“I’m pretty sure it’s a legend, but also it might be true…It was before my time. But, I went to a private Jewish high school in LA and there’s a bathroom on campus next to our gym that is fabled to – the girls bathroom specifically – apparently was home to a sex video with the canter’s daughter and two boys. Pretty sure it happened. I’ve not seen the tape, no no no, but a girl got expelled and two boys got expelled and that’s the tea of what happened, but the school would never confirm or deny, but we know.”
A bathroom at a private, Jewish high school in LA has this folk story attached to it.
The informant is 19, from LA, and attended this high school. She learned the story from upper class students who learned it from students that were upper classmen when they were lower classmen.
In high school, there is a large mystery around sex – what it is, who is having it, how to do it. In religious high schools, where most likely abstinence-only education is the norm, there is a heightened sense of mystery around sex, and very likely supernatural-wrath-inducing consequences for having it. Therefore, it follows that their lore would center around such an awe-inducing concept as sex. The link of discussion between pre-marital sex and God in religious schools explains the necessity of the girl involved to be the canter’s daughter. It nods at the students’ linkage between the two and increases the level of wrongdoing by making listeners acutely aware of their religious beliefs. In addition, girls in high school experience menstruation, which many children’s folktales nod at whether through color palettes or symbolism, as being frightening. The mystery of the menstruation process is recognized in this tale through the placing of the narrative in the girls’ bathroom.
The informant says he’s had very little experience with taboos but that one experience in particular stands out to him:
When he was at the Mexico City airport, waiting for a connecting flight, he stepped into a mostly empty bathroom and went for the big stall because he likes the extra space.
Someone in the bathroom, a random stranger, stepped in his way and accosted him in Spanish, shaking his head in regards to the big bathroom. The informant was a bit surprised by the reaction and didn’t respond, choosing another stall entirely.
The respondent doesn’t know whether to attribute the taboo of using the big stall to the individual of that particular incident or to Mexican culture as a whole. In any case, since he’s spent such a short time in Mexico, he has nonetheless attributed that taboo to the whole of Mexican culture. He concedes that the big stall is important and necessary for those with disabilities, but affirms that in his experience it is the most popular stall.
This one is an interesting and minor piece of folklore. Because we don’t know whether it does describe Mexican culture or not, I won’t make any projections. I do think it is very important that we leave the large stalls alone if other ones are available, and leave them for those whom they’ve been designed.
“I have to go to the bathroom”
This knock knock joke was collected in a second grade classroom in South Los Angeles. The active carrier of this joke was a student in that classroom who heard it from her neighbor while playing one day. After finishing the joke, the entire class burst out in laughter at the nonsensical punchline. It should be noted that the joke told to the class right before had a logical punchline, but did not receive such an enthusiastic response. The less successful joke was “Don’t trust atoms, they make up everything”.
There are a few reasons why this joke received such a great response compared to the one that preceded it. First of all, it was clear that the majority of the young students lacked the scientific background that was required to understand the joke. The bathroom joke did not require the application of any outside knowledge. Second, the unexpected nature of the punchline was worthy of a greater response than a logical joke would, regardless of what it actually was. There is something about being caught off guard that makes any story or joke more worthy of a response. Perhaps the most obvious reason that the knock knock joke was considered to be funnier is the fact that it contains a mention of a bathroom. Bathroom humor is inherently funny to a large portion of the human population, regardless of age.
This joke is a derivation of a classic joke in which the second, third, and fourth lines are repeated as many times as the performer sees fit before replacing “banana” with “orange” and ending with “Orange you glad I didn’t say banana”. The countless versions of this joke are examples of the multiplicity and variation that is characteristic of folklore.
It is important to note that this joke had been passed on from child to child. The student who shared the joke initially heard it from her neighbor while playing. She then shared the humorous passage with her classmates who received it with enthusiasm. This piece of folklore circulates exclusively within groups of children and would not have elicited the same genuine response if performed in front a group of adults.
Informant: I first heard it from one of my friends, but then it kind of like turned into a game. So there is a bathroom downstairs at my school which weird because there is a toilet where every time you flush it, it makes a burping noise. So it goes like “zzzzzzzzhhhhhhh . . . UGGGH!” So my friends said the toilet is possessed by Chuckie, so that it always tries to swallow you. So now every time I go to bathroom, I like go to the bathroom and then run out of the stall before it like, makes the noise. And then rinse my hands and then run out as quickly as I can. They say the bathroom is possessed because when you put your hand in sometime on the sink for the automatic faucet, the other one, another sink turns on. So they say that he is coming after you, but he always has to wash his hands first.
This is an instance were the unknown or “strange” has been demonized. The “Chuckie Bathroom” toilet has deviated from what the children usually expect from a toilet. To cope the children created a story to explain the unusualness which in turn has sparked a legend, and a whole set of corresponding behaviors like running away before the toilet can make “the burping noise”. It is interesting to note, that in creating the legend, they assimilated the bathroom to popular culture through “Chuckie”, which it turn makes it more familiar. Later, what began as a compulsive ritual is reclaimed from the participants as they consciously make a game out of it.
