For most of us, the eight hours of the day we spend at the office are not our own. They belong to the entity that pays our rent, provides our health care and gives us a reason to go on vacation. It can get existentially exhausting to think about that fact, so we find small forms of rebellion to help feel more alive. Some people secretly watch soccer on their second monitor. Some linger too long in the kitchenette. And some people pretend they’re stealing money from their company every time they take a shit.
“Usually comes out to $10.50 per poop,” one proud calculator of his poop wage told me. “Assuming an average of two a day, I’m netting $5000–$6000 a year just pushin’ crap around the office.” This guy works on the stock market and created his own equation for calculating his PPP (pay per poop), but for those of us who aren’t so great at math, a new type of personal finance app is more than happy to do the work for us.
Ever wonder how much your poop is worth? asks the description for Poop Salary. Downloaded 140,000 times since its 2011 launch, the app has emerged as the most popular of the competition, which includes Pooponomics, Poo Pays, Pricy Poop and Paid 2 Poo, to name just a few. Most of these apps work the same way: You input your salary. You start a timer when you head to the bathroom for a poop. You stop it when you’ve returned from your throne. Pooponomics includes sound effects, while Poop Salary has a premium version that offers achievements, including the “Mogul” award for logging a $100 poop, or the “Snip It Off” which rewards you for taking a crap in under one minute.
“It’s just a good time-waster,” the creator of Poop Salary told me. Like 75 percent of his app’s users, Dennis Fuller is a dude. He became inspired to create the app after reading “wouldn’t it be funny if there was an app for…” joke on Reddit. (One can hardly imagine a more appropriate origin story.) “People in general waste time at any kind of corporate job, so this was kind of funny because it lets you know how much money you’re making while you’re wasting time,” he explained. “And it also promotes wasting more time.”
While I expected that users of poop salary-calculating apps would say they just found the bathroom humor funny, the more men I talked to, the more I realized they just loved the idea of of forcing their companies to pay them for their basic bodily functions. For Fuller and his users, the app is a way to trick yourself into thinking that you can “stick it to the man” by taking more frequent or longer shits while you were at work.
“It was more about me being able to leisurely take my time on the toilet,” one Poop Salary user told me, explaining how the app allowed him to really relax and enjoy the time he spent away from his desk. The stock market guy reinforced this idea. “It’s the ultimate version of not doing anything at work, and it’s distinctly separated from our other tasks and duties.” he said. “On the toilet it’s just me. I’m stealing time.”
To believe that pooping at work is stealing from your company, you must first believe that when you’re on the clock, everything you do technically should be a part of your duties, as outlined by your employer. For some, like the guys above, that instills in them a desire for rebellion. They want to cast off the shackles of their oppressors by taking unhurried dumps! But for others, the feeling of being watched induces a sort of paranoia.
Clay, who works at a startup in Seattle, carries around more nervous dread than most. He’s the only person I talked to who was calculating in his head how much money he made when away from his desk out of fear. “I’m just a repressed WASP,” he told me. “It’s more like a guilt trip when you start to calculate the amount of time you’re actually getting paid to take a dump, or take a piss or, wash your hands, or take that stretch break.”
Clay described the type of time-wasting activities that everyone is guilty of with a heightened sense of morality. “You have within your power all these micro decisions. Suddenly you get down this rabbit hole of realizing, ‘Okay the last 10 minutes I was just packing up my stuff.’ And you have to take ownership of that and it kind of feels like you’re lying.”
In recent years, companies have tried to dull the foreboding effect that offices have on their employees by making corporate spaces more like apartments. Now that more people can work on couches, it’s supposed to ease them into forgetting that their time doesn’t belong to them. (This is particularly true at the kinds of companies that pay high salaries in exchange for the tacit agreement that you’ll hardly ever leave the office—think tech.) But these cool open-office plans that pander to our desire for familiar comforts might make us more productive: If we’re more content, we’re less likely to need to seek out ways to revolt against our employers, or make sanctuaries out of bathroom stalls.
But for Clay, no matter how comfortable his office is, his anxious fear of the hand that feeds him never goes away. “Every day if I got fired I wouldn’t be surprised,” he told me. “Even though I think I do a good job and I’m a good employee and a hard worker.”
Is it sad that pooping at work has become popular enough as a form of white-collar rebellion that there are a half-dozen apps to help you accomplish the feat? Kind of, yeah. But for these guys it’s one of the most harmless ways they’ve found to get a thrill. As we get older, there are fewer opportunities for us to be bad without it being a serious offense. As adults, our patience is thinner for hijinks and pranks, so perhaps proudly pooping at work is the last bastion of revolt for the white-collar man. It’s an inside joke you have with yourself.
Or perhaps with others. Fuller told me that he’s received many requests for a leaderboard section of the app, where you can compare with your coworkers how much money you’ve made pooping. I can’t imagine something more male. And now, in the most updated version of the app, the leaderboard is available if you purchase the premium version. (That has to violate some HR policy, right?)
Having spent plenty of time in the mythical land that is the women’s restroom, I know that the rest of the population poops at work, too, and even talks about pooping—though many men would prefer to continue living under the illusion that women don’t poop (or have body hair, or smell bad, or take up space), let alone talk about it. But the app shows the extent to which men have somehow turned taking a dump into an event in a way that women have not bothered to do. Many guys I know treat shitting like it is a spa experience. They bring a book; they light a candle; they have special wipes or a Squatty Potty. Having that sort of “me” time on the company dime appeals to them.
But for most women I know, taking a poop is just a necessity of life. You do it, and then it’s over, and then you go back to your day. Maybe it’s that we’re busy. Maybe it’s that we don’t take as much pride in our body’s ability to perform a normal function. Maybe it’s that our bodies also perform some other actually amazing functions (see: childbirth) which are arguably more impressive. Or maybe it’s that we’ve accepted the fact of working life more readily, and we aren’t searching for an out via app. Regardless—we don’t really get it.
Still, though, there are some people who get it even less. Fuller told me the best types of emails that he receives from users are the ones where he’s asked, “So, how do I get paid?” Man, those people are really not in on the joke.