Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Flush Fiction

Why are there never any reading materials in public toilets?

Say I go into the stall in a restaurant bathroom for a number two. I don’t want to walk past men at the urinals carrying a book, because this is odd behaviour, and I want to keep odd behaviour to a minimum in public life, so I have to go in there with nothing. If I have partaken in a hearty meal, I will be in there for 5-10 minutes, which seems the perfect length to read a short piece.

So here’s what I propose: Flush Fiction. Each public toilet should have a writer-in-residence. Their task is to compose short stories on one or two sheets of toilet paper. The stories don’t have to be brilliant: basic Man A does Thing B and ends in Happiness C stuff. The point is, the stories will keep the user occupied during their time on the toilet, and they can use the story afterwards to wipe themselves.

The prospect of having someone wipe their bum with an original work of yours might seem ghastly, but think of the practise. You will write so many little vignettes that a genius idea is bound to spark. You will soon be on the bestseller list, courtesy of those hours of forced writing. You can do this work from home: sheets of loo roll can be shipped to the writer, who writes their work along a roll, respools it, then sends it to the establishment.

The classier the location, the different the stories. Swanky eateries require Victorian yarns or comedies-of-manners, whereas your fast food joints will make do any potboiler or bonkbuster. There is no telling what people will like, of course, so be as eclectic as you can. Stalls could even be divided into various genres, meaning women will get a more diverse reading experience, which is fine, as women read more than men on average.

Write to your local restaurant. Say you demand Flush Fiction in their stalls at once. Say you refuse to sit there staring at graffiti which, although mini-narratives in their own right, lack a proper story arc. Give public toilets the stories they deserve.


  1. Every lav could be equipped with an LCD e-reader thing-a-ma-bobby built into the stall door? Imagine the germs...

    Over in the US reading the Sharpie Marker tales scrawled on the walls is highly entertaining.

  2. Yurgh yurgh yurgh. On the other hand, imagine what we could do to Stephanie Meyer with a lav-kindle. Be creative.

    ::runs off to google Sharpie Marker::

  3. *dies* This is absolute GENIUS! I've seen toilet paper with JOKES but this is too fabulous! It will have to be a heartier ply than we typically use in the US... We Americans are big babies when it comes to our bums, and the soft stuff would fall apart if a pen were applied, but I encourage you to get a gig there in Scotland and let us know how it works.

  4. I like the story on the door idea, Jenn. The writer could still be a writer in residence, but who would pay for it?

    Mark, do I detect a bit of sarcasm here, considering the fact that you've pooh-poohed (poo-pun intended because I'm silly) flash fiction in the past?

  5. Hart: Jokes? Really? Do you really want that physical reaction from your body when you're doing your business? I'm applying for jobs now. They keeping laughing and then hanging up on me. Strange people.

    Chris: The restaurant or establishment would pay for everything. And the tales would be free, if there was a kindle. But Jen's right about the germs. And potential abuse from the illiterate.

  6. I thought this was what toilet grafitti was for? Or don't you have that in the U of K? (If you don't, I urge you to start writing on toilet walls immediately; otherwise I would have to start all over on the research for my brilliant first novel. And I'm not kidding about this.)

  7. I LOVE this idea. I will second Cruella, though, and say that, when I started reading, I thought you were going to promote toilet stall graffiti. This way the writer only has to write the story by hand once (I can't imagine trying to write a fifteen-sheet story a couple thousand times on a few different industrial-sized rolls) and still gets maximum exposure. This doesn't work so well in a swanky place, of course, but it could be artistic graffiti, in which the writer works with a professional artist to adorn the piece (or vice versa).

    Okay, I'm coming back from fantasy land now. I really love the idea. Maybe I'll start living the dream in the university stalls... hehe.

  8. Rosie: Toilet stall graffiti would be cool, but has less long-lastingliness. That is a word I am proud to invent. I don't care what the people say.

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