Read on the pot?
September 22, 2008 2:14 PM   Subscribe

What is normally considered "appropriate recreational bathroom activities" in US culture? (Safe for work)

I am a long time bathroom reader, mostly magazines. I remember growing up going to a lot of houses that had magazine baskets or racks in the bathroom. I also remember the old Eddie Murphy skit about his father reading the Bible in the bathroom.

But in having some discussions with friends, plus personal observations of co-workers, I'm trying to determine what is "socially acceptable" to do/read on the toilet, and what isn't.

For example, everyone remembers the episode of Seinfeld where George takes the book into the bookstore bathroom and he is not only forced to buy the book but the book is "marked" so no one else ever takes it. And Elaine's disgust when she realizes she's touched a book George had read on the toilet certainly seems to say "books aren't okay", but I do know a number of toilet book readers.

And in this information age, I know I am hearing clickings from cell phone buttons when I'm in the loo at work. People whipping out various smartphones for some idle surfing or maybe gaming.

Which then leads to gaming...are PSPs and Nintendo DS appropriate toilet activities?

So I'm wondering, what do YOU do on the pot?
posted by arniec to Society & Culture (60 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Amazon Kindle.
posted by Master Gunner at 2:22 PM on September 22, 2008


I read books and do sudoku puzzles.
I have a friend who bought a PSP just so he can play SNES games while he poops.
posted by clcapps at 2:25 PM on September 22, 2008


Personally, I'm creeped out at the idea of someone using their cell phone in a bathroom stall. I guess I have a more restrictive policy, too, when it comes to a work or public restroom and your own home bathroom.

It's pretty much a, "Do whatever you want to do at a home where you can wash your hands and go on your way and I will have no clue what you've been up to but just do what you have to do in a public restroom and get the hell out," policy.
posted by misha at 2:25 PM on September 22, 2008


I read books on the toilet, including library books. That episode only makes sense because he hasn't paid for the book in any way. Elaine's disgust is because she's kind of a prude.
posted by muddgirl at 2:25 PM on September 22, 2008


There's a difference between what it's socially acceptable to do in the privacy of your own home when no one can tell and what it's socially acceptable to do in all other circumstances. It's not clear from what you've said which you're curious about.

A lot of people like to read in their bathrooms. That's mostly seen as a part of life.

The ickiness comes in when one realizes that others are reading in their bathrooms. Suppose you lend me a book. Would you want me taking it into the bathroom with me? Probably not. Or suppose I lend you a book. Would you like to have to think about how that book has been read while I was in the bathroom? Probably, it's just not a mental image you'd want to have to deal with. There very rarely are any health or sanitary issues related with bathroom reading (unless one really fails at bathroom cleanliness), but it's not always pleasant to think of a book as something someone else had with them in those circumstances.

It's like farting. Everyone farts. We all know everyone farts. But it's not really appropriate to make other people aware of all the farting.
posted by Ms. Saint at 2:27 PM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


My younger brother used to play Wario World on Gameboy while dropping a deuce. He couldn't understand why it grossed me out so much. I have a sense this may be a small-scale representation of the sort of age/generation gap that governs how people perceive abthroom recreation.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 2:33 PM on September 22, 2008


I was just having a conversation about this an hour ago, about a roommate who tried to install a cache of reading materials in a communal bathroom, and how we all had to beg him to just keep it in his room instead.

Really, it's just up to you and the people you share the space with. Be considerate toward your guests -- I'm grossed out if I pick up a magazine off of someone's coffee table and it has that warped "rescued after being left in the bathroom for a month" texture to it.

Bathroom time is personal. Do what thou wilt.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 2:39 PM on September 22, 2008


I read a lot on the pot, my girlfriend not at all.
posted by rhizome at 2:40 PM on September 22, 2008


Pretty much going on what's already been said, you can do whatever the hell you want to do in your own bathroom. I play guitar sometimes when I'm on the shitter, use my cell phone, surf on my laptop, whatever. Something that's kinda weird is our bathroom door doesn't shut all the way sometimes and our dog always loves to come in the bathroom when someone's using it, so sometimes I pet my roomate's dog while shitting.
posted by BrnP84 at 2:41 PM on September 22, 2008


There was an exec at a company I consulted at who you never wanted to meet in the restroom. This guy would rope you into a discussion then keeping the impromptu meeting going while he sat on the crapper and you'd have to stay there talking to him until he finished, um, everything.

