toiletRecently, I experienced a questionable situation that shook me to the very core of my being.  I’m a reader, folks.  I like to read.   I think that my Summer Reading List Project proved that. Anyway, one of the things that comes with actually loving to read books is that you become very well equipped at finding other readers, among your friends, at the office, wherever.  It’s the intellectually version of Gaydar.  So you end up chatting away about your favorite titles, authors, etc.  And eventually it leads to moment when the other person recommends a writer that you’ve been interested in reading, but just haven’t gotten around to yet.  “Go ahead and borrow my copy,” they’ll say and you do.

And this is where things get complicated.  Everyone treats books differently.  Some handle them with kid gloves, other like abused housewives.  I’m more like the latter.   Most of the books I own are battered—food stains obscuring text on tattered and dog-eared pages held together by broken spines.  Honestly: I should be the worst person to loan books to, but I’m actually pretty good about that which I’ve borrowed from others to read.  I catch myself just as I’m about to mark my place by folding down page corners or placing it facedown on my nightstand.  But then I discovered a new dilemma when reading a borrowed book.

A friend who happens to be a huge Chuck Klosterman fan was recently raving about his latest book.  “You know, I’ve never read Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs,” I said to him.   To which he responded: “You should, it’s good.”   If you’re unfamiliar with Klosterman’s second book, which is considered his seminal work, it’s a collection of essays that humorously riff on a variety of pop culture themes with an intellectually critical eye.  While I appreciate Klosterman’s writing (I’ve read his stuff in the variety of publications he appears in), I’ve just always stayed away because he was a little too popular for my taste and I never really wanted to actually spend money on his book.  “Eh,” I said to my friend, “can I borrow yours?”

It was while reading Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs that I experienced my quandary.  I was at work and like most workdays, I needed to use the bathroom for an extended period of time just after lunch  (I’m trying to hint at what I was doing without being too graphic).  So I grabbed the book and strolled up to the eighth floor men’s room, to the stall I like in my office building.  And as I was sitting there, it hit me.  I was reading my friend’s book on the toilet and that was just not right.  I know people who get disgusted if you even call them on your cell from the toilet (okay, I may be referring to myself).  And there are many who think reading another’s book while going to the bathroom is a violation of personally hygiene.  Barnes and Noble won’t let you take any of its books into their store bathrooms.  Seinfeld did an episode about it. But did I do something that was really that terrible?  If I didn’t tell my friend, he’d never know. Still, it would gross me out if I’d found out someone I’d loaned a book to was reading on the john.

Racked with guilt, I confessed to my buddy.  Oddly, he didn’t seem that shocked.  “Doesn’t bother me at all,” he told me.  “In fact, I am delighted. I fully endorse reading in the bathroom, and if one of my books happens to be included in the process of someone enjoying a page or fifty (depending on the severity of the visit) then so be it. Read on my friend!”  He then added a little while later: “Just, you know, keep it clean.”

[Pic via]

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