Ever sit in the bathroom, pull out your cell phone and start playing a video game? What about IM’ing someone? In a public restroom, do you find yourself reading, admiring, and seeking out the bathroom wall graffiti? Ever wish the restaurant, gym, store, or wherever-else-you-may-have-been-at-the-time offered something for you to stare at other than a green bathroom cubicle door?
If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, you (are already probably well aware that you) are a Bathroom Reader, one of those (un)fortunate souls who has to, whether by force of habit or nature, keep your mind entertained during those times when nature calls and demands a 1-on-1. (Chances are you’re also probably a guy.)
For all three of you who might not know, Bathroom Readers are people who can’t go to the bathroom for any extended period of time (more than 30 seconds) without picking up something — anything — to read. Books, magazines, the back of shampoo bottles, you name it; if it has words, they’ll read it, no matter how many times they’ve read it before. (“Honey, did you know that our shampoo has more guar hydroxypro-pyltrimonium chloride than ammonium lauryl sulfate?! I never get tired of that one…”)
Usually, Bathroom Readers will need to sit down before the urge to read strikes. But a recent trip to a near-by sports pub showed me that even when standing, Bathroom Readers can now enjoy a good read. In this particular sports pub, all urinals had the day’s newspaper tacked to the wall right above them. Extreme? I think not, although that may well be a commentary all its own on our ever growing need for mental entertainment.
At any rate, the question now isn’t whether you’re a Bathroom Reader or not — you either are or aren’t, and you know it. The question is what type of Bathroom Reader you are. I’ve decided to run a small, unscientific poll to find out just that. In this poll, I asked a few known Bathroom Readers what sort of mental activities they enjoyed while on “the can.” After having asked around, I have been able to classify Bathroom Readers into the following five categories. (Most Bathroom Readers will be more than one of these.)
- Long Term
- Short Term
Note that this isn’t by any means an exhaustive list. Heck, it’s probably not even a very complete one. Still, if you’ve ever asked yourself if what you do in there is normal, then this will probably answer your question.
- The Long Term Bathroom Reader
Long term Bathroom Readers are quite possibly the most annoyingly dedicated to the habit. They require a book or periodical of substance any time they visit their porcelain throne. In fact, they will usually hold out going if they can’t find something to read.
One particularly interesting habit some Long Termers have is the habit of getting naked before they can actually sit in the bathroom and enjoy their reading. They usually do this for relaxation, when they expect to spend at least 45 minutes reading and relaxing.
Keeping one of these guys happy is generally pretty easy: get a subscription to an engaging periodical and keep the bathroom well stocked. I recommend the local newspaper, or one of national interest, National Geographic, or Discover magazine, something with which this person can feel smarter after reading. I would avoid the “Men’s Interest” magazines.
- The Short Term Bathroom Reader
Short Term Bathroom Readers aren’t in it for the relaxation; they’re in it for the entertainment. To them, bathroom reading is more incidental (“might as well do this while here, right?”) than planned (“Ok, I want to read my book. Excuse me while I visit the tinkle-tinkle-ha-ha room.”)
This is the most common Bathroom Reader type, and by its very nature is particularly easy to entertain. As far as periodicals are concerned, both the Sunday comics and those free real-estate/used car magazines available at the local supermarket are good for this type. I also recommend free newspapers; the large number of advertisements make this periodical ideal for the short term reader’s shorter attention span. Of course, if no periodical is around, just about anything will do for these folks. Shampoo bottles are most common, but aerosols and pump soaps are also popular.
It should be noted that often times, Short Termers have the nasty habit of writing on toiled paper, especially if they’re the ultra-creative type. If you have one of these in your household, make sure you take a good look at the toilet paper before use.
Another item of note is public restrooms. The Short Termer enjoys reading bathroom wall poetry more than the other types. In fact, they often seek the stall with the most writing to go in to for that very reason. This type is also responsible for the existence of newspapers above bathroom urinals. (Might as well read while paying homage to the coffee god in his porcelain altar, right?)
- The Mathematician
Mathematicians aren’t Bathroom Readers in the strict sense of the phrase. That’s because mathematicians rarely need any sort of external mental stimulation. They instead entertain themselves counting tiles, applying mathematical formulas to the spacial qualities of the room, and in the case of multi-colored tiles, attempt to bring some semblance of order to what is seemingly chaos by attempting to find patterns in the construct and order of the tiles. (Some even go as far as using these numbers for lottery tickets.
Mathematicians are a pretty straight-laced bunch, but tend to be in good company; Johannes Kepler, Sir Issac Newton, Albert Einstein, and Stephen Hawking are all probably historically significant bathroom Mathematicians.
Keeping Mathematician Bathroom Readers happy is just a matter of keeping mathematically complex patterns in mind when decorating the bathroom. Of course, if you’re building a home, see if you can build in an extra dimension into the bathroom. The Mathematician will thank you.
- The Thinker
Thinkers, like mathematicians, are Bathroom Readers in the most loose sense of the phrase. Although they enjoy a good read whenever they “go”, Thinkers spend most of their time exploring their own minds, thinking of new inventions, and analyzing life, all the while letting their body do its bit as sanitation engineer.
To Thinkers, “the Jon” is a meditative tool, having trained their minds to focus and center once their skin touches the cold rim atop their porcelain throne. To most, this process of feeling the cold is necessary for the thinking process to begin, so sitting on their meditative seat while the cover is down and their rears are covered only makes them uncomfortable. With that in mind, most thinkers see the bathroom as a meditative chamber or sanctuary, and will often go into the bathroom for no other reason than to think. With their pants down.
Most great philosophers, sculptors, artists and writers started out as “Thinkers”. This is due more to shier numbers than to anything else, since all Bathroom Readers are by their very nature Thinkers, while not all Thinkers are necessarily “Bathroom Readers” in the strictest meaning of the phrase. In fact, thinkers are so common, they’ve been immortalized via works of art throughout the ages.
Although Thinkers don’t require reading material, it isn’t uncommon for Thinkers to take their work with them into the bathroom. It is also not uncommon for Thinkers to take a pen into their chamber with them and use any available writing surface to jot down their ideas. (It is this observer’s opinion that Thinkers were likely the inventors of the scroll, for — well — rather obvious reasons.) Therefore, to keep a thinker happy, simply keep a pen handy at all times. (Red, felt-tip pens are not recommended, for a myriad of reasons.)
- The Gamer
The last group, the Gamer, isn’t really a Bathroom Reader” at all, since any reading done by the Gamer is more incidental than purposeful. Thanks to GameBoys and cell phones, Gamers have become the most prominent group, but the Gamer Bathroom Reader has been around much longer than any of those devices. Before video games, Bahroom Gamers would flip coins, juggle, or learn magic tricks while on their throne. Today, they play video games, keep themselves busy with their iPods, and text message their friends.
Well, that about does it for this study. I hope you were able to learn something from this. If not — well, I hope you enjoyed it anyways. As a final note, originally, I actually meant for this topic to be a somewhat serious one, but c’mon — can anything serious be said when talking about this?! I didn’t think so.
If you’re a Thinker or a Short Term reader, feel free to print this, write up your answer on un-used toilet paper, then post the response on this site. However, please don’t send your response to me via snail mail. That would just be gross.