Men who could stare death in the face and laugh would wither away just seeing this guy enter the restroom.
posted by trinity8-director at 2:45 PM on September 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


I play the Scrabble app on my phone. Basically, if it's a silent pastime (reading, listening to music, doing crosswords, etc), knock yourself out, but if it involves vocal interaction, wait till you're done. The world doesn't need to move THAT fast.
posted by pdb at 2:49 PM on September 22, 2008


Bathroom behaviour is a private preference, so it's only where the private abuts the public that it becomes an issue. I've seen lots of signs in chain bookstores and supermarkets that forbid bringing unpurchased books and magazines into the facilities, so it's something that needs to be enforced, rather than a widespread social more.

As a side note, I'd suggest that using Seinfeld as a guide to appropriate behaviour is a extremely bad idea.
posted by zamboni at 2:50 PM on September 22, 2008


I actually check askmefi on my phone while I'm on the bowl at work. I generally wait until I get back to my desk to post an answer.

At home it's a magazine or a book without a story line. I'm physically incapable of reading a newspaper in the bathroom.

I've tried reading novels or playing my DS but then I end up sitting there much longer than I actually need to be.
posted by simplethings at 2:51 PM on September 22, 2008


Nothing. What healthy person would have to the time to do anything?


If you actually have the time to read or do anything on the toilet then it's time to change your eating habits, consider colon cleansing or seek medical assistance.



Prudes are people who don't like sex. Normal people think reading on the toilet is a foul habit.
posted by Zambrano at 2:51 PM on September 22, 2008 [7 favorites]


I hate it when I'm talking with someone on the phone and I become aware that they're using the toilet.

And by "hate it" here I mean I REALLY REALLY HATE IT.

However, to me the nadir of all inappropriate bathroom activities was the time when my brother noticed that his college roommate was taking a shit with the door open, AND EATING A HAMBURGER AT THE SAME TIME.

//washes and washes, but will always feel dirty
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:53 PM on September 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


I just want to say that sitting for prolonged periods of time on a toilet isn't such a great idea.

HOWEVER

"Normal people think reading on the toilet is a foul habit"

Is inaccurate.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:55 PM on September 22, 2008


I have a magazine subscription for the express purpose of reading on the john - I read pretty fast, so the minute or two I have is plenty to read a few reviews or maybe an article.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:08 PM on September 22, 2008


"Normal people think reading on the toilet is a foul habit"

This is not true. Not in my culture anyways.

That said, the only time I do anything but pee/poop on the toilet is if I'm trapped in an incredibly long telephone call with someone (usually a family member) and have to pee and I try to make it quick. I have friends who are 20 minute bathroom magazine readers and while I find it a little odd [leaving and saying "I'm gonna go to the bathroom" and then being gone nearly half an hour] I always have a few things in there for people to read.
posted by jessamyn at 3:08 PM on September 22, 2008


It's not so much on the pot, as in the bathroom. The door locks, my small children can't get to me. I sit on the edge of the bathtub and do crosswords.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:21 PM on September 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


Normal people are just fine about reading on the toilet, except for normal people who are squicked out by it.

Also, colon cleansing is bad for you. Don't do that.
posted by rtha at 3:26 PM on September 22, 2008


I don't do recreational activities on the can, but I've known people who play handheld videogames in there. Using the DS stylus while pooping strikes me as asking for trouble, though.

As for reading, there's an entire series devoted to the apparently widespread art of bathroom reading.

That episode only makes sense because he hasn't paid for the book in any way. Elaine's disgust is because she's kind of a prude.

He paid for it. He was forced to buy the book when he was discovered by the staff. He tried (and failed) to return it for a refund and to sell it to a charity shop.

posted by CKmtl at 3:26 PM on September 22, 2008


I do sudoku on the throne every morning. I call it my sudo-poo.
posted by CrazyJoel at 3:44 PM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I know someone who confessed to not using our excellent local library because she could not bear the thought of checking out books that someone else may have read in the bathroom. That thought had never occurred to me before.
We both were constant readers so her squickiness caused her to spend hundreds of dollars a year at book stores.
posted by readery at 3:46 PM on September 22, 2008


He paid for it.

He paid for it after he was discovered, which is the crucial difference in my worldview. I would not, while visiting a friend, bring their book into the bathroom to read it, but if a book was already there, I would certainly avail myself for the few seconds it takes to do my business.

posted by muddgirl at 3:53 PM on September 22, 2008


I sometimes leave a sudoku book in the bathroom, and work on puzzles when I'm pooping. As a result, I either a) look forward to pooping or b) spend longer than i should.
posted by alligatorman at 3:55 PM on September 22, 2008


Silent activities are acceptable (reading, crosswords, sobering up, etc). TALKING LOUDLY ON YOUR PHONE LIKE YOU'RE AT A GODDAMN BUSINESS MEETING is not. ever. acceptable.

