I am not usually one who engages in delinquent behavior, but…. well…. my job has turned me into a graffiti writer. Seriously. Here is how it all began:
The women’s restroom at our store has three stalls. One of the stalls was, for quite some time, without an adequate toilet paper roll holder. The prongs that stick out from the wall were there, but there was no "crossbar" on which to slide the roll so that it would be suspended between the prongs. For a long time, we ladies would suffice with the toilet paper roll either awkwardly rolling, perpendicularly, on one of the prongs, or sitting on the toilet tank behind us. Since our bathroom isn’t open to the public, there was no real need to resolve this inconvenience, and we just got used to it, annoying though it was.
But that all changed the day some genius came up with the idea to use a PENCIL as the crossbar! It was perfect! A new pencil, already sharpened, turned out to be just the right length to be suspended between the two prongs. Problem solved!
Except that that pencil began calling to me. I would see it every day. Right there. Deprived of the opportunity to be used for its intended purpose. I would look at our yellowed stall walls, marred with shoe smudges here, scotch tape there, and see the same boring signs (do not flush paper towels) and posters (Bridget Jones’s Diary) that I’d been looking at for almost four years. I was suffering from stall monotony, as was the stall itself! I could hear it, calling out for change, just as that suspended pencil called out for use — for a pencil adventure! So one day, I brought the two together. I answered their twin calls with a call-related message of my own.
Giving a nod to traditional bathroom graffiti, I (it’s true) scrawled the following message on the bathroom wall: FOR A GOOD READ CALL (781) 431-1160. (The number being, of course, our store’s phone number.)
It took less than 12 hours for another note to appear alongside mine, this one a bold statement of the obvious: "Someone’s been playing with the toilet paper holder!" But wait! I recognized that handwriting — our assistant manager had written that note!! If SHE could get away with it, well…? That decided it. It was open season for graffiti in Wellesley Booksmith’s Women’s Restroom, Stall #1.
One bookseller wrote a question on the wall, asking which booksellers considered themselves feminists. (A heady topic for stall chatter, I thought.) As several stall users weighed in with their responses, the anonymous arguments got a little heated. I began wondering why we were having this debate in a bookstore bathroom stall, of all places. BOOKSTORE bathroom graffiti should be BOOK-related, I thought, so I wrote a book-related question that seemed, again, to give a nod to traditional bathroom graffiti topics: If there was a direct correlation between quality of writing and sex appeal, what authors (male or female) would you want to sleep with?
The response was great! The suggestions were hysterical! Clever! Such entertaining bathroom reading! They touched off a spate of bathroom graffiti that hummed along as we bookselling gals shared our entertaining opinions in anonymous fashion while putting that toilet roll holder to good use. We had to replace the pencil many times, because once you’d sharpened it a time or two it no longer suited its roll-holding function. But if you didn’t sharpen it, you couldn’t write on the walls, so…? We kept spare pencils on hand to suit either purpose, and the spare pencils could usually be found on the toilet tank. Where the toilet roll USED to be.
UNTIL THE DAY THE UNTHINKABLE HAPPENED. Someone installed an ACTUAL, proper toilet paper roll holder. And, I tell ya, the magic died. There are still spaces in that stall that are uncovered with bookseller scrawl, but the motivation to fill them has, well… vanished.
Which is why I am turning to you, dear ShelfTalker readers. Many of you have embraced my previous calls to sound off anonymously about book-related topics near and dear to your heart. Now I am asking you to sound off on the very same questions that have appeared (for several years now) on the walls of Wellesley Booksmith’s Women’s Restroom, Stall #1. Help us relive the glory days, would you? Remind us why we turned to such delinquent behavior in the first place.
We’ll begin with my first stall question — the one cited above:
If there was a direct correlation between quality of writing and sex appeal, what authors (male or female) would you want to sleep with?
OR, for those of you who’d prefer to take the author/reader relationship more slowly, here’s another variation:
If there was a direct correlation between quality of writing and sex appeal, what authors (male or female) would you want to flirt with shamelessly?
Ladies and gentlemen, start your pencils. As always you have the option of commenting anonymously.