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2002-11-09 1:29 p.m.

Today I came close to tracking down the fingernail clipper guy. I almost felt his identity in my grasp.

I was in the men's restroom and I heard him in the last stall, click clack cutting away those nails. I waited for a while around the sinks, just like last time I heard him in there, but he never emerged from the safe womb of the handicapped stall.

So—in spite of constant reminders from my friends and family that I am definitely and 100% the only one they know who does this sort of thing—I did what I would like to think that anybody else would do. I peeked under the stall wall to get a look at him—see if I could pick up some clue to lead me to his identity.

I didn't exactly get a great look at him, unless the area between his mid–calves and his feet counts. Nail Clipper Guy was obviously an engineer. He wore white tennis shoes and aqua colored Dockers that somehow managed to look like the exact wrong size for him even when decontextualized into a bunch around his ankles. His feet were really small, which made me think he was probably Asian. Flat pieces of metal clinked together with each clip of a nail. Ah, he has his clippers on the same ring as his keys.

My clue–gathering peek under the stall wall was not as successful as I had hoped.

I lingered in the hallway outside the restroom, trying to be as nonchalant as possible. For a moment I toyed with what I might say if anyone was to ask why I was standing in a zone which contains exactly zero of the amenities which might lead a sane person to stand there for more than two to three seconds. Oh, me? I am just hanging around in the awkward semi–hallway area outside the restrooms because the climate here is a lot more pleasant than the rest of the building. I vacation here every winter. Don't you?

I got bored with waiting, or maybe my mind just forgot what exactly I was doing standing in a place so perfectly not engineered for loitering. I went back to working.

A few hours later, I returned to the scene of the crime. As usual with Nail Clipper Guy, he did the nail farming for me. All I had to do was harvest the easy fruits of his labor off the ground.

In the stall at the very end, I sat down on the toilet just a tiny bit more slowly than usual, as if I was on some weekend getaway from my fast–paced life. I didn't rush to take out my digital camera or the neatly folded paper towel that would soon house the vagrant nails.

The nails—conveniently within arms reach—sat semi–scattered on the tiled terrain just beyond the decontextualized heap of too–tight–to–be–an–engineer black leather pants around my ankles. I inhaled slowly and surveyed my handicapped stall domain. I was an ad–hoc king on a fickle, porcelain throne. I could afford to take my time.

I read a few pages in my book then took some close–up photos of the little grey–white crescents of dead human cells against the stark blue and white tile background. There is something decadent—indulgent—about using a fancy camera to photograph nail clippings on a restroom floor, an unclean surface littered with stray bits of toilet paper and pubic hair. It felt dirty in the best possible way; it felt dirty for the sake of art or some other holy cause.

I gathered my new nails into the neatly folded paper towel.

All vacations come to an end, and the best ones are always over before you want them to be. A vacation that goes on too long ends up being just as tedious as work and leaves a similar unpleasant taste in one's mouth. And, it was getting to be about that time for me. I left the handicapped stall with a camera in one hand, a book in the other, and a neatly–folded paper towel in my right pocket.