Sunday, January 14, 2007

Bathroom Literature

"Watch out, Dawn! Dave is mine!"

I remember blinking a few times as I reread the hostile words written in bright red lipstick on the mirror in the public bathroom of the Los Angeles mall I was in. I was 8 years old back then, routinarily washing my hands as I finished doing my girly business in the stall.

"Bite me!"

Those two words were angrily streaked underneath the previous sentence, this time in blue (and what seemed like) permanent markers. As I rubbed the soap into a celebration of bubbles in my hands, I couldn't help but thinking, "These 2 girls totally have communication problems." Then again, these pre-date the lascent of instant messengers and texting.

Vandalism -- or bathroom literature, if you may -- is forever present in restrooms worldwide. They're so abundant that I've actually come to enjoy reading them. It's like people take out their frustrations on bathroom walls, hoping against hope that someone else out there would hear their cry. Or, on the other side of the spectrum, some people just probably enjoy spurring malice and are just out their for a laugh -- whether it be on someone's expense or not. Regardless, I always imagine that there will always be some story behind each graffitti.

In the communal bathrooms of my freshman dorms back in university, I remember the RA slapping on something called "The Bathroom Companion" at the back of every bathroom door so that the residents would have something to read while you-know-what. Very clever, I thought! Each piece of paper would contain useless but entertaining trivia articles for the residents to read while you-know-what-ing. And every week, she would change it to something equally interesting. A few weeks later, I understood why the whole production was stopped. Such a pity as I truly enjoyed reading the bits and pieces. Apparently, students felt compelled to put their feedback regarding the content and actually wrote their opinions on the door itself, courtesy of multi-colored Sharpees. Smart! Several more weeks after that, the bathroom doors of my hall got a fresh coat of dull gray paint.

I heard from good male friends that the guys' bathrooms are not a place for a girl... not only because of the obvious, but also because some of the stuff written on the walls can be obscenely sick, sometimes even described as short-forms of erotica or even porn (as there are obviously gifted artists out there). And hey, feeling lonely on a Saturday night? Pick a number from the many advertised ones on the bathroom walls!

However, there was one coffee shop I used to frequent in Harvard Square where artsy people hung out (I was only there for their tea and the fact that you can smoke inside). It was very impressive how the bathroom walls of the cafe were adorned with hand-written balladry and verses. And every time I would come visit the place, there would at least be one new addition to the collection. Very unique, indeed.

Bathroom literature can be seen from 2 polar angles -- either as art or graffitti. Unfortunately, most of us would classify them as graffitti, especially establishment-owners who are responsible for maintaining clean facilities. However, it does give character to certain places, which lures us to read the little scribbles on the walls.

Then again, it could just be us being naturally nosy human beings.


Blogger nasia said...

I didnt know even developed countries had Bathroom literature!!

4:18 AM  

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