The Weekend Pee Workshop: Overcoming Paruresis

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Editor's note: though this is not about poop, I found it fascinating nonetheless.

A little while ago I wrote in to Dave about paruresis, or shy bladder syndrome -- a form of social phobia marked by the physical symptom of being unable to urinate in the presence of other people. According to the Wikipedia entry, one of the best known methods of therapy is called "graduated exposure", which can be achieved by sufferers working together at organized events known as workshops. As a paruresis sufferer, the idea of a workshop intrigued me. So, figuring I had nothing to lose, I went ahead and signed up for one. The following is a report, for all who are curious, on what one of these workshops is like.

The first meeting of the workshop was scheduled for Friday evening in a hotel conference room. We were advised not to drink a large amount of fluid since we would not be practicing on Friday -- the first session was to be informational only. I must admit I was a little bit nervous, but knowing we wouldn't be practicing that night took a lot of the edge off. When I arrived there was a room full of about twenty men, and they were each taking turns telling their stories. I realized by sharing my own story and listening to others' that my case is not all that bad -- in fact, it could have been far worse. A person's social life can literally be brought to a screeching halt by this disorder. It can dictate what job a person takes, which restaurants they eat at, where they go to college, and, in the most severe cases, even keep a person confined to their own home.

After we had gotten through our stories, the two leaders of the conference gave us some information and explained some of the causes of shy bladder syndrome. They gave a physical explanation for why the bladder "freezes up" during times of stress. As it turns out, there are not one but two sphincters that have to be open in order to urinate. One of them is voluntary and the other involuntary. (Poonurse goes into more detail on this in her article, "Why do we pee when pooping?") If the limbic system of the body senses fear, then the internal urethral sphincter, which is involuntary, can close shut, making it physically impossible to urinate.

This explains why, for a person with paruresis, it is possible to have a bladder so full it feels like it is about to burst and yet, when you try to pee, nothing comes out, no matter how hard you push. Even drinking a ridiculous amount of water in hopes of forcing yourself to pee doesn't necessarily work -- and can land you in the hospital.

(I also found out that there actually is such a thing as Shy Bowel Syndrome, or parcopresis, as well. Though I don't have a shy bowel myself, it makes sense to me that such a thing could exist, since defecating also requires an involuntary sphincter to be open before you can poop.)

The meeting closed with one of the co-leaders, Carl Robbins, explaining that paruresis is not the fear of urinating -- but rather the fear of not urinating. It took a moment to get what he was saying; but when I understood it, it made a lot of sense. If I were able to pee in a public restroom, I would have absolutely no problem with peeing. Nothing about peeing scares me. On the other hand, the thought of standing there struggling to pee with nothing coming out and my hands shaking and my face turning bright red and people noticing that I'm obviously not peeing and me wondering if they're thinking I must be some kind of abnormal freak for standing there five minutes and not peeing -- that is what scares me to death!

Saturday morning was when it got really interesting: it was time to put our money where our mouth is and actually practice! When I arrived at the conference room, there was a table full of every kind of drink you could imagine -- what looked like hundreds of bottles of water, Gatorade, fruit juice, and so on, plus a plentiful supply of soda and coffee. Our first practice session was scheduled for one hour later, and we were all encouraged to drink up.

They then divided us into groups based on our estimation of our ability level, and off we went to the bathroom. It was quite a sight to see -- a group of men all going into the restroom together, just like women do. When we got there, some of the guys took the urinals and others took the stalls. I didn't expect I'd be able to pee at a urinal, so I went to a stall and sat down, since normally I can almost always pee in a stall so long as there isn't someone in the stall right next to me.

But this time was different. They all knew exactly why I was in that stall! I couldn't pretend like I was taking a crap. Worse yet, I felt like they were all counting on me to go. I knew they would understand if I couldn't -- they have paruresis too, after all! If anyone would understand, it would be them. But the thought of them all standing there waiting for me, knowing I was in there trying to pee, was just too much for me. Try as I might, I just couldn't pee. I actually managed to take a crap without peeing one single drop, which has never happened before.

As we were leaving to go back to reconvene, the guy two stalls down from me (I believe Mark was his name) asked, "Nate, is that you in there?" to which I replied that it was. Then Mark said, "Do you want to go practice in a hotel room next session?"

