A Lesson in Restroom Zen


This is my view when I’m urinating in the Men’s restroom at work. If you look at the picture—and trust me, it’s even more intense in person—you will notice an array of “pulsating dots” coming from the grout where four tiles converge. I invite you to do this now. This is a known optical illusion, even more effective when digitally generated. I’m not saying I’ve discovered this illusion, only saying I’ve discovered it in the restroom.

There is the option to avert my eyes from this somewhat nauseating optical illusion, like simply look down at my wee-wee—that sad mistreated spigot from which yellowed morning coffee leaks—but there’s a masochistic part of me that enjoys staring compulsively deep into the tiles, as if taunted by, or taunting, a cruel God who would set up “brain traps” everywhere I go. There is also a spiritually hungry and restless part of me that is searching for something more, something else, an unknown thing like the fingertips of someone you will never meet. After a full 20-30 second piss-session-stare-fest, I end up disoriented, and with moderate vertigo.

Walking back to my desk, not quite in a straight line, I pathetically try to “blink off” the headache, as if my eyelids were somehow wired straight to my cerebellum—but all I can see are those black dots, however slightly wandered from their original location. (You know those “floaters” which seem to lazily glide through the sky on very bright days? It’s just scarred retina tissue; so much for dreaming that UFOs exist.) I’ve resorted to punching my forehead lightly, in effort to knock out or ctrl-alt-delete the headache, but the dots are imprinted into my day:

I encourage the men reading this to stare deeply into the tiles when they happen upon them whilst engaged at the urinal. I also encourage women—who, limited to squatting in the stall, idly stare at the back of the stall’s door—to proactively find tiles elsewhere in the restroom, and to stare deeply until you too suffer the ghost of these residual pulses.

From an electron’s self-recoiling flight to the very planets which host life’s demise, the universe is a weak lattice of balls, an x– and y-axis attempt to grid things into order, which the swollen broken heart makes continuous soup out of. I get back to my seat, open an excel spread-sheet, and start plotting numbers in random rows and columns. F18 = 44,320.21, sure, why not. Two hours later my boss comes over, my throat clenches, and I say “last quarter’s discretionary fund budget is done,” but I—in a cosmic sense, of course—am really lying. Numbers, like the ghosts of dots, and the dots themselves, never truly add up to anything. I have to pee again.

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