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Thursday 29th May 2003

I saw something that slightly baffled me in one of the toilet cubicles at the British Library today.
ThatÂ’s got your attention. Unfortunately it is nothing that interesting.
I was sitting there, minding my own business, quite literally, when I noticed that one of the toilet rolls had something written on it.
It wasnÂ’t one of those novelty toilet rolls with poems or gags or the photos of football players from opposing teams printed on it. It was written on in biro and it said this,
“Not studying – I work in IT.”
I looked at it, trying to work out what it could mean and why someone had written it there.
I donÂ’t think it was an attempt at humorous graffiti. If it was, I donÂ’t get the joke.
If anything it seemed like the answer to something someone else had said. Were two patrons of the British Library lavatories having some kind of written conversation between two cubicles? Presumably strangers, one of them had passed a piece of toilet paper under the partition saying “Hi, I’m Ian. What’s your name?”
The other bloke rather than being freaked out had written back, “I’m Keith. What are you doing here (not in the toilet, I can hear what you’re doing. I mean in the library)?
It was going well for them. The unusual opening gambit of making friends by passing toilet paper notes under a toilet partition had paid dividends for Ian. Ian is a shy man who finds it difficult to interact in social situations, but with the anonymity of the bathroom he feels happy. He knows that he has something in common with the neighbour, they are both doing a poo. ItÂ’s a bit like a very low tech version of the internet chat-room, except youÂ’re more likely to meet the other person at the basins after.
Ian writes back, “I am studying the effect of the death of Thomas a Becket on Anglo-Papal relations in the thirteenth century. What are you studying?”
Keith gets the message, chuckles to himself. He is just a visitor to the library. Possibly he’s just come in to use the toilet. “Not studying,” he writes “-I work in IT.”
But before he can rip it off the roll something happens. I don’t know what. Perhaps the British Library has a toilet patrol to stop people passing notes to one another under the toilet door. The toilet patrol has spotted Ian passing the note, then timing everything just right, they wait until Keith has written his message then kick open both the doors and drag Keith and Ian off into the bowels of the British Library where they are punished for their dirty correspondence. Ian loses his library privileges. Keith’s photo is given to security with the words “Do not allow in. He works in IT and is only coming here to use our toilet facilities.”
Ian and Keith never get a chance to exchange numbers. They never meet again.
ItÂ’s a human tragedy

ThatÂ’s the only thing that makes sense to me.
The only other possibility is that two men were in the same cubicle and one was giving the other a blow job. The receiver was trying to be chatty to his new friend who was doing him such a favour and said “So what are you studying?”
The giver of the blow job did not want to stop half way through to answer and risk breaking the flow, but nor did he want to appear rude. So he took out his biro, being careful to keep the blow job going, then wrote on the toilet roll, “not studying- I work in IT.”
The bloke getting the blow-job said, “Oh right. Interesting.” That was pretty much the end of the small talk.
Though that scenario doesnÂ’t seem as likely as the first.
Those are the only two possibilities. I challenge you to think of any other chain of events that could have led to this strange missive.
Write them on a postcard and then put them in the bin.
Or pass them under a toilet partition and see what happens.

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