John By Any Other Name
The john has always had a special place in human history. The ancient Romans referred to it as a “room of easement”. They were so enamored of it that they considered building public restrooms one of their major achievements. They were built as elongated platforms with several adjacent seats. Back in those days, it probably didn’t matter that these facilities were co-ed. Since people were wearing togas, modesty wasn’t compromised. While visiting the ancient Roman ruins in Ephesus in Turkey, I had a chance to sample one of the seats and had my picture taken. It felt stupid now looking at my picture pretending to heed the call of nature, but back then it seemed like a good idea.
It has been called different names depending on the time and place and the purpose it serves in that moment of time. It’s been called restroom (everybody’s favorite), bathroom (house guest), washroom (plumber), powder room (girl friend), comfort room (Filipino), water closet (English commoner), loo or throne (English royalty), privy or lavatory (grandma), head (shipmate), can or crap (homeless person), latrine (sergeant major), outhouse (hippies), and toilet (angry mom). Is there something else that i missed?
Anyway, a friend even calls it her library. Living in a commune, it has become the only place where she can read in peace and quiet until the knocks at the door become persistent.
Still, it can be regarded as a conduit for self-discovery. It’s in that first moment, when sitting like Rodin’s The Thinker, the hand switching from the chin to a place more intimate, that the journey to adulthood begins. At least, for some of us.
Realizing the importance of the restroom to humanity, I wonder why there’s hardly any mention of it in literature. To this day, I still have to find a poem extolling its virtues. There’s no doubt in my mind, some great poetry must have been composed while sitting or squatting on the john.