The Prisoner’s Dilemma and That Toilet In Your Office

Imagine you’ve had an early start to your day. And as an extension, you need to take care of your “business” and make a “long call” in the office washroom. You walk in, and you scan the place. The washroom isn’t crowded… Just a few folks and cleaners loitering around… You proceed to turn the latch and open the door to the first cubicle on your left. There’s water on the floor. You try the next one. Water on the floor and used tissue scattered all over. The third cubicle is a little clean but there’s no tissue roll. Not cool. Two cubicles on the other side are occupied. Someone comes out of the last cubicle at the far end on the other side and you know you won’t be able to use it till the seat is a little less… Warm… You finally find a cubicle you can use; it’s relatively clean, there’s tissue roll, and no vestiges of anyone having used it that morning. You thank your stars and rush in. You take care of your “business.” Now you’re faced with a slightly complex problem. Do you ensure that you throw the used tissue in the bin on your left? Is it worth the extra effort, when you know that the same cubicle will be a mess later in the day? And that the person who walks in after you will, in all probability, litter the floor and keep it that way for those who use it after him? After all, you only have to make one “long call” in the day, and if you have to make another one tomorrow, the toilets will be cleaned overnight by housekeeping anyway. So, should you bother? To those who are offended by my temerity to suggest that we are actually disgusting enough to consider these calculations, I say this… Look at the state of the washrooms in your office in the morning, at noon and in the evening. Continue reading