Unwashable

Murmurs from the Bathroom Wall

Kimberly Veklerov/Staff

Up until about a week ago, the first-floor women’s restroom of Evans Hall was a graffiti goldmine. The bathroom contained so much quality material that all of my prior blog posts had used it for inspiration in some way or another. To my disappointment, I discovered recently that the walls had been cleaned of all writing and art. As one graffitist wrote before her words were scrubbed away, “We all come here to poop and pee, with some secrets and kind words of advice at heart. Many are anonymous and free, yet they are all pieces of art and mean a lot to me.”

The removal of so many conversations and quotes, however, is nothing to be mourned; a custodian was probably just doing his or her job. New words will eventually stain the now-white walls. When those wash away, others will take their place. Herein lies the beauty of graffiti: It is constantly evolving to reflect the outside world, whether by janitorial force or not.

There was one unfortunate piece of graffiti, however, that could not be obliterated. As evidenced by smudge marks all around it, someone must have rubbed very hard to try get rid of it, but to no avail.

With testicles for eyes, the giant turquoise penis stares mockingly at the bathroom patron, as if daring whoever is sitting on the toilet to question the legitimacy of its existence. Before being joined by new graffiti, it was the sole survivor of the restroom’s cleansing. If the phallus drawing were a human, I suspect it would take a great deal of pride in that fact, inflating what I imagine to be an already bloated, pent-up ego.

The most shocking characteristic of the giant turquoise penis, however, is not its shape, color, or size — which, as we all know, don’t matter — but the fact that it is located in the women’s restroom of a mathematics building at UC Berkeley and not etched onto the desk of a prepubescent middle-schooler.

The placement of the penis makes it charming. In such a serious academic environment, a splash of immaturity is to be applauded. Just when you think you have grown into a responsible young adult, the phallus takes all those sensible notions and slaps you in the face with them. Its message is this: If someone can pen a penis on the wall of a bathroom within a university building devoted to teaching mathematics, why can’t we lighten up a bit? The juvenile days of our youth are not so far behind us, which is something to be savored.

The type of immaturity that the penis represents is not a mindless disregard for others. Hopefully, we have outgrown the bulk of those childhood tendencies by now. Rather, it represents the immaturity that relishes in spontaneity, delights in whimsy.

The penis drawing stands for the youthful notion of wasting time for no good reason. After all, taking time out of one’s day to draw a sex organ on the wall accomplishes no larger scheme or purpose. It is there only because someone had an idea and a marker. It certainly isn’t pleasing to the eye and lacks artistic merit by most measures. Nonetheless, the drawing has stood the test of time and bleach. Just as some childish inclinations never leave us, some bathroom wall graffiti is here to stay.

Contact Kimberly Veklerov at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter: @kveklerov.