the urinal next to me was rather insistent about trying to strike up a conversation about the movie that he had just seen. At first I just ignored him, and when he persisted, I told him (Somewhat abruptly I admit) that I was not interested in a conversation. I believe my words were along the lines of "Look, I just don't want to talk to you right now", which got a rather snippy reaction from him.

How do you handle a stranger that wants to talk to you in a public restroom?

  • 4
    Is this specifically about a stranger? I would think the level of discomfort would be different depending on whether you knew the person or not.
    – Catija
    Sep 14, 2017 at 16:06

4 Answers 4


I wasn't in that exact situation you describe yet, but had strangers trying to start a conversation with me (e. g. public transport).

The approach I describe is somwhat between NVZ's (short) and anongoodnurse's (polite) approach.

Usually, I will let any attempts at conversations that I don't want to hold, die down politely. I imagine, that you (two) won't spend too much at the urinal, so I wouldn't even say a whole sentence. Rather




And then nothing else, or just

Smile at him

This way, you don't engage in a discussion, finish your business and leave. It may not totally thwart attempts to keep it going, but

  • you don't need to say much
  • you avoid an even more awkward situation with a stranger being angry at you and snipy reactions or worse (at least I would feel that way)

It doesn't cause much stress to you, unlike, for example, a longer train ride with a chatty stranger, which might warrant a clearer message.


I usually nod or "hmm" for a few times and go on my way. This is not just for bathrooms, I do this in such awkward situations.

This way, I'd avoid giving them much attention, and they'll probably read from my responses (or lack thereof) that they should stop.

Saying out loud like you did, I wouldn't do, unless it was some serious matter. This is probably nothing serious.

The movie, I think, must've been to his liking very much, and he probably couldn't stop himself from talking about it to someone.


Personally, I always use the stalls, but in the rare occasion I don't and this happens, I make a lighthearted joke about the situation:

Sorry, I've got a personal policy to never have a conversation while I've got my genitals in my hands.

Or something to that effect (sanitized or de-sanitized based on circumstance). Basically, get your point across while making them laugh at the interaction. They'll feel like they've gotten value out of the conversation and, hopefully, not continue talking.


"Look, I just don't want to talk to you right now", which got a rather snippy reaction from him.

Is that a surprise?

How do you deal with someone that wants to converse in a public bathroom?

Women don't often have this problem while urinating, but (believe it or not), conversations happen all the time at the sinks. I kinda like it. A short and (usually) sweet, polite interaction. But I would feel awkward if it started while I was in the stall.

If tact is your aim, be tactful. Start with "I'm sorry..."

I'm sorry, I understand you want to talk about the movie, but I find talking while I (whatever term guys use) uncomfortable. Sorry.
I'm sorry, I wish I could talk about it, but I can't right now. Sorry.
I'm sorry, my mind is somewhere else, and I can't talk right now, sorry.

The reason I doubled the "sorry" is because the guy was obviously enthusiastic about talking. The second sorry is softening the blow.

If tact isn't important, then what you did was just fine, It achieved your objective.

If you don't want them to even start, I can't think of anything you can do to control what others say or do, unless you just hightail it out of the bathroom as soon as someone else comes in. Or, give them the weirdest, creepiest smile as they walk in, and look straight ahead, but keep the weird smile frozen on your face. I can pretty much guarantee they will not try to converse with you.

  • 6
    Generally we just stare at the wall. I will admit, my mind was definitely not in tact mode at the time. And I have had brief interludes at the sink as well. Much different than talking to someone with your hand in your pants :p
    – JohnP
    Sep 14, 2017 at 17:30
  • @JohnP - Yeah, I would definitely not care much for that, either. Sep 14, 2017 at 17:43
  • 2
    This answer offers another, hidden, way round that problem. I don't call it a solution, because it's not exactly what the OP was asking for. But if you are in such a mood as you were back then, you could use the stall, instead of the urinal (if one is available). Sep 14, 2017 at 18:09

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