Bathroom Reading

In my mid-twenties, I must admit that the list of books that I have read cover to cover is rather short, and the list of books that I wanted to read cover to cover is even shorter. Maybe it was the books that were forced upon me to read in high school and college that strayed me away from reading many books for leisure. Maybe it is that I rarely find a story that I think is worth my time. I have read all the “greats”; The Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, etc., but I still find myself only reading one or two books for pleasure in a year’s time. So what I say next may come across as foolish.

The most interesting things that I have ever read have been on the walls above the urinals in any public restroom.

Ladies, let me explain. There are a few unwritten rules that men have while “doing their business”. Two of which are, never make eye contact and never speak to the guy next to you. However, writing on the wall that you are staring at is fair game. Perhaps it is because of the fact that you are an anonymous, inspired writer, but people spill their hearts out and have no fear in doing it. Believe it or not they are not all filled with dirty pictures and four-letter words like most expect. In fact, some might argue that those walls are more or less filled with dialogue that is more honest, creative, graphic, and inspirational than any book that you are forced to do a report on in your English 101 class.

What becomes the strongest part of all this is the community. Yes, I know the thought of having a communication and a connectedness with people who have relieved themselves in the exact same spot as you can make you cringe, but think about this for a minute.

A common theme on the walls is for people to add a little bit of their own creativity and insight to whatever is already up, like an everlasting collaboration. You do not know whom the people are that wrote the words in front of you. You do not know what they look like, nor do you know their personal morals or set of beliefs. None of that matters. What is amazing is that in a place that is meant for no direct communication there is more communication than a family supper.

A couple of years ago I was making a road trip, by myself, across the state of Pennsylvania to visit someone. A couple hours into the trip I had to stop for food and gas. Of course, while I stopped, I made a quick trip to the restroom. The building that I was in must have just recently been built because I could actually see my reflection on the wall in front of me and my shoes squeaked on the neatly polished floor as I walked. So I took it upon myself to become “that guy” and be the first to christen the wall with my thoughts. For some reason I had a pen on me at the time, which I never usually do, so I felt even more compelled to follow through on this.

I defiled the wall and wrote one sentence.

Four days later I made the journey back home. As fate would have it, I took another restroom break at the same place that I had previously “left my mark”. To be completely honest I had not even thought about what I had done to the bathroom wall four days prior until I entered the restroom and saw what had been in front of me…

The sentence that I had written was now an entire story. From what I could tell by the differences in hand writing, at least a dozen different people had contributed and communicated. There had been side notes, pictures, diagrams and even arrows pointing to a poem, which had relevance to the words that had now come together in a community of strangers.

Luckily, no one had entered the bathroom while I was there because I found myself just standing there reading everything that had been sparked off of one sentence that I had shared four days ago. The smallest idea can be turned into something that I never would have though of by myself, without communicating.

Ben Heydt is the Media Director for The Authenticity Project, you can contact Ben at