Mr. Booger Art
[Originally appeared on an ad agency bathroom wall and then was published as the eighth installment in my monthly column, “Endgame,” in Penthouse magazine.]
I was in the bathroom at work—a large, prestigious advertising agency—standing before the urinal with my pants around my ankles when my wandering eyes noticed a small speck on the white tile directly in front of me.
“That’s curious,” I thought leaning in for a closer look. “Is that a booger?”
It was a booger. And there were lots of boogers. There were big ones, little ones, crusty ones, bloody ones, ones with nose hairs in them—I’ve seen a lot of gross things in public restrooms, but I hadn’t seen this before. Someone had stood at the urinal, with their penis in one hand—unless they peed no-handed (which is also weird—put the phone down in a public restroom, you weirdos)—and their other hand was jammed up their nose. It’s a very peculiar image: man holding dick, peeing, and blowing boogers. Disgusting, but kind of funny—but then disgusting again. The more you think about it, the less funny it gets. Who does that?
I presented the booger gallery to a small group of coworkers I was comfortable sharing this kind of sensitive information with. They were, to my relief, similarly amused, but also disgusted by the wall of snot samples. And like me they had a lot of questions:
1. “How were the boogers applied, were they blown or wiped?”
I’m no forensic scientist, but I presume they were blown onto the wall because the mucus appeared raw and unmolested, as opposed to smeared or wiped. Both methods of application, though, are equally curious.
2. “Did he know what he was doing was gross and unacceptable in a public space, or did he think it was completely natural? Does he, for instance, practice this behavior at home?”
Our entire inquiry, it could be said, was focused on this question. Much like the modern, Western, judicial system, we were more concerned with the motivation behind the act than the act itself. (This question also brought to mind those snappy workplace signs, “Your mother doesn’t work here, so please clean up after yourself.” Maybe his mother taught him this?)
3. “Did she know what she was doing was gross and unacceptable in a public space?”
We were nearly 100% certain the culprit was male, but we thought it best not to rule out any suspects. Perhaps there was a militant feminist in our midst who enjoyed expressing her displeasure in the men’s room? I like her style.
4. “Was there a message or image hidden in the arrangement, or were the boogers blown/wiped completely at random?”
There was something cavalier, almost contemptuous, about the practice at first glance, and the composition appeared completely random, the result of mucus being forcibly ejected from the nasal cavity, but we acknowledged the possibility that there might be a hidden code in the arrangement. Maybe someone needed to be rescued and this was their SOS?
5. And again, but most importantly, “Who does that?”
Our first thought was that because it was such a brazen and crude act that it had to be a prank and therefore it was one of us. No one in their right mind walks around blowing snot on the walls in a public space, right? Yet no one in our small circle fessed up (not even Robert who got naked at the company Christmas party and somehow crammed himself into a tiny Igloo cooler), and there didn’t seem to be anyone else in our office capable of such a vulgar joke, so we assumed that the culprit probably wasn’t doing it for comedic purposes.
No, we decided, whoever was doing this was doing it “normally.” Which, of course, made it all the more disgusting because this was being performed in the restroom of a large, international advertising agency that has big, fancy, multi-national corporations for clients. Whoever it was, it was someone we worked with.
“Which one of our coworkers is the fucking weirdo?” we wondered.
Despite a couple days of amateur surveillance and a bumbling investigation that resulted in zero leads, new boogers continued to be added to the composition above the urinals. We were baffled. So I decided to go public with our search for Mr. Booger Art, as we had come to call the perpetrator, and appeal to him directly. I wrote a note and hung it over the boogers on the wall above the urinals:
We never found out who Mr. Booger Art was and my contract with the agency ended shortly after I posted the notice. When I returned a few months later under a new contract, however, I learned that during my absence my colleagues had discovered who the perpetrator was.
“You gonna blow boogers on the wall again?” they asked me on my first day back.
“What?” I said dumbfounded.
Turns out: I’m Mr. Booger Art. My coworkers had arrived at their verdict based on circumstantial evidence commonly known as, “Whoever Smelt It, Dealt It.” The glee with which I had created the Mr. Booger Art flier was also admitted as evidence of my guilt. According to their conspiracy I made the flier first, then blew boogers on the wall so that I would have reason to display it. I, naturally, protested, and argued that scheme required an advanced sense of humor and foresight that I unfortunately do not possess. They were unimpressed.
“We know you were the one blowing boogers on the wall,” they said, “because as soon as you left, the boogers stopped.”
So I’m Mr. Booger Art now. Fine.
Oh sure, I was pissed at first. I consulted Kafka, I thought of contacting “Serial,” and I’ve marveled at the rage I would experience if accused of something more serious. But since I’ll never be able to completely clear my name unless the real Mr. Booger Art comes forward, I’ve decided to embrace my new role. What else can I do? I can pick a fight with the Court Of Public Opinion, or I can pick my nose and create something beautiful—or if not beautiful, at least something that’s covered with boogers: something boogieful.