I told him that that would be a good idea. I sat through our next meeting and didn't drink any more fluid since I really, really had to go, and all I could think about was, "Come on, let's hurry up and get to the next practice session!" Had I not had paruresis, I think I probably would have wet myself. I was beginning to get afraid I might never pee.

I got to Mark's room and immediately I said, "I'm going first!" I told Mark to walk all the way over to the end of the hall with the book he was reading while I commandeered the bathroom and locked myself in. Nobody was going to come between me and that toilet!

Oh, what a relief it was to finally piss! When I was about halfway done, I remembered, "Better save some for later!" so I stopped -- which was awfully hard to do, since I really wanted to be completely empty.

After that, practicing got a lot easier. I had some misfires (couldn't pee) and some fires (could pee), but it no longer mattered, since I knew if necessary I could always lock myself in the bathroom and be able to go.

We were instructed to all try to be completely empty for the next meeting. In that next round, we all watched while Carl showed us a different kind of practice. First, he walked right up to the hotel clerk and unashamedly said to her, "I have this problem where I can't pee around other people, and so I was wondering if you could tell me where I can find the most private, secluded bathroom you know of." He made no attempt to speak softly, and everyone within earshot could easily hear what he had said. We then followed him to a mall, where he told us he was going to go stand at the urinal, dick in hand, for fifteen full minutes -- with no intention of peeing.

Of course we didn't dare all go in there at once, since that would draw attention to ourselves; but we trickled in and out to make it look more normal. I went in and stood at the urinal two places over from Carl for about five minutes. Several times I heard Carl complain to everyone within earshot that he couldn't pee, and also say out loud that he could pee just fine at home, but he felt nervous in front of other people. All I could think was, "Wow, this guy has guts!"

This second kind of practice is hugely important, since most paruretics feel extremely embarrassed by their problem and do everything they can to hide it from other people. I know, because up until a couple months ago I hadn't dared tell anyone, including my best friend. For more than a decade I suffered with a holding a full bladder for several hours at a time, deliberately letting myself get dehydrated to try to avoid needing to pee, and going out of my way to find "safe" bathrooms rather than suffer the embarrassment of telling anyone I had this problem.

We finished up the conference with one last session on Sunday. We had been told on Saturday morning that if ever during a meeting before a practice session we really had to go bad, we should excuse ourselves to the bathroom and pee a little bit (but not completely), so that our level of urgency was about a 7 or 8 on a scale of 1-to-10. This was referred to as "topping off." I never felt comfortable doing this on Saturday, since I had always been the good little student who never excused myself from class, and I felt like it would be rude to get up and leave in the middle of a meeting; but lots of the other attendees were doing it frequently during the meeting, so I decided "F*** it! If I gotta go, I'm gonna go!"

Sunday for me was truly amazing. I was walking up to urinals with other people there and actually peeing -- which I have literally not been able to do in years! It did happen a few times that I was unable to pee, and perhaps some other people noticed -- but I no longer cared. Practicing no longer felt awkward or weird for me, but instead rather routine, and even boring. I even took a crap a couple of times and made sure to let everyone know about it. It sure feels great to have just emptied your colon, doesn't it?

This was truly a weekend I will never forget!

44 Comments on "The Weekend Pee Workshop: Overcoming Paruresis"

Anonymous Coward's picture
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"it was time to put our money where our mouth is and actually practice!"

An unfortunate choice of words in this context, but I'm glad the author is feeling better. :)

wonderpance's picture
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wow, very interesting report! i'm glad it worked for you. they should have classes like that for shameful shitters, too.

i have a question, though. why was the class only men? is it because more men are bladder shy than women? or because the shyness is worse when the opposite sex is around? or what?

_______
i love poop.

i love poop.

GottaGoGirl's picture
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Wow, Dave, that IS intriguing! I was interested to note that the problem is psychosomatic. Those poor folks have hope of training their brains to "let go"!
_______
Santa Caca!

KeepOnCrappin's picture
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THe only way that it would be possible to get over that is to get to a huge bathroom and have everybody piss. I remember I was afraid to jump in the pool by myself but with 5 other people it was ok. Maybe that helps.

