One quotidian benefit of Katrina having flooded the bottom floor of my building on Tulane campus is that they had to tear out the old bathrooms on the bottom floor. No matter how much cleanser they used every day to clean the restrooms, they stunk of the funk of forty thousand (well maybe only a hundred) years. You could smell the urine out in the hall. It had the same smell of the cathedrals in Spain that the Moors used as prisons when they controlled Spain. Prisoners were forced to urinate in the church, and even though the Moors have been gone for 500 years, the churches there still carry the smell of rivers of infidel urine.
I could tolerate the smell honestly. What bothered me was the disgusting graffiti written on the bathroom stall walls. Tulane had an outreach program teaching urban youths classes here in my building at night. They put gang tags all over the damned place. Frat boys wrote "so and so" is gay messages all over the walls. Poorly executed suggestive limericks, stupid jokes, references to misogyny, pedophilia, bestiality, fellatio, cunnilingus, group sex, rape, incest, and whatever else you want to throw in covered the walls. About once a month, someone would come in and paint the wall, displaying a fresh canvas on which to pen new filth. I hated that someone had written "I'm filming you right now" right above all the urinals. Even though it was a lie, that ever present fear of the gaze of the Other caused me to have bashful bladder syndrome on occasion. With the flood, the walls have been replaced with surfaces that no longer carry graffiti. The bathroom is clean and modern and free from concupiscence.
Do women's bathrooms have the same "For a good time call......" messages? There are always those "I will be here at 8PM on Monday nights for hot sex" messages. As a man, I often wondered why men would be advertising to other men....but then when I got older I realized that these weren't meant for women to see. Men's bathrooms bring out the worst in people.
I've seen graffiti in every country I've ever been in. Bathroom graffiti that is. In Costa Rica it was more of them singing the praises of their enormous members. In England it was jokes about sex. The one place that shocked me though was Alabama.
Since we have to drive between Atlanta and New Orleans for holidays and hurricanes, we always pass through Alabama. We also wind up stopping to use the bathroom at some point, and therefore we get to visit gas stations and rest stops all along the way. What shocks me about Alabama is this: Alabama is a very religious place. And while there is no decrease in the amount of graffiti covering the walls, in rural Alabama my experience has been that the bathroom graffiti consists not of sex jokes and innuendos, but of praises about and to Jesus Christ. Instead of thinking purient thoughts in the John, people are thinking about the Man who walked with John. Now I'm not commenting about lavatorial proselyting, but I think it's interesting to see a place where contact with one's own genitalia inspires thoughts of divinity.*
I guess the Song of Solomon was written in the bathroom.
*This doesn't happen to me. I'm a mere mortal.