The Poetry Question

Discovering the Relevance of Words

‘Twas Written on the Bathroom Stall

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I enjoy writing in odd places: shopping mall benches, downtown parking lots, street corners, and bathroom stalls. These days, my cell phone provides me with quick access to a notepad, and the availability of something that can be saved by simply closing the screen. This, however, was not always the case.

To allow you to understand a bit more about what I’m about to write, you’ll need to know that I am incredibly finicky when it comes to bathrooms. I don’t like public places. Much like Finch in American Pie, I would rather wait until I go home than use a public facility. Obviously, this isn’t always an option, and I’m not willing to get sick because of it, but it’s definitely an issue at times. In order to stave off illness, I search for a bathroom that doesn’t get used very often, but is consistently cleaned. I’ve found that most buildings I’m in with any frequency has such a place, and so I’ve been able to do pretty well. Pacific University was no different.

In the downstairs of the University Center, there was a seldom used bathroom. If I was wandering around campus, this was definitely where I would head in order to… well, use the head. I didn’t have a cell phone through most of college, so I couldn’t use that as a writing tool – and cell phones at that time didn’t really allow for any “notes” functions. In order to make sure that I wouldn’t forget anything that might creep into my head, I kept a dry erase pen handy at all times. I had learned the cleaning schedule for that bathroom, and I knew that if I were to write something, I had until close to midnight to come back and copy it down. So I used that to my advantage. When I was taking care of business, I would scribble a verse, or a story starter, or a catchy line, or even a quote I didn’t want to forget on the inside of the bathroom stall. When I was done, I would head back to the University Center, or my dorm, or my apartment off-campus (depending on the year), and then when I was back on campus, I would head back to the restroom, and copy down what I had written. The next day, it would be gone, and I had a blank canvas upon which to work.

I know it might seem odd for me to have used a stall as my personal notebook, but it was what I had, and I wasn’t willing to forget lines that were creeping into my mind. I often wonder what the janitors said after cleaning the walls countless times over my five years at Pacific. I wonder if they ever took photos, or wrote down any of what I had left there? I know it must have been annoying to clean, but at least I did it in dry erase, and not sharpie. Maybe there’s a former janitor from Pacific who has become rich off of the words he read on a bathroom stall. I wonder if any other students discovered my scribbles? Hopefully something I wrote inspired someone – or at least gave them a bit of a pause to think about, or laugh about, or in some way react to something they saw.

Sometimes we need to find a bathroom, sit in the stall, and write. And sometimes we need to find a bathroom, sit in the stall and write.

 

About Christopher Margolin

Chris Margolin spent more than a decade in Education as a high school English teacher, and is now an Instructional Coach for the Longview School District. He is also the founder of The Poetry Question, an online journal which focuses on reviews of small press poetry publications, and runs a regular series called "The Power of Poetry," where notable poets share their personal stories of how poetry has affected their lives. Margolin resides in Vancouver, Washington with his wife, and daughter.

One comment on “‘Twas Written on the Bathroom Stall

  1. Derek Lubangakene
    October 29, 2013

    Me? Am just finicky about all bathrooms. Period. But yeah, sometimes some bathrooms have such great wisdom scrawled on the walls. And you know what can’t wait till you’ve left the bathroom must be something golden, The janitors were in for a treat,

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