_______
"KOC -- the Cool Crapper" - Rat Droppings

"KOC -- the Cool Crapper" - Rat Droppings

Latus Rectum's picture
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Wonderpance, your question is a good one. Certainly there are women who suffer from shy bladder, and occasionally there are a few women at these conferences, but usually it's mostly men. Why? I actually don't know. It may be that men are more prone to get this disorder because they are expected to pee standing right next to each other at urinals where anyone can see them, or maybe men are just more likely to sign up for workshops. I also know there've been scientific studies showing that it's easier to relax the muscles you need to relax to pee if you're sitting down. So maybe that's also part of it. Even though I'm a guy, I've decided that if I need to sit down to be able to pee, then I'm gonna pee sitting down. There's no shame in it. The important thing is to do what you need to do in order to pee. If someone wants to think I'm less of a man for it, let him! I don't care!

wonderpance's picture
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that makes sense. i imagine the thought of having your pee-pee out in the open for just anyone to see doesn't help much, either. i know that i wouldn't want to pee in public if there weren't stalls, or doors on the stalls (as i have seen on occasion, and avoid those stalls). i know a lot of guys don't care about other people seeing their junk, but i'm sure there are plenty that don't want to be exposed that way.
_______
i love poop.

i love poop.

Grogan's picture
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I have not seen as many as I used to, but the circle trough(sp). The Kingdome used to have those when it was still erected up in Seattle. I remember as a kid that being the most terifying experiance as a kid.

Prince of Pee's's picture
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I learned a great technique from a nurse when I had back surgery.

Since I really couldn't move about that first day, the nurses had the little urinal bottles for me to use but I couldn't bring myself to pee in bed (imagine that).

They suggested, that if I could sit up, I could sit on the edge of the bed and try. The problem there was, the nurse would not leave the room. Something about not leaving me alone should I fall. But I got to agree to, at least, stand on the other side of the curtain while I tried to pee. Still no dice.

That's when she told me about the technique.

You take deep breaths, in through your nose and our through your mouth. That's important to remember. Not so big you hyperventilate, or anything, but good deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth.

All it took was a couple of breaths and whammo! I was peeing.

I use this technique whenever I find myself having to pee in a crowd and it works everytime.

It also works when taking a dump. It's preferred method over just pushing. Good deep breaths and everything starts moving.

Give it a try.

The Dumpster's picture
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I am mildly this way myself, but I've learned to just think about something else besides the fact that I am standing there exposed to the world in such an undignified and vulnerable manner. Heck, I'm a teacher, so "exposed to the world in an undignified and vulnerable manner" is the normal state of affairs for me!

Double Flush's picture
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Lucky for me, I'l able to pee whenever I can except when there might be someone looking at my bits. I'm pretty good with that and haven't had any problems with it. I am somewhat shameful when it comes to my BMs, though.

_______
Practicing the ancient Chinese art of double flushing... because sometimes, a single flush just isn't enough.

[Insert witty banter here]

The Shit Volcano's picture
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Can't say that this has ever happened to me, but my mother has the problem. When our toilets were busted in this new house she used to go way out behind the barn to pee. I dropped trou, bent down, and just pissed right in front of her because she had to hold the flashlight. (Gilbert was downloading his own business and had a hard time holding a light at the same time. And balancing a flashlight while bending down pregnant is next to impossible, so I HAD to get her help!) I would guess Mom's problem stemmed from childhood when she was given all sorts of weird ideas about sex and the parts involving it. This means shy peeing and pooing, too.

_______
Don't question authority. It doesn't know either.

I found Jesus! He was behind the sofa the whole time!

Anonymous Coward's picture
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What would be your advice if you had to go so pee so bad somewhere but there was a long line at both bathrooms. You start to feel dizzy and you are like about to seriously pee your pants. What would you do?

Anonymous Coward's picture
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what would you do if you had to pee so badly...there were two bathrooms at the place you were at and both had lines of up to 15 people long but you had to go so bad your legs were crossed and wanted so badly to put your hands between your legs...you seriously thought you were gonna die or atleast pee in your pants....what would you do?

