Confessions of a Public Restroom

After helping our new juniors move in as part of the Orientation Committee, I quickly escaped public scrutiny and the endless introductions and awkward conversations by lurking in the multitudinous safe havens found throughout campus.

I admit it was somewhat antisocial of me—some may even say grotesque before reading this article—to nimbly dodge into the nearest restroom whenever I heard the stirrings of a pack of ravenous juniors, eager to devour my identity, to place me in their ever-expanding hierarchy of S&Mers.

The two days following August 10, before the seniors arrived, found me fleeing from bathroom to bathroom, like a hunted rabbit running from thicket to thicket in the wake of baying hounds. I subsided on water and damp paper towels for 48 hours, huddled on the toilet, legs drawn up. Often in the past I have found peace and solace in the anonymity, quietude, and catholicism of a public restroom. In public restrooms I have found an escape from uncomfortable situations into a universal situation; all people must use toilets, and the language of the toilet knows no bounds.

Public restrooms provide us with something familiar and constant in a largely ephemeral world. They are dependable and ever-present: eateries are required to provide restrooms, just as towns have churches where one may find sanctuary from the antagonistic activities of everyday life. Indeed, public restrooms are similar to Catholic confessionals. Where else can one receive anonymous secular advice from perfect strangers? Once safely ensconced in your stall, you are free to liberate your conscience, to ask advice, or even to merely ask for a roll of toilet paper. There is a certain type of camaraderie that flourishes only in the utilitarian tiled recesses of a communal commode.

This article was conceived on a toilet. I simultaneously realized that much wonderful thinking is done on the toilet. I'm sure I'm not the only person to have scrambled out after having an epiphany about some problem or another. Perhaps kings, under duress, would escape to the bathroom, where thoughts may be quickly turned over. Perhaps this is why toilets have earned the respectful nickname of "throne."

I find myself comforted, wherever I may be, when I spot the universal pictorial sign for a restroom. I know I have a place to escape, to think, to rule the world from! Sometimes I simply slip into a restroom for a quick breather; a check in the mirror, cool water on my face and hands, the sometimes painful reminder (auditory and olfactory) reminder that everybody else is human, too.

Written in the Fall of 2002 for the Stentorian, my high school's newspaper