A couple of years ago, some girl friends and I spent a night at a suite in a Makati hotel. A girls’ night out kind of thing with plenty of alcohol and discussion about things no one normally talks about when sober.
At around 2.30 a.m. as we were getting ready for bed, someone mentioned “ideas”. I’m sure it was in the context of the discussion that two of us assured the third that the best ideas are born in the bathroom. Shower. Toilet. Basta, in the bathroom.
The third friend was both amused and kind of shocked. Disbelieving would, perhaps, be the correct word. Her face said, “Oh, come on, you two are pulling my leg.” She didn’t say that exactly but that was what her body language relayed.
I assured her that it wasn’t a joke. I told her that when I was still writing a bi-weekly op-ed column for Manila Standard, most of the topics were born in the shower — with my eyes closed as the water poured over me.
I told her too that, in my family, it wasn’t just me who used the bathroom as a kind of petri dish for ideas. When we were kids, my brother (her batch mate in law school) used to bring a volume of encyclopedia in the bathroom every morning and he’d stay there for hours. That made her a believer, I think. A half-believer, at least. A person she knew well and a piece of memoir that she could confirm just by asking my brother. (If my brother denies it, I swear I will smack him.)
But what is it about the bathroom that makes it a perfect petri dish for growing ideas? With my brother, whatever he read from the encyclopedia was the seed or culture that he planted each day. How he made them grow, I never asked.
With me, ideas just sprout. Often unbidden. So I wouldn’t call the bathroom my petri dish. Rather, in the bathroom, I feel so at peace that my mind goes blank. In that state, it is a vast fertile land with unseen and undefined boundaries where the wind drops seeds it had collected in its journey. Some of those seeds I might not find useful and probably subconsciously dismiss. But a few become ideas that grow roots. And whatever manages to grow roots reaches full bloom before I leave the bathroom. It’s like experiencing on time lapse the growth of a plant that takes decades to flourish from seedling to tree.
What the heck, right? But then again, you have to admit — there are few corners of the house more relaxing than the bathroom. It’s about the only place where you can have real solitude, and where there are very few external stimuli to distract you. And the sound of flowing water, even the rumble when flushing the toilet, is so calming. Is there anywhere in the world (except, perhaps, an isolated beach) more conducive to the formation of pure thoughts than one’s own bathroom?