The Dumpster's picture
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There are the sinks, you know.

Double Flush's picture
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If nothing else, find a secluded corner, and slink off...

_______
Practicing the ancient Chinese art of double flushing... because sometimes, a single flush just isn't enough.

[Insert witty banter here]

GottaGoGirl's picture
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Dumpster and Double F-- that might work for you men, who are equipped for "picnic" bathrooming, but I sense that Anon is a female, and peeing in the sink would not be as simple for us as it is for you!

This is off-topic, but I have been in many a crowded Ladies' Room at events or what have you, and if some gal walked past the queue, dropped drawers, backed up to a lavatory and tried to climb up, I'm not sure but that the other women would tear her apart.

The best a girl can hope for is to TRY to tell the person at the head of the line that she is VERY DESPERATE, and ask if she could PLEASE cut in line. Otherwise, go find another Ladies' or get a guy to escort you into the Gents'.
_______
Santa Caca!

The Dumpster's picture
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TSV claims to be able to pee in the sink all the time, but maybe that is just at home.

My long-lost girlfriend, Tush, was also pretty adept at peeing in her dorm room sink, but, as you may recall, she had some odd bathroom habits, in general. Last time I saw Tush, she was so stout, she would have broken the sink off the wall if she tried something like that, now.

Double Flush's picture
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There are web sites out there where women can learn to pee standing. I imagine it would be quite a useful skill for times like these. Thank goodness I have that little extra plumbing to work with!

_______
Practicing the ancient Chinese art of double flushing... because sometimes, a single flush just isn't enough.

[Insert witty banter here]

The Dumpster's picture
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If I recall correctly, TSV claims to pee standing, and Dave says he pees sitting down. Maybe I'm wrong, but you sure do find out some intimate stuff about your PR friends.

wonderpance's picture
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yes, ms. volcano does know how to pee standing up. i can't remember her technique, but i know that it's supposedly possible to do it by pulling the skin around your pee hole (or, labia) upward, so as to direct the flow of urine outward, instead of down. i haven't tried it, but i don't know why. i guess i just always forget about it when i'm in the shower, which would be the ideal place to practice. but, mark my words, i will try it one of these days!

however, i still don't know that this technique would allow for very good aim, and i'd probably end up with pee on my undies anyway. lame.
_______
i love poop.

i love poop.

GottaGoGirl's picture
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"...pulling the skin around your pee hole (or, labia)upward..."

Uhh.....

Uhm...

(*blinking and shaking head to try to dislodge the image of distorted labia*)(*shudders*)

"...i'd probably end up with pee on my undies anyway..."

That'd probably be my result, as well!

"...There are web sites out there where women can learn to pee standing..."

And just how do YOU know that, young man?
_______
Santa Caca!

Latus Rectum's picture
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Indeed! There's actually been a lengthy discussion of this subject on poopreport. There are mechanical devices that allow this, but if you want to do it the old-fashioned way, I found the following advice from a website that no longer exists(the link takes you to an archived version of said page):



Finger-assist method

1. Wash or wipe your hands clean with a moist towellette.

2. Adjust clothing. Pants should be pulled down in front a few inches. Skirts should be lifted. Underwear should be pulled down at the waistband or move the fabric at the crotch to one side.

3. Wipe your labia area clean.

4. Using either hand, make a 'V' with your first and second finger and spread the inside of your labia minora. (the INNER lips) Beginners may want to try using the fingers from both hands for better control.

5. Lift to the desired angle, then pee. (If you don't spread and lift, it could run down your leg.)

6. Wipe your labia if necessary.

7. Wash your hands and you're done!

I'm pretty sure a woman wrote this, since most of us guys would probably be like "labi-what?". I could see how such a skill could come in handy for just such a situation. Plus if you tried this in the guy's restroom I'm sure everyone would be so impressed we could more than forgive you for going in the wrong restroom! (Though we almost always forgive the ladies who "borrow" the guy's restroom anyways.) Long lines always seem to form at the ladies' restroom but almost never at the guys' (unless of course 20 of us from a weekend pee workshop are all going in there at once for the practice!) So I think most guys are understanding of the women who are desperate, especially the pretty ones!

wonderpance's picture
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yea, what mr. rectum just posted is pretty much what i was trying to say. sorry if i scared you, GGG.
_______
i love poop.

i love poop.

