A Project for Better Journalism chapter
Student Life

Silently screaming stalls

The words covered almost every corner of the walls and the door. Almost none of it was legible, but the sentences that were readable were confessions of love made by people too timid to speak out. Sometimes it was just numbers, phone numbers, dates, anything. A good majority of the confessions contained swear words. It felt like someone had started a war and the declarations were written loud and clear for all to see; that’s what all the insults resembled. If there had been a line that wasn’t supposed to be crossed, each of the insults on the walls had completely demolished that line without an ounce of regret.   

 The female stalls at West Ottawa High School South are covered in student graffiti. The custodians clean them off, and a handful of students get back to writing.

  Most of the comments can’t be read, and some are covered up by more comments. But the ones that stand alone for all to see are capable of making one wonder. Each of the legible comments usually falls under six categories. People who vandalize the restroom walls either confess their love for someone, build others up with self-love, write something vulgar, say hello, document an important date, or  write something completely random that no one would expect to find on the walls of a bathroom stall.

  Saying “I love you” has never been easy, so it makes sense that one would try to write it down first. The walls of the bathroom stalls at WOHS have been decorated in these firsts. “I still heart 1D,” and “I love boston 4ever,” are just a couple of the secret confessions that can be found on the walls. But out of all the recorded disclosures of love, one stands out above all the rest. One of these short, sweet love notes is the most questioning. “I heart Mufasa a lot!” This quote offers up multiple questions. Was this student referring to Mufasa from lion king, or a WO alumni/present student? Is it possible that this mystery writer was referencing a real king, given the fact that mufasa means king in Swahili? If it was written for a king, which king?

  It’s said that the four years that it takes to complete high school are the best of one’s life. But then there’s bullying. Everyone can be a target for bullying but that doesn’t mean that high school students aren’t capable of building each other up, even if it is through vandalism. The walls of the female restrooms have been decorated with words that are designed to build up other students. Most of the graffiti on the bathroom walls are just sentences without signatures, rendering these ghostwriters nameless. “Love Yourself! -Em.” This piece of vandalism has one component that most don’t, the ghostwriter of this quote signed her name at the end of her sentence. By signing her name at the end of her sentence this quote became truly original making it even odder.

  In most movies or books written about high school, vulgarity somehow becomes a lasting component in the story, and the water closets at WOHS are no exception. Practically every sentence on the walls has a hint of something suggestive. But there is one note that has been recorded more than once. The first time the sentence was written, it appeared in a bathroom in the North Building. The second time that someone wrote down the scandalous sentence was in another bathroom at the South Building. The statement is inappropriate for the school paper, but it is not aggressive or negative, just tacky. Something like this is expected to be found on the walls of a high school bathroom, however, the reasons to record the previous sentence are unclear. A sentence like the one above is unseemly and juvenile, even though someone deemed it worthy to be written again after it was removed in the North Building.    

  Everyone in the world has a way of greeting someone. Hi and hello are just the most common ways to greet someone, but other languages have their own greetings. In Hawaiian, the word aloha means hello and goodbye and the writer that wrote “Holla Dolla,” may have been trying to spell out aloha, they just got a few of the letters in the wrong order and added in a few extra. It’s also possible that holla was correct but it’s just a word that hasn’t been used in a while. As for “dolla”, it could be the name of someone the ghost writer knew when they attended WO. Also, “dolla” is capable of being a misspelling of the word dolls which used to be another term for a female, however, it is a tad out-dated. Some might think that piece of writing is just a fluke and has no meaning, but it leaves plenty up to speculation.

  High school students are notorious for being disrespectful to their teachers and anyone else that they’re supposed to treat as a role model. The people who clean the bathrooms could be considered role models, even elders, which could be the reason for so much inappropriate vandalism on the walls of the restrooms. However, that is what makes this quote so random and fills it with irony.”RESPECT YOUR ELDERS!” It’s quite odd to find a sentence like the one above written in a high school by a student, on the walls of a restroom nonetheless. Normally people will confess their love on the walls of the bathrooms, or say something rather vulgar. Despite that fact, the sentence above remains on the bathroom walls.

  Numbers have always been considered important. Dates, times, sums of money, math equations, minutes, seconds, everything comes down to numbers. On the walls of the bathrooms a collection of numbers can be found. Because almost none of the writing on the bathroom walls is legible and that most of it overlaps, it’s difficult to tell what the strings of numbers on the walls stand for. The most one can do is guess. Sometimes there are dots in between the numbers and other times the numbers a clumped or tangled together like a big bowl of linguine. However, the numbers present must hold some significance to someone or they wouldn’t have burned them into the minds of both the readers and themselves.

  WOHS is a great high school despite the vandalism on the restroom walls. The graffiti that covers the bathrooms walls is aged and scrubbed and can’t be read without a great deal of concentration. But it’s there. And most of it remains a mystery.