90% of Us Read Our Phones on the Toilet. Do You?

"Hey, Kid, do you ever use your phone on the toilet?" I coughed and sputtered into my beer.

I'm sorry? I said. That's a rather personal question, don't you think? I've known you for 12 years and this is the first time you've ever asked me about my bathroom habits. I could go another 12 years without you ever bringing it up again.

"Oh, don't get your bowels in an uproar," said Karl."I was asking about your reading habits, not your bathroom habits." Karl is a friend and fellow writer, and we often meet to discuss any pressing social issues over a drink. Like reading on the toilet, apparently.

How is that different? I asked. We were at First Editions, our favorite literary-themed bar, watching an open mic reading. Some guy from Texas was reading about playing baseball in Houston when he was a kid.

"I was just reading an article in Time magazine that said 90 percent of cell phone owners look at their phones while they're on the can."

On the can? What are you, a 1940s gangster movie? What's next, calling women 'dames?'

"You dirty rat," Karl said in his best James Cagney imitation. He continued: "Anyway, this psychology professor from Australia wondered whether we should read on the toilet, or give it up in the name of decency and hygiene. He said most Americans read on their mobile phones or play games or watch videos while they're camping on the toilet."

Can't you get hemorrhoids if you sit on the toilet too long? I asked.

"Not according to this guy," said Karl. "He said there's no scientific connection between toilet reading and hemorrhoids. In fact, he mentioned a study that showed toilet readers were less constipated than non-readers."

Yeah, but he's only a psychologist. He does business at the other end.

"Unless you've got your head lodged up your backside," Karl laughed and choked on his beer. I slapped him on the back until he waved me off. "My point is, I don't think anybody needs to read in the bathroom. It's disgusting and unhygienic."

Only if you don't clean it regularly. How filthy is your bathroom?

"Hey, I clean it," said Karl. "Besides, the typical kitchen is much dirtier. With all the gunk and bacteria on the counters, and in the sinks and coffee maker, And on those disgusting dish sponges. Kitchens are way more contaminated than the average bathroom."

Ew, gross. Now I don't want to read in my kitchen either.

Karl stared at me for a few seconds. "You read in your kitchen?"

Well, not reading so much as watching Netflix over breakfast.

Karl stared for a few seconds more. "Do you just blur all the boundaries in your life?"

What, you keep yours entirely compartmentalized? You don't drink a beer in the shower? You never read a cheap paperback in the tub, or ate dinner in front of the TV during a baseball game?

"Well, the ball game thing, sure. Who hasn't? But no, my life is tidy and organized. I read in my living room easy chair, I eat at the table in my kitchen, I write on my laptop in my office, and I use the bathroom to, well, go to the bathroom."

You're just the life of the party, huh?

"That's not the point," said Karl. "The point is, it's just disgusting. I would never take something into the bathroom that I'd put next to my face."

Also, you still flip your phone open to use it, so there's nothing to read. I asked Kurt the bartender to bring us a couple of Lone Star beers and put it on the Texas baseball guy's tab.

"Smartphones are worse," said Karl. "You've got your grubby fingers all over the screen, and the bacteria gets warmed up from the battery or being in your pocket, then you're sticking it on your face to make a phone call. Supposedly one in six smartphones have some kind of fecal contamination on them, so think about that the next time your wife calls you."

I made a mental note to boil my phone when I got home. Sure, but they're no worse than anything else we possess. Think about what your keyboard must be like, especially after you've jammed your fingers up your nose.

"I don't—"

And do you wash your hands every time you cook? And then again before you eat, since you prepared it in your bacteria cesspool?

"Er, that is—"

Do you ever pretend the Five Second Rule is real and eat food you dropped on the floor?

"But that's not—"

Uh-huh, that's what I thought. You need to come down off your porcelain throne with the rest of us grubby mortals and accept the fact that if 90 percent of us are using our mobile phones 'on the can,' we're either horrible people or maybe there's nothing wrong that a little ammonia-based cleaner can't fix.

"Oh there's plenty wrong with you toilet readers. Henry Miller said reading on the toilet was a sign of spiritual emptiness."

Then I'm in luck, I said. Because if I need spiritual fulfillment, I can just read the Bible app on my phone.

Photo credit: Alexas_Fotos (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0)

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