Double Flush's picture
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Well... guess I should open up again. I know this because I have... *blushes and speaks very softly*... a fetish. Regardless, I think it's really interesting. Thank you Latus Rectum for posting that so I wouldn't have to ad-lib it and look like a sexual predator.
br>_______
Practicing the ancient Chinese art of double flushing... because sometimes, a single flush just isn't enough.

[Insert witty banter here]

GottaGoGirl's picture
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It's okay, pance. L.R.'s elaboration was even MORE disturbing. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the idea. Still.... Ewww! Although I suppose there may come a time when this information will come in, uh, "handy"; I'll just tuck it away in the mental file.

And YOU, Double Flush! I'm sorry I asked. But, uh, thanks for your, uh, openness. I'm glad you feel comfortable sharing with us.

_______
Santa Caca!

The Dumpster's picture
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I dunno, DF. There are some things a guy should maybe keep to himself.

There was a big revival going, and the Spirit was moving, and the sinners were confessing. Right towards the end of the evening, one of the worst sinners in town (we'll call him "Dumpster") came forward, and said to the preacher:

"Preacher, I have sinned."

"Tell it all, brother! Tell it all!" cried the preacher.

"I've lied until I don't know what the truth is...."

"Tell it all, brother! Tell it all!"

"I've drunk more liquor than anybody in this county...."

"Tell it all, brother! Tell it all!"

"And women? Oh, preacher...."

"Tell it all, brother! Tell it all!"

"Well, preacher; I've slept with so many...."

"Tell it all, brother! Tell it all!"

"Young and old...."

"Tell it all, brother! Tell it all!"

"Black and white...."

"Tell it all, brother! Tell it all!"

"Preacher, I've got to tell it: I even slept with your daughter last night!"

"Hold it, brother!" says the preacher, reaching for his pistol. "I don't believe I'da told THAT!"

The Shit Volcano's picture
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For the record, I do not pee in the sink. In emergencies, I wash my ass off in the sink. But ONLY in emergencies! Like, say a million wiper that won't quit after half a roll.

I do pee standing up, unless my back is bothering me. It has become more difficult this late in the pregnancy as it becomes harder and harder to see down there. Will return to my old ways in August. (After the pain subsides!)

_______
A mind is a terrible thing to toast, unless you use a little butter.

I found Jesus! He was behind the sofa the whole time!

The Dumpster's picture
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For the record, O best-beloved TSV, you have made many posts here about peeing in the sink. I'm just too lazy to go look them up right now.

Anyway, I'm glad you're back, after a few days' absence. At this time, I'm sure all of us get worried when we don't hear from you.

Double Flush's picture
k 500+ points
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I am without inhibition. My "Shut up!" filter only works when I feel like I'm in immediate danger, such as holding back a grunt or scream during a painful poop in the dorm.

TSV (and others!) what do you say we forget washing in the sink or wiping a million and get a bidet? I'd love to rig up, say, a bent copper pipe that fits under the toilet seat that swivels into place to deliver a cool refreshing spray...

_______
Practicing the ancient Chinese art of double flushing... because sometimes, a single flush just isn't enough.

[Insert witty banter here]

GottaGoGirl's picture
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DF-- someone's already thought of that. Check this out.


_______
Santa Caca!

Double Flush's picture
k 500+ points
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D'Oh! And I even commented on that one! That's probably where I got the idea in the first place. *quietly slinks off...*

_______
Practicing the ancient Chinese art of double flushing... because sometimes, a single flush just isn't enough.

[Insert witty banter here]

George Eliot Butterz's picture
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Re: the peeing standing up issue, let me know what your thoughts on this are:

http://www.travelmateinfo.com/page002.html


_______
You can't polish a turd

GottaGoGirl's picture
i 2000+ points
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Thaaaat's pretty funny-looking, but not as funny-looking as this! EDIT: It was a link to my previous avatar, which I lost. Please disregard.

That thing you linked doesn't look too effective, to me. I think I'd miss.

