It’s not often that you find yourself smiling in the restroom, for obvious reasons. It’s generally a place of grim necessity, and let’s leave it at that. But in places like the sixth floor Viking Union women’s room and the first floor Communications Facility men’s room, there are a few stalls that just might brighten your day.
The “grout puns” in the VU sixth floor women’s room are virtually an institution. They’ve been gathering for years, returning after janitors wipe and paint them away. Someone’s even been prompted to write “I’m agrout tired of these puns.”
A stall in the Communications Facility first floor men’s room has been gaining ink all year since some time during fall quarter someone proposed a simple challenge: “Describe your poop as a movie.”
Needless to say, the imagination runs wild. Some of my personal favorites are Titanic, The Nutty Professor and 12 Angry Men.
I won’t admit as to whether or not I or anyone I know have contributed to these ever-expanding hubs of bathroom creativity because, well, it’s vandalism. Things like the grout puns and the film titles inevitably create a complicated dynamic between the students and the maintenance staff of this university.
We as students, are heavily dependent on the hard work of our maintenance staff. There is no student who would want the bathrooms to become lawless, unregulated, unclean places.
The janitorial staff certainly can’t be expected to clean away the profanity and leave intact the clever comedy. I would imagine that cleaning bathrooms is all about speed and efficiency, and having to analyze each scribbled clause in each stall for comedic value can’t be beneficial in either of those respects.
Let’s face it, no matter how clever the pun is, it would be at home in a middle school. Are we degrading ourselves by taking a pen to a wall with our pants around our ankles? Do they write in the bathrooms at Harvard? Probably, but it’s in Latin.
And when a bunch of people do it in the same place, a small community is created. This would be fantastic, I mean it’s really what college is all about. Except that someone - possibly one of our peers - is left to scrub away the result.
A clever resident advisor on the sixth floor of Mathes Hall had the idea to put up big sheets of black paper and silver sharpies in the bathrooms to provide a harmless place for graffiti, and the result is somewhat successful.
It’s not the first attempt to provide a space for students to write freely. I’ve seen the free speech board on the sixth floor of the VU crowded with hastily written manifestos for one cause or another with some platitude about self-respect tucked neatly in the corner with a sideways smiley face.
If we want to find community through creative action that’s sort of against the rules, we should go about it in a less damaging way.
I suggest a flash mob. Yes, it may seem like a stretch to try and get from writing in the bathroom to assembling en masse, dancing or costumed or singing or something, but the connection is there. Both are all about attention, about waking people up from a routine and doing something funny.
So next time you find yourself holding the end of a pen to a stall wall, stop, think, put the pen back in your pocket, wash your hands and get some friends together for an impromptu dance number in Red Square. The janitors, your friends and everyone in Red Square will thank you.