Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

The Bathroom as Reading Room

toilet.gifIt may not be the question for the ages, but what do people read while on the throne? And perhaps a relevant follow-up: Why?

Let me be clear, I’m all business in the bathroom. I go when I have to go. No newspaper, iPhone or tablet.

It’s true, as a kid visiting my grandmother, I used an outhouse with a stack of Sears & Roebuck catalogs. But their purpose wasn’t for reading.

But I digress. Researchers, using methods better left unmentioned, have ascertained the reading, phoning and texting habits of American on the john. The results are somewhere on the toilet paper roll of news between astonishing and dumbfounding.

For example, 75 percent of your fellow humans confess they have secreted their cell phone into the potty. Twenty-four percent say they won’t go unless their cell phones go with them.

Some 63 percent of people haul printed material into the bathroom. Men and younger people are the most prone to read while on the pot. For men, their tool of choice is the tablet.

Bathroom_Reading_InfographicMagazines top the hit parade list of most read in the toilet. But people also read newspapers, books, text messages, email, regular mail and shampoo directions.

There are people who use the time on the toilet to write checks. They apparently want to double down on activity that stinks.

Dutiful people answer their phones while otherwise occupied, which always raises the sticky question of telephone etiquette of when to flush.

A handful of people, about 3 percent, place a television in the bathroom so they never miss an episode of their favorite reality TV show or the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

It is not hugely surprising that men’s reading material consists mainly of erotic magazines, sports stories and crime novels. Women peruse interior design magazines, romance novels and gossip columns. Oddly, or not, both men and women choose this unlikely moment to glance at gardening magazines.

Like so much research, one is left to wonder what it all means. Have we turned a daily duty into a daily ritual? Is the old bathroom the new library? Is the bathroom the only place to go with relative assurance no one will pester you? Is a heated toilet seat more comfortable than most modern sofas and lounge chairs?

These undoubtedly are questions calling for further research. I suppose someone will ask people to fill out a questionnaire online in the bathroom telling about what they usually read online in the bathroom. (I think online surveys are a more practical idea than one-on-one interviews.)

It would be easy to cheapen this avenue of research as nothing but a sophomoric attempt at potty humor. It is at least junior-level potty humor.





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