_______
Santa Caca!

Double Flush's picture
k 500+ points
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I don't think the TravelMate is needed at all. The technique should be plenty enough. Then again, who am I to say? I'm male.

_______
Practicing the ancient Chinese art of double flushing... because sometimes, a single flush just isn't enough.

[Insert witty banter here]

grinchygut's picture
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I have one of those TravelMates, and it's super handy when faced with nasty port-o-potties (especially because you can use it without having to use fingers to aim - port-o-potties don't have sinks to wash hands in, yech!!!)

_______
squeeze and pray.

Today's weather: Heavy downpours with intermittant thunder and pervasive smog. Air quality low.

Anonymous Coward's picture
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Wow I am astonished to read this article, I suffer from the same issue both for pooping and peeing, but peeing being the worst. I have been to the extent of thinking my bladder was about to burst due to the issue, sometimes my dreams are even about this. I have often considered catheriodizing myself to releive my pain, even how bad that sounds I would try anthing sometimes. Where can someone find information on attending one of these workshops? Man it is good to know others are the same way, everyone always makes fun of me for this and just doesn't understand!

JamieTeal's picture
l 100+ points
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Sometimes doctors will teach catheterization to people with this disorder.

I think I have a mild version of it; I'm not afraid to pee, but sometimes I sit down and focusing on the peeing process makes it not happen. I have to make rushing water noises or think about something else in order to get started.

I. P. Standing's picture
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Personally, I've found that my inability to pee in public places comes from public schooling, having to share the bathroom with bullies who might try and mess with you while in a vulnerable situation. So when I walk into a bathroom, I look at the guys in there and sort of think "who the fuck are you?" If I feel like I'm the dominant male in the room (even if only in my mind), it makes things a lot easier. Then when I'm standing there with my willie in my hand I think "ah, fuck these guys." This really helps me from getting all tense. Here's some other tricks:

Try thinking about what you're going to do tomorrow... like start arranging your schedule... "first, I'm going to get some coffee, then I'm going to go grocery shopping... etc."

I've also found that reading helps, even if it's just.... "hmm, what brand of toilet is this? Oh, American Standard... nice..."

checking your cell phone messages... even if it's just old saved ones...

and lastly... earplugs... I know it sounds crazy... but try it.

Happy Peeing...

Anonymous Coward's picture
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Thats great that you feel better. But really thats so interesting. Where can I sign up?

healthy 1's picture
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What a nice change of pace. This was a very positive, yet enjoyable story.

Though I don't have this problem, I can only estimate the pain that it causes to the people that have this disorder.

Great story, and keep up the good work.
_______
"If December be changeable and mild, the whole winter will remain a child."

"Two percent of the population think; three percent of the population think they think, and 95 percent of the population would rather die than think."

Carol's picture
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For further information about shy bladder syndrome (paruresis) and how to recover from this condition, go to www.paruresis.org

can't pee's picture
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it's nice to know there a people out there like me. i can sometimes go in public and other times i can't. the time i find that i really can't go is when i'm drinking alcohol, then i have to go home. it's very frustrating.

Sometimes Peeing Samantha's picture
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I'm in my mid-20s and have had for more than half my life occasional trouble getting my pee flow working in public restrooms. The worst places were at school (especially between class periods when the line were long and so many of the girls were frustrated by such a small amount of time in which to do something so important). And since then, sometimes at concerts and ball games I feel guilty just sitting there trying to concentrate on getting my full bladder emptied when others are waiting and sometimes rude enough to tap on the door or make remarks like "Help me--in 30 seconds I'm gonna have wet panties and it's your ******* fault!" Sometimes I just say **** **! and get up and let them in. Then I backtrack later when there's less use of the bathroom and I'm able to produce. My boyfriend says I should just stay on the stool and stake my ground. But to me, it just gets too frustrating.

The Dry One's picture
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I've had those waiting for my stall on several occasions make remarks like Samantha got. Each time,I've snapped back: "Thank you for telling me. I've repositioned myself and moved my feet in so they should not get wet. Also, since I have hard shoes on, I don't see that as much of a problem. But I do appreciate you warning me." Sometimes I hear some cussing or swearing under their breath but I don't believe one of them has remained in line. They're just impatient, I guess.