Ever.
posted by sperose at 3:56 PM on September 22, 2008


More fiber, perhaps?

I keep archie comics in my bathroom. Just in case.
posted by Hildegarde at 3:59 PM on September 22, 2008


I love it when AskMe reminds me of how nuts some people are. Unless you are one of those guys who pees all over the toilet, what exactly do you think is happening to books in the bathroom? People pick them up with the hands that have been touching everything else you touch, put them down before wiping, and then either leave them or pick them up again after washing their hands. If they don't wash their hands, then they are touching everything in their apartment with filthy hands anyway. You can't win. And you are still alive. So you know I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by dame at 4:18 PM on September 22, 2008 [7 favorites]


At home - whatever you want to do is acceptable - just don't tell me about it. (Although if you have time to read a book / do sudoku / etc, then as Hildegarde points out, you may want to add a bit more fibre to your diet!)

At work - the toilet cubicle is a rare place of solitude - on a particularly hungover day, I've been known to have a quick nap, and on a particularly PMTish day, a little cry (both with the lid down...)

No phone calls. Please, no.

readery - you've just turned me off public libraries for life!
posted by finding.perdita at 4:22 PM on September 22, 2008


I've heard people eating bags of chips in public bathroom stalls. Disgusting to say the least, so definitely don't do that.

Personally, I don't feel comfortable using small electronics that could drop into the toilet by accident, but I don't think texting on the can is uncommon.
posted by erpava at 4:34 PM on September 22, 2008


nthing dame... words of wisdom. I don't live in the US, but personally I play Quadrapop (a bit like Tetris) on my phone for far too long whilst on the loo, there seems to be a nice synergy between the two activities.
posted by Chairboy at 4:43 PM on September 22, 2008


I've never really understood the whole doing-stuff-while-crapping behavior. Why would you want to spend any more time in there than necessary? I'm in and out in 60 seconds.
posted by dmd at 4:58 PM on September 22, 2008


I once played a DS game against a friend while she was in the bathroom.

It felt kinda weird.

(Personally I prefer to read comics there.)
posted by ymgve at 5:01 PM on September 22, 2008


My buddy has been known to watch entire episodes of The Office on his iPod whilst on the throne...
posted by Ike_Arumba at 5:10 PM on September 22, 2008


Um yeah, here's my bathroom. Sometimes the cat sits on my lap while I both do my business and read. We both enjoy the company, I think. I really don't feel that comfy in the bathroom without reading material. I get bored without it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:15 PM on September 22, 2008


My father would retreat into the bathroom to read the daily newspaper, even on Sundays back in the days when the Sunday edition was several inches thick. I suspect he did it for uninterrupted reading time rather than colon problems.

I only read magazines in there, the short articles are just the right amount of reading material. If I'm out of magazines, I desperately read the sides of stuff like the box of tampons or kleenex. My 10 year old son will disappear in there and read an entire chapter book unless prodded off the roaster, he clearly takes after grandpa.

A friend of mine flosses...which, um...I love her, but eww.
posted by jamaro at 5:15 PM on September 22, 2008


Also, I had a friend who refused to have conversations in public bathroom stalls while I was in the next one over. "Excuse me, I'm busy in here," she'd say. this seemed weird to me because just about every woman I've ever been friends with has been fine with this--and most will initiate conversation, as I now wait until they do so. Obviously, standards of propriety differ.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:18 PM on September 22, 2008


I desperately read the sides of stuff like the box of tampons or kleenex.

I also do this. :)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:18 PM on September 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


If you actually have the time to read or do anything on the toilet then it's time to change your eating habits, consider colon cleansing or seek medical assistance.

Oh, come on. I'm a fast reader, and only read a page or two at a time while in there.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:21 PM on September 22, 2008


There is a whole genre of books with the shtick that one is supposed to read them in the bathroom.

Disclaimer: I do not own one of these books
posted by yohko at 5:28 PM on September 22, 2008


If you have a very dry book that you nonetheless want to get through, it's perfect.

Being captive audience for just long enough to read a few paragraphs is the only way I've been able to make any progress in one particular book.
posted by qvtqht at 5:37 PM on September 22, 2008


Many people look down on me for not having magazines in my bathroom. So, there are definitely many people who think reading in the can is preferable.

I am not one of them--but once I had a job where /everyone/ took a book to the bathroom, and i was like, hey, break time! Disclosure: couldn't actually do much but read my book in the bathroom in 20 minute intervals. I took my real bathroom breaks during lunch. True Story.
posted by shownomercy at 5:50 PM on September 22, 2008


If you have a very dry book that you nonetheless want to get through, it's perfect.

