This evening, I partook in a rousing game of bowling. I am not a great bowler. In fact, I am the worst bowler in history. Nor do I normally care for the bowling alley atmosphere. Sometimes, though, a bowling alley can surprise you.
After a few games and a couple overpriced Diet Cokes, I had to do what any normal person would do in that situation. By that, I mean expel liquid waste from my bladder into some sort of indoor plumbing facility.
I needed to tinkle.
I headed into the bathroom to do my business. There, above the urinal, was a framed quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
For the part of the population that does not normally use a urinal, let me tell you this is not your normal urinal reading material. At most bowling alleys, you are more likely to find out that you can have a good time by calling a certain number or be forced to stare at crudely drawn genitals. Occasionally you will get the stirring argument:
Lynyrd Skynyrd Rocks!
No, they suck!
No, you suck!
These arguments usually end abruptly with no definitive result on who really does suck, but by the time you realize this, you have already zipped up and are headed out the door.
Not finding any of these things is usually a huge surprise to me in a restroom such as this. Finding literary heroes on the wall is a whole different surprise.
I stood there reading a quote by the father of the transcendentalism movement as I peed. Emerson not only influenced some of America’s greatest writers like Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau, but was even cited as an influence to the great philosopher Nietzsche.
Now his work is being stared at by drunk overweight bowlers.
At first, I was horrified. How could his writing be reduced to urinal fodder for those who take advantage of $7 all-you-can-bowl nights? Was this what America had come to? The only way people will read great writers is to literally force them to read it in the bathroom?
When Emerson was writing “The American Scholar,” I am certain he had hopes for what would come of his writing. Who would not want their thoughts to be immortalized? This, though, was most certainly not what he had in mind and not just because modern bowling was invented 13 years after his death.
Then, I suddenly felt differently about the whole situation. What would the world be like if every bathroom had quotes from great people? Maybe we would be a more educated people. Conversations would at least be more interesting:
“Man, I just don’t know what to do.”
“Well, it’s like I read on the bathroom wall. ‘One cannot step twice in the same river.’”
“That is so true. But it’s like Aldous Huxley said in the Waffle House bathroom: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad.”
I think when I get elected president (Badley 2024!), this will be my first act. Then, when people say Americans are uneducated, we can say we are so educated we can’t even go pee without learning.