Coincidences are funny things. The other day I discovered a trove of old pictures, mostly ones I’d taken back when I first got a smartphone, and of course there were several pictures in there of men’s rooms. I had this idea at the time that it would be funny to take pictures of public restrooms and post them online, and maybe even put together a book of them—a bathroom book, not that I’d want to compete with The Great American Bathroom Book. I had an idea that it could be an art project. I could even consider restroom design—what makes one good or bad, and maybe highlight the best ones.
And I would call the project Dear John.
Tumblr was still pretty popular at the time, especially for pictures, but Tumblr’s design made uploading, well, such a pain in the ass I created one post and quit. And, to be fair, that was only part of the problem. The other part is bathrooms aren’t the easiest places to photograph. Most don’t have a lot of space so composing a good shot could be difficult. A lot are also designed for multiple people and out of a general respect for other people’s privacy and a specific desire to not get punched or worse I would only take the pictures when I was alone. Sometimes I’d get interrupted and you can imagine the awkwardness of trying to explain why I was crouched in the corner of a public bathroom with my phone out.
The coincidence is that the day after I found those pictures a friend sent me the article I Stopped Taking My Phone into the Bathroom for a Month by a guy who says leaving his phone out of the bathroom changed his life for the better.
It was a coincidence, right? My friend’s not looking over my shoulder or following me everywhere I go, is he? There are some places we should all just be alone.
Chris, Ur in a lot of trouble if you get busted taking pics in the men’s bathroom. Worse if caught in the women’s. Oh my. Just say no, my friend! Or you know…whatever floats your boat. ? Mona
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It was my concern over getting in trouble taking pictures in the bathroom that made me want to only take pictures when the bathrooms were completely empty which wasn’t always easy. It’s not surprising that I found some really elegant restrooms that I wanted pictures of but there were other occupants.
And of course there was a time many years ago when I had long hair and often got stopped by men as I was going into the men’s room because they thought I was a woman, at least until I said something, but that’s another story.
Christopher, this is hysterical! Dear John is brilliant!
I’m so pleased you think so and now you’ve got me thinking I should restart that project, assuming the pandemic ever ends. Right now I don’t feel safe going in public restrooms, not even long enough to take a picture.
You need to get some shots of those fancy Japanese robot toilets that play music and have multi-coloured led lights. I’d definitely risk taking a photo in the john for one of those!
I’ve thought so much about those Japanese robo-toilets with all the fancy options and how much I’d love to try one of those. There could potentially be a whole book, or at least a long essay, in the aesthetics of the Japanese john.
I didn’t read this in the bathroom, Chris, and I enjoyed it completely.
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It makes me strangely happy to know you may have been alone when you read this but you weren’t in a place where you had to be alone.