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Adam Kaminski | the cool column

Holy sh*t and sacred toilets

Published: Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Updated: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 06:02

I’ll begin with a description. Imagine an angst-filled sophomore in high school, face acne laden and palms in a perpetual sweat — a total hobbledehoy. A boy about as physically and socially awkward as that word I just used to describe him. Mental picture prepared? Think Neville Longbottom (pre-maturation) and you’re halfway there.

Now imagine this already unfortunately awkward boy in another unfortunately awkward locale: the public bathroom, where taboos run as rampant as stench does. Perfect.

And if you’re still having trouble, as if this introduction weren’t formulaic enough: I’m “him.”

Surprisingly (or, potentially, unsurprisingly), as an often out of place high schooler, I found serenity in those often out of place rooms, the bathrooms. They became a sort of home away from home, always good for a moment of quiet. Unless, of course, the school cafeteria had served “Sloppy Joes” or something tantamount to them that day.

This isn’t to say I was a misanthropic recluse as a younger teenager, but it is to suggest that incessant social strains were draining, and begged to be balanced by minutes of solidarity — by rooms in which it’s the norm to be hypersensitive to speech, eye contact and personal space. Really, they were (and are!) rooms in which it’s not totally rude to ignore buzzing surroundings (i.e. chatterbox high school girls).

I’m drawn to bathrooms, in a way less creepy than it sounds, because of the peace they offer me; such peace-inducing places can even grant content akin to the comfort of a home. It’s at this point that my family might cringe. Your own home?! Likened to a bathroom?!! What am I then, a toilet?? My younger, still house-bound sister would protest, but I’d assure her it’s not such an insult. And besides, siblings act like toilets a lot of the time anyway.

It’s true, my bathrooms are my practice mobile homes. They are transient little dens where I can be myself — nooks that I cannot carry with me, but are always (or mostly) there, nonetheless around me. Having such interspersed and nomadic homes is valuable, especially in one’s college years when one is practically a nomad. I don’t know about you all, but I couldn’t have the vaguest sense of where I’ll be living in two years, in four years, or in the beyond.

Uncertainty is intimidating, and so are mortgages. These are not, however, prerequisites or requirements to reap some of the benefits a home can offer. These sorry components to life are not usually interwoven into the mobile, nomadic home. They function separately — it’s what makes bathrooms so certain, so free (well, excluding room and board tuition...) and so sweet, in spite of those not-so-sweet smells.

These “homes” are certain, free, and personalized too. From planes and buses to friends and restaurants, anywhere one can attach meaning will do. So, indeed, anywhere will do. These places and moments can act as temporary centers, as placeholders and stand-ins for more permanent settlements. They come in every shape and size, but provide in each case, I propose, something similar.

The accessible nature of these special places is only relevant because of what they can provide. Like a good gas station, they offer rest, sustenance and fuel. Like a really good gas station they offer free fuel — periods of rejuvenating solace, no matter what the manifestation. 

I do believe (or naively hope) everyone has or can find such simple areas of peace. And if yours is the bathroom ... well, I’ll see you there.


Adam Kaminski is a freshman who has yet to declare a major. He can be reached at

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