Right now, for instance, the magazine stand by the toilet upstairs holds an eclectic array of catalogs (Bas Bleu Booksellers; The J. Peterman Company) plus a few good magazines (Car and Driver; House & Garden). Then there’s Arnold Bennett’s 1908 time-management classic, How to Live on 24 Hours a Day, which we never have time to peruse outside the bathroom.
The toilet is also a great place for pithy poetry, so I like to keep an extra copy of Billy Collins’s Sailing Alone Around the Room within easy reach. Collins is a former U.S. Poet Laureate, and his work is highly accessible and entertaining – even to people who claim they don’t like poetry. In particular, the poem “Aristotle” makes perfect bathroom reading. The piece is reasonably short and opens with the wonderful line: “This is the beginning. Almost anything can happen….” Another highlight in the collection is “Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes,” which is always a hit with English professors.
Of course, the bathroom has always been the perfect escape for deflated mothers. A girlfriend with two small children told me that “God made women’s plumbing the way He did because it gives us our only chance to sit down.” Is there a mom on earth who hasn’t locked herself in the bathroom while her toddler shrieked bloody murder outside the door?
While researching this topic, I polled several local readers who were willing to reveal the contents of their own bathroom libraries. Reader’s Digest topped the list. (“I prefer quick hits, nothing too deep,” one guy said.) A small but devout percentage also cited The Daily Word and Guideposts, both of which contain Bible passages and uplifting articles. “Aside from church,” one reader confided, “the bathroom is the best place for prayer and meditation.”
For those who prefer a heftier secular read, Uncle John’s Ahh-Inspiring Bathroom Reader (Bathroom Readers’ Institute) offers “everything you’d ever want to know about nothing” under one moisture-resistant cover. Updated annually, this enthralling volume features 500-plus pages of trivia, bloopers, weird news clips, and origins of everyday things. Just for starters, the new edition outlines the history of “Saturday Night Live” and provides a list of famous people named Charlie. Yet another highlight is the section on wacky patented inventions such as the Musical Baby Diaper Alarm and the Vibrating Toilet Seat.
Patented in 1985, the Diaper Alarm is actually a padded electronic napkin that’s designed to be inserted in a baby’s diaper. When the baby wets, the alarm toots “When the Saints Go Marching In.” And the Vibrating Toilet Seat? It was invented by Thomas Bayard in 1966, and reputedly helps relieve constipation. Just in case you were wondering.