The offending element
  • Peter Merholz/Wikimedia Commons
  • The offending element

Whenever I see a movie at University of Chicago’s Doc Films—which is fairly often—I encounter the same inconvenience. Either before, during, or after the show, I excuse myself to the men’s room in the basement of Ida Noyes Hall, and as I’m washing my hands, I notice that someone (presumably male) has placed a little rectangle of paper towel over the drain of the sink. I can respond to this situation in one of two ways: I can disregard it and let the basin fill with water, or I can be civic-minded and throw away that bit of paper. Neither decision takes more than a few seconds to perform, which makes me wonder just what the prankster had hoped to achieve by masking the drain. Did he think he’d trick me into believing the sink was clogged? Anyone can learn the real story simply by looking down. Or does he get a rise out of knowing an unsuspecting stranger has to suffer the indignity of handling soggy paper, if only from the sink to the garbage can?