DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I am using a one-person public restroom -- the kind with one door that locks -- often someone will try to open the door, and, finding that it is locked, will immediately follow up with knocking. Do you consider this rude?
When I am the person on the outside, and I try the door and find that it is locked, I leave the occupant in peace and wait my turn. I even feel a bit guilty for disturbing them or possibly startling them. I would never dream of further disturbing them by knocking.
I once asked a woman why she knocked after already trying the door, and she told me she was just letting me know that someone was waiting. I believe that trying the door is signal enough that someone is waiting. I interpret the additional knock as an indicator that the person is being pushy and wants me to hurry.
What do you say? Is it rude to knock?
GENTLE READER: By definition, everyone hoping to enter a restroom is in a hurry. Miss Manners would think that anyone inside should have fresh empathy for that state.
You should also understand that while rattling and knocking both make noise, they are different gestures. The rattle, a utilitarian way of determining whether the door is unlocked, is not subject to etiquette classification. A knock, in contrast, is a polite signal to the person inside that there is someone outside.
This need not deprive you of whatever time you need for the primary purpose of a restroom. But if you are in there experimenting with hairstyles, it should suggest that you yield to more pressing needs.