When you're waiting to use a public restroom in New York and the wait becomes excessively long, it can usually only mean one of five things:
- Someone doing heroin (East Village, LES)
- Someone doing cocaine (Upper West Side, Williamsburg)
- Someone having sex (Chelsea/meatpacking district)
- Someone making dirt (Virgil's BBQ)
- A homeless person doing something absolutely super crazy that will render the bathroom utterly useless for future patrons (2,000 convenient locations in Manhattan)
I had one of those experiences recently, where I was waiting to use a bathroom at Krispy Kreme and the current occupant was taking a little too long for the (coffee + doughnut) x mass + distance = BATHROOM TIME math to work out. Finally, after about eight minutes, a scruffy-looking black gentleman scurried out of the bathroom, eyes cast down, and made a beeline for the front door.
As I entered the bathroom, I witnessed the scene in a kind of Hitchcockian jump-editing horror. There was shit everywhere — in the toilet; heavily streaked across the toilet seat and on the tank; on the walls, sink and mirror. There was even an impossible curlique of dry-brushed feces on the ceiling.
Even though I really needed to use the bathroom, I immediately spun on my heels, ran out and down the street, flailing my arms and sobbing hysterically. Mostly, I was worried the proprietors of Krispy Kreme would think I was responsible for the mess. I have that look, after all.
Of course, I could never be responsible for that kind of mess. Covering a public restroom's walls with your own (or borrowed) shit is a very particular kind of insanity, and not one I expect I'll ever inherit. I've thought about this a lot, actually, because I see all breeds of crazy every single day. If I live in New York long enough, mental illness is probably just an unfortunate inevitability, just like being a resident of Chernobyl pretty much guarantees you will give birth to a child that can shoot laserbeams from his penis.
I have a pretty good idea of what kind of crazy person I'll become. I picture myself in my fifties, curled up in a seat at the far end of a subway car. I'll be dressed in a filthy, quilted down winter coat 365 days a year, with two pink CONWAY shopping bags at my feet, stuffed with my dirty laundry, candy wrappers, and tons of old, obscure paperback books I scavenged from hours and hours of browsing the Strand's outdoor discount racks. I'll be wearing an extra-large pair of Coby headphones, all wrapped up in Scotch tape, with a harmless bubblegum pop song from the 1950s, like "My Girl Lollipop" blasting from them at a volume so high that even though I'm wearing headphones the rest of the train passengers can clearly make out the song's melody and lyrics. Occasionally I'll laugh very loudly, or mutter, "I can goddamn dress myself, MOTHER" into my sleeve. I won't bother anyone, really; the worst I'll do is take up an extra seat on the train and smell like damp walnuts.
I can't imagine myself ever becoming one of those shit-smearing crazy guys, though. It's not that I can't picture myself doing something so filthy; it's just that I have a hard time finishing projects I've started. And painting an entire bathroom with your own dirt is a big job. I still have posters I haven't framed or hung. I'd hate to get halfway through smearing my shit across a bathroom's walls, then get bored or distracted, give up, and feel bad about myself for the rest of the day, which is exactly what I'd do.