In the interest of furthering the study of human behavior, here’s a scientific survey question for you:
Suppose you were traveling and had stopped in a small town for lunch. The restaurant was a pizza place/coffee shop/sandwich shop with knickknacks for sale in one corner, obviously doing its best to stay in business. Its home was an old building that had clearly seen various enterprises come and go in its lifetime.
Suppose, in this old building, the restroom was in the back. Way in the back. To use the facilities, you walked down a dim hallway, reassured that you were on the right track by a paper sign with a hand-drawn arrow. You turned right, crossed a corner of the kitchen, and found your destination.
It certainly didn’t look like a public facility, except for the “Restroom” sign on the door. Inside, it was much like the bathroom in someone’s home, with not only the basics of stool and sink but also a bathtub covered with a shower curtain.
With that necessary background, here’s the survey question:
Did you look behind the shower curtain?
I did. Of course. How could anyone not peek?
I was surprised then, when my traveling companion’s response to this query was, “What shower curtain?” In defense of his lack of curiosity—a failure to observe that was really quite shocking in a man who has devoted his career to science—he said, “I was a man on a mission.”
Obviously more research was and is required. So far I’ve asked one other person, who happens to be female. She said, “Of course I’d look.” She didn’t think her husband would look, though he wasn’t available to ask.
So all this did was raise another question: Is peeking or not peeking gender-related?
If it is, then is that due to psychological factors? Maybe women are more hyper-vigilant in unfamiliar surroundings and hence more likely to check potential hiding places. Maybe women are more observant, or more curious.
Or maybe the difference—if there is one—is physical. A man who is “on a mission” might be preoccupied with necessary details like aiming and accuracy. A woman who is sitting may have more chance to observe her surroundings and more time to look behind any curtains that happen to be at hand.
It’s also possible, I suppose, that a writer is just inherently nosier than a geologist.
But these are merely suppositions and can’t possibly be validated or disproven without much more data. So I need some input. Would you have looked behind the curtain?
Oh, you want to know what was back there? Sorry, no naked lady. No lurking criminal. No dead body. Just a bunch of paint cans and cleaning supplies.
But if I hadn’t looked, I would have never known.