Last night, I was waiting in line for the bathroom in the basement of Pianos, a popular hangout in the Lower East Side of Manhattan for, among others, college-aged Asian girls posing as semi-literate meth heads (description courtesy of Vin Dee of Arbor Day), when I observed one of the most absurd debates I expect to encounter during this election year. The exchange was between a white college-aged kid wearing standard New York club-going attire and a Latino guy. Neither were typical clientele of the club, which is known, even in the Lower East Side, for being particularly hipster-rific.

Let me mention that I had just seen a show in the music venue at the back of the club that involved two men with fake mustaches and glittery eighties apparel who, within their first few songs, stripped down to g-string thongs, complete with unicorn pouches for their packages. This duo performed an unabashed set of electro-clash that involved cocaine-induced streams of consciousness and crying on stage, naked push-ups in the middle of the audience, the necks of beer bottles being pushed anuses, and candle wax being poured on pubes, among other spectacles. The band is Gil Mantera and the Party Dream, and I highly recommend Charter booking them for House Parties.

To put it lightly, the night was already interesting. The previous weekend I had also found myself at Pianos, and had met the 19-year-old Norwegian au pair for one of the guys from a-ha (see “Take on Me”). Nights spent at this place tend to leave you with a good story or two to tell. So, with a good buzz going on after the Gil Mantera show, I walked downstairs to use the bathroom in the basement of the club. I got in line behind the college-aged kid, who’s angrily rambling for no apparent reason about people who use hand-dryers in bathrooms. I’m going to refer to him as ROSLYN KID, because even though he was probably some coked-up douche bag from NYU, he reminded me of your typical bridge-and-tunnel fare from Long Island (and being from Long Island, I spot these types readily).

ROSLYN KID: I mean, who the fuck uses those things? They’re broken half the time, they take forever to work. You’re a jack ass if you don’t use paper towels.

[At this point ROSLYN KID turns to me]

ROSLYN KID: You agree with me, right?

ME: Yeah, I use paper towels. It’s easier.

ROSLYN KID: Exactly. And this asshole at the club [presumably some other club since the one we were at had one-person capacity bathrooms] was all like, “You’re damaging the environment.” Fuck that shit and fuck him.

ME: You know, I bet those hair-dryers are probably even worse for the environment, when it comes down to it.

ROSLYN KID: Exactly! Ex-actly!

It’s hard to describe, but this kid was getting very animated about this; there was a pale, buzzed intensity to his face, which had clearly been soaked with sweat at an earlier point in the night but was now without sweat, as if his pores were sucked dry and his cranium burning like a radiator. You could tell he wasn’t going to let this go. His friend, presumably already crashed or just not as excitable, stood next to him silently while he went off. At this point, a Latino kid with a Starter-looking jacket (remember those?) and a red cap came downstairs and joined the line for the bathroom

LATINO KID: You guys waiting in line for the bathroom?

ME: I am. [I realized then that ROSLYN KID and his friend weren’t even waiting in this narrow, underground hallway for the bathroom, but had rather gotten themselves stuck in space and time, as often times happens to people at this time of night on a Saturday].

ROSLYN KID: [Stepping right up to the Latino kid]: What do you say, paper towels or hand-dryers?

LATINO KID: Paper towels.


[With this endorsement to his argument, ROSLYN KID was ecstatic. He might have even slapped the Latino kid’s hand. But the conversation was about to take an unexpected political turn…]

ROSLYN KID: That’s what I’m saying, man. It’s just like, you know, people are like “Kerry or Bush”? And, honestly, I think I favor Bush [again proving that ROSLYN KID wasn’t your typical LES type]. Do you think Bush is all about hand-dryers and the environment? No way, man. That’s the way Kerry is. Fuck that. Fuck what everyone else says, I’m for Bush and paper towels.

LATINO KID: I don’t know, man. I sort of like Sharpton.

ROSLYN KID [With a look of disbelief on his face]: Are you shitting me? Sharpton?!? [ROSLYN KID starts laughing and the Latino kid is visibly offended. The bathroom frees up and I walk in, lock the door, and relieve myself while continuing to listen to the developing argument outside].

LATINO KID: Hey, man, that’s bullshit. Our democracy’s all about respecting other people’s opinions.

ROSLYN KID: Fuck people’s opinions. I say paper towels all the way. George W. Bush and paper towels. I bet you use hand dryers.

The argument – staggering and punctuated – continued in this vein for some time. When I finished up, I grab a handful of paper towels, walked out of the bathroom, and threw then in the air as I walked by ROSLYN KID and LATINO KID, who were in each other’s faces at this point.

RANDOM HIPSTER: [Wearing Sammy Hagar shirt]: Yeah!!!

A lot of people think democracy happens on the floor of our Senate, or on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November every year when people drive their shiny Volvos to the election polls and cast their votes for their local and national representatives, or when we bomb the shit out of third-world nations, but I think democracy happens at 3:00 AM on Saturday nights in the line for the bathroom at Pianos. I think democracy happens every time you finish at the bathroom sink and make the decision to bypass the sterile, outdated, lukewarm-air-spewing hand-dryers for an obnoxious handful of paper towels, the disposal of which will somehow kill the beavers in the Pacific Northwest. Fucking paper towels, is all I’m saying.

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