“It’s a blank canvas. If you will it so, it can be your masterpiece.”
Those are the words spoken every morning by radio host Hallerin Hilton Hill, a legend of sorts in the Knoxville radio market. He’s talking about the new day — “this brand new day that has never been lived before.” But he could just as easily be talking about the average American male’s reaction to the inside of a public restroom stall.
I don’t mean to single out men; it’s just that I have a hard time believing women are as apt to vandalize public bathrooms as men. My wife assures me that women’s restrooms aren’t immune to graffiti on the stall walls and doors. Perhaps that’s so; I’ve never gone in one to check. But I prefer to think that women are a bit more refined than men, and that women who doodle on the stalls are exceptions to the rule. In the case of men, unfortunately, it seems that those who don’t write on stall walls are out-numbered by those who do.
There are several things I’ve never understood about bathroom art.
First and foremost, I’ve never understood what possesses anybody — man or woman — to look at the unadorned pale blue pressboard privacy walls inside a public restroom and think, “Ya know what? I’d like to write, ‘Don & Sarah — 4ever In Love’ on that thing, or maybe draw a Rebel flag.”
Second, I’ve never understood how they have that much free time when they go into a Pilot Flying J restroom. On the unfortunate occasions when I’m forced to make use of the facilities in public places, I get in and out as quickly as nature will allow. I’m hardly going to take the time to write an ex-girlfriend’s phone number on the wall.
I could buy the idea that bathroom-doodlers are merely passing the time because they’re, ahem, incapacitated but a.) this is the 21st century, an age in which almost all of us carry smart phones equipped with Candy Crush and 8 Ball Pool, and b.) some of these bathrooms have over-sized stalls, where you can’t possibly reach the walls or door while perched on the porcelain throne. You can use your own imagination where I’m going with that; I’m trying to explore a mind-warping issue without being too crude.
Third, why do all these bathroom artists seem to carry permanent markers with them everywhere they go? I can’t even find a pen in my pocket to sign my credit card receipt, most days. I can honestly say that I’ve never once prepared to leave the house by saying, “Okay, I got my phone, my wallet, my keys…and a Sharpie in case I find a public bathroom stall that needs to be drawn on.”
I’ve heard it said that bathroom wall art is the work of the immature; that males cast off these desires to doodle on the bathroom wall as they leave adolescence — or, at least, their 20s — behind. I’m not sure that’s true. Some of these stall drawings portray a wisdom that can only be gained with age. I’ve learned more about world geography by reading some bathroom stall walls than I ever learned in a high school semester course. No, I’m convinced that if you walked into the visitor restrooms at some rest homes, you’d probably find graffiti on the walls.
Some folks walk into the restroom at a brand-new Weigels and marvel at the tile on the floor and the sparkle of the stainless steel plumbing. Others look at the stall walls and see a blank canvas, and are determined to make it their masterpiece. And I suppose it’s been that way since the very first men wrote “Kubaba luvs Kitane” on the walls of their cave.