This is how I finally finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Never was a book more deserving.
posted by casarkos at 6:11 PM on September 22, 2008


I read on the toilet: it's meditative and relaxing. Magazines, field guides, paperback fiction. I find hardcovers too clumsy. I also gummed a big, National Geographic political map of the world to the wall opposite my toilet, in the hopes of improving my geography skills, especially with regards to Africa and Asia. I got the 'stans down pretty quick, but I'm still hopelessly lost in Africa: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Western Sahara, Mali and another "M", Niger, Chad, Sudan, missing something, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, and I've given up. Wait, Mauritius? Mauritania?
posted by steef at 6:51 PM on September 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


I suggest keeping a stack of the works of Ann Coulter in the bathroom, you know, in case you realize too late that you are out of toilet paper.
posted by 4ster at 7:28 PM on September 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is why God created the "printer-friendly" version. I am seldom without a folded up journal article in my back pocket, good for toilet reading and for long lines.
posted by odragul at 7:28 PM on September 22, 2008


Back in the old days, well, maybe 1998, my friend Dave had little black and white TV set up with an Atari 2600 and an Asteroids cartridge in the can. Damn, that was great.
posted by dirtdirt at 7:33 PM on September 22, 2008


I have an Uncle John's Bathroom Reader, and my DS comes with me sometimes if I'm already playing.
posted by deezil at 7:41 PM on September 22, 2008


We keep a basket full of catalogs in the bathroom. I find it to be perfect reading material -- keeps me entertained but not so ... engrossing ... that you can't set it down.
posted by anastasiav at 7:57 PM on September 22, 2008


How long do you guys spend ... never mind.

Also: it's enjoyable in and of itself. Why dilute it?
posted by spaceman_spiff at 7:58 PM on September 22, 2008


All my ask mefi answers are written while sitting on the pot.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:50 PM on September 22, 2008


Yeah, I've never gotten this whole "I need something else to do while in the bathroom" thing, either.
I just don't find myself with a lot of downtime while in there--are you waiting for something to happen? Why not just wait to go in there till you actually have to go?

BUT if you do need to do something, I think reading or video games are fine. Talking on the phone, absolutely not.
posted by exceptinsects at 10:58 PM on September 22, 2008


Oh man, MeFi is totally my favorite pot read - I'm quite surprised it isn't for more users (although maybe that's more related to owning a sufficiently portable laptop). That said, I gotta chime in and say that taking library books in there is kinda nasty - folks shouldn't do that with something that's shared.
posted by forallmankind at 11:01 PM on September 22, 2008


The correct toilet read, in Britain at least, is the estimable gentlemen's magazine Viz.

http://www.viz.co.uk/
posted by Cantdosleepy at 4:25 AM on September 23, 2008


Prudes are people who don't like sex. Normal people think reading on the toilet is a foul habit.

actually, prude has a wider meaning than just people who find sex distasteful or offensive - it can also be someone who is "excessively concerned with being or appearing to be proper, modest, or righteous."

which pretty much describes your comment exactly...
posted by jammy at 7:11 AM on September 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


It seems that there are three kinds of people in the world (or at least three kinds of people on Metafilter):

Those who think 30-90 seconds in a bathroom is enough time to read a short magazine article or a page in a book, those who don't, and those who are disgusted by the idea that other people poop.
posted by muddgirl at 8:49 AM on September 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm confused. I thought this was why they called it "Reader's Digest" (my father's preferred bathroom read).

I sometimes read on the can, but not often. That's more because I don't read much printed material these days, due to all the time I spend reading on the net. The idea of playing a game, for me, is contrary to the purpose. Telephoning would only happen by accident of timing.

Am I the only one that was expecting the topic to include what people do in the bathtub?
posted by Goofyy at 10:45 AM on September 23, 2008


Many people have a hard time in the bathroom, for reasons they may not be able to control. God forbid they employ some reading material to take the edge off the tragedy their bowels perform every evening (or morning, or whenever).
posted by Coatlicue at 2:23 PM on September 23, 2008


I read so much in the bathroom that often going to the library or a bookstore brings on an urge to poop. Even just looking through my own CDs or books can do the same. I'm a long pooper, so I like to have something in there to keep my mind busy, though it is a bit self-fulfilling - taking a good read in tends to make me stay longer.
posted by attercoppe at 4:35 PM on September 23, 2008


I always read in the bathroom, but only in the nice big claw foot bathtub, for hours until disturbingly pruney. It's mostly a guy thing isn't it? I don't know any women who read on the pot, but most of the men I know do. I probably would read on the pot though or do xwords if it took me that long to go, but it doesn't. Come to think of it, I feel kinda cheated out of some nice leisure time, lol.
posted by zarah at 1:37 AM on September 24, 2008


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