Bloody Mary Bathroom
Informant: So in my elementary school, in the old building, there is the little kid’s bathroom. So it was really old and gross and the windows are all scratched up and everyone would say, “that’s where Bloody Mary is and if you’re going to do Bloody Mary, you gotta do it in there, she hangs out in there”. So it’s all beat up, and on the last wall, there is a board. Just a board nailed to the wall, this big (hold out hands 1 ft by 1 ft apart). And it’s painted over, okay, just a board painted over, but they would always say, “ You know why there’s a board there? BECAUSE THERE’S A FINGER UNDER IT!” I don’t remember who told me, I assume its is one of the older girls.
interviewer: Who did you tell this story to?
informant: The new kids, or the younger kids and then they redid it . . .
interviewer: So then did it stop being Bloody Mary Bathroom?
Informant: No, it was still Bloody Mary Bathroom to us, but then I think the tradition died.
It is interesting to note the evolution of the variation of the legend. Originally, the old, strange, scary bathroom was dubbed “Bloody Mary Bathroom” because it was strange and scary like Bloody Mary herself. The young students assimilated the story of the board in the bathroom into the legend by correlating the two together. The severed-finger board is now part of the Bloody Mary legend due to their unification in the bathroom and the story has a new variation in this community.
So a group of Japanese boys decided to play hide and seek in their school at night. One of the boys was trying to find a place to hide when he saw a woman with long dark hair in a white dress. He got really scared so he ran into the bathroom and hid in the fifth stall. All of a sudden, he heard the bathroom door open and looked under the stall door. He saw the feet of the ghost woman. The woman then opened the door to the first stall. Nobody there. Closes it. She opens the second stall. Nobody there. Closes it. She opens the third stall. Nobody there. Closes it. She opens the fourth stall. Nobody there. Closes it. The boy was so scared and waited for the door of his stall to open. When it did not happen, he decided to stay in the stall until somebody came to look for him. Eventually, he fell asleep and when he woke up, realized that school had started. He got off of the toilet and tried to open the stall door. But the door would not budge. Then he looked up. The woman had been hanging over the door and staring at him the entire time.
My informant told me this story during a sleepover. It had been pretty late at night and really dark. I asked her where she had heard it from, and she replied that her mom had told her this story when she was young. My informant told me that she interpreted this story has a lesson to not hang out late at night.
After hearing this story, I noticed that this story has a connection to Hanako of the Toilet. Hanako of the Toilet, is a very popular Japanese urban legend about the ghost of a little girl named Hanako who haunts school bathrooms. With the story of Hanako and my informant’s ghost story, I believe that they are both conveying how the bathroom is a very vulnerable place to be in alone. The restroom can be considered to be a vulnerable place because people usually go alone and are half-naked when there, making it a perfect place for something to take advantage and attack people. Both of these stories enhance the fear of dangers that can occur while using the toilet.
The public bathroom hand washing technique
Alexander learned this custom from his grandfather when he was in the 7th grade. His grandfather, a passionate and devoted doctor, often found and acquired ways of bringing some of his medical skills and habits into the world outside of medicine. The perfect example of this comes in the form of the public bathroom hand washing technique as Alexander calls it. The theory behind the custom is that bathrooms are filthy beds of bacteria. Alexanders grandfather believed that a sure way of getting sick or picking up germs was touching something in a public restroom. As a result, he taught Alexander this technique as a means of avoiding skin contact with anything in a public restroom. If youre lucky, the bathroom operates on automatic sensor devices, in which case you dont need to touch anything to begin with. In the event that you do need to touch something, you begin by locating the paper towels. If there is a fresh stack on the counter, you can pick up the top towel and use that to turn on the faucet as well as dispense soap into your hand. In the event that there is a knob or roller that you must touch to dispense paper towels, you have to move to plan B. If you are wearing a long sleeve shirt, you can pull you sleeve down and cover your hand with that. If not, you can use your elbow to crank the lever (if your elbow gets bacteria on it its okyour elbow doesnt come in contact with your eyes, ears, nose, mouth very much, just be sure to wash your elbow when you get home). After using paper towels to get soap and turn on and off the faucet, you need to perform the same operation with the door handle. To avoid contact with it, use a paper towel to pull it open, and hold it in that position with your foot. Throw the paper towel into the garbage and walk out. If the garbage bin is far away, do your best to throw it in but do not sacrifice putting in the garbage by touching something. Throw it on the floor if you have to. If you really know what your doing, as my grandfather does, carry around paper towels or tissue at all times so you dont have to go about the whole paper towel routine, you can just use your own in not touching anything and going about your business.
This technique was taught to Alexanders grandfather by one of his colleagues. While its a useful way of avoiding bacteria and other germs, its almost comical to think about someone using the technique. His grandfather has made it a custom of his because he finds it extremely significant in maintaining good health. The extent to which avoiding bathroom germs in a such a manner really keeps us healthy we may not know, but doctors certainly have folkloric customs such as these that they swear by.