Confessions of a Bathroom Reader

by Ken Carpenter



          I can’t remember how old I was when I started taking my passion for reading behind the locked door of the family bathroom. Probably as soon as I learned to read, for it seemed like a waste of time to sit there doing nothing.

            My first and, shockingly, my favorite reading material was the fine print on the back of a Bag Balm can. I had never imagined that chapped udders could be so interesting. Believe me, if my bosoms ever become enflamed I will know exactly what to do about it.

            I became acquainted with the ingredients and marketing ploys of every aerosol product we owned. There was no printed word on the shelf that was safe from my prying eyes.

Yes, I became an addict, before I even knew the meaning of the word.

            When I was growing up our home never had more than one bathroom, which meant that my toilet reading habits did not add to my popularity within the family unit. If my siblings saw me headed in that direction they would scramble to beat me to the door, even if they didn’t feel the urge to do anything.

            As the years passed by my addiction grew stronger, and nothing grieved me more than having to use a public bathroom that suffered from a shortage of legible graffiti. It may not be high art, but it has its place in society.

            When I left home and moved into a college dormitory, I started to realize that I was not the only one suffering from this strange affliction. I spied more than one guy smuggling reading material into the stalls, as they were spying me.

            One student, a confirmed believer in all things audacious, would march to the can singing and pounding a magazine against his leg. More often than not he would read his favorite passages aloud as he carried on his business.

He brought us all out of the closet, and in no time the days of sneaking around with a book stuck down your pants were in the past. It ceased to be a shameful thing and became the sign of a rebel, albeit a rebel without a cause.

There are different tastes in all things, and it is no different behind the bathroom door. Personally I prefer sports, trivia and gossip, but I know others who will only sink their teeth into front-page political bunk.

There is now a Bathroom Reader’s Institute, which pumps out paperback books filled with tasty anecdotes for the discerning fan of such fare.

I never imagined as I guiltily perused the back of a Bag Balm can that someday such things would be fit for public consumption.

            It only makes sense though.

I figure my ring-around-the-rump time has pumped my brain full of enough useful tidbits to equal four years of college.

To top it off, for better than 55 years it has had me prepared for an attack of those pesky chapped mammaries.