Monday, September 21, 2009

I’ve Seen the Writing on the Wall and It’s Not Pretty

© 2009 Leighann Lord


I’ve always wondered about people who write on bathroom walls. What takes hold of them when the stall door closes? Why are they compelled to express themselves in the medium of ink and tile? What’s their inner monologue sound like? "I gotta take a leak. Where’s my Sharpie?"

It’s hard to imagine someone getting dressed for a night out on the town and their checklist including keys, money, and magic marker. But it must. Perhaps an epiphany struck at an inopportune moment and with no writing implement at hand to capture the thought, the cure for cancer was lost. A bathroom Wall Writer was born.

Porcelain is well known for its inspirational qualities, but people who write on bathroom walls are not just jotting quick note to self. They are writing to be read. Like a forerunner to FaceBook, wall writers are making declarations, posing questions and assassinating characters all in the same stroke. Let’s consider this deceptively simple but scintillating three-party political exchange:
Writer #1: "Bush Sucks!"
Writer #2: "No, you suck!"
Writer #3: "You’re both gay!"
Since this entry was not dated, it is unclear whether Writer #1 was referring to George Bush Senior, Junior, Jeb, Barbara, Laura or perhaps even one of the twins. I was, after all, in the ladies room and women can be catty.

Regardless of to whom Writer #1 was referring, no proof was provided of said suckery, the author obviously assuming it was self evident. Writer #2 with equal eloquence and brevity responded in-kind. Note here that Writer #2 either came to the bathroom prepared or, provoked by Writer #1, dashed out to Staples, bought a Sharpie and returned to pen a proper response. If that’s not dedication to the art of public discourse and debate I don’t know what is.

Writer #3's response, while following the trend of assuming facts not in evidence (it is highly unlikely she was privy to the sexual orientation of Writers #1 and #2), is most telling. While it’s plausible that the first two are engaged in some random base level political discourse, Writer #3 is all ad hominem attack, bringing nothing to the conversation. She might as well have penned "Your Mama!"

It would be disingenuous to condemn the act of bathroom wall writing, while simultaneously cooing over every newly discovered prehistoric cave painting. Is the etching of an early human hunting party pursuing a wildebeest really all that different? What is truly disturbing, from a former Catholic School girl’s point of view, is the breathtakingly poor penmanship. I’m not looking for calligraphy, but legibility is not too much to ask.

In a night club setting you could argue that perhaps wall writers are too inebriated to be neat. I disagree. If you’ve got a pen, you’ve got a plan. Have the stones to execute it with some style.

The problem is that schools don’t teach handwriting anymore. How are we supposed to figure out who our future doctors are if everyone has horrible handwriting? MCATs, schmcats. In the days of yore, if a medical school admission’s committee couldn’t read your application, you were in.

If kids today aren’t being taught to write cursive, how will they ever learn to read it? Will the original hand-written version of the United States Constitution be as baffling to them as hieroglyphics? Is this the plan or a case of unintended consequences? Perhaps this is the real writing on the wall to be worried about.


Thank you for reading Leighann Lord's Comic Perspective!

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