Cell phones are to toilets like Scott Caan is to donkey poetry

Nineteen percent of young adult phone owners have dropped their phone in a toilet.


That statistic isn’t meant simply to inform readers, to be stored away and recalled again if the question is ever brought up on Jeopardy or, more likely, a morning radio show involving someone using alliteration in their moniker (“Loudmouth Larry” or “Raucous Rick” both are possibilities). This statistic is shared as somewhat of a test to split those of you reading it into two categories.


Allow me to detour for a minute. I despise people that use the phrase “There are two types of people in this world,” because, like people that use the word “literally” after something they only mean “figuratively” (“I was literally sweating bullets.” Really? Because that could be a profitable venture for us…I’m going to go turn up the heat), using this phrase is rarely correct. Usually it’s used to discern the people that enjoy a specific TV show, which is wildly inaccurate. If there are really two types of people in this world, the people that enjoy “The Jersey Shore,” and the people that don’t, it would require everyone in the world to know what that show was…a frightening possibility because I don’t think it would cast the United States in a very flattering light, and it would leave us open to people in other countries that generalize as much as people that ask that question do (“Everyone in the U.S. drinks, fights and then passes out on twin beds from IKEA. Literally.”).


It’s for this reason I won’t use that statement, but I will use it to divide up a good majority of the people that are reading this by saying that a majority of people that hear “Nineteen percent of young adult phone owners have dropped their phone in a toilet” will have one of two thoughts. First, many will think, “That’s disgusting. How does that happen?” Secondly, many will think, “That number seems kind of low…does that include people that don’t have cell phones?”


For the most part, I’d be willing to wager that most of us fall into that second category, but if we were in public we’d feign the first response for a simple reason: most people don’t admit that they’re using their cell phone when using the bathroom.


This is understandable.


It’s jarring to think that we may be receiving text messages or reading a status update from someone that is in a stall, but to be completely honest, a majority of us do it. For me, this is somewhat discouraging.


I don’t have a problem with people using their phone while in the bathroom – I do it all the time – but it’s the cultural trend that this is creating and what this ultimately suggests that is somewhat disheartening. I can describe this thought in one sentence:


We live in a society where people now expect to be entertained while using the stool.


Think about it…how many young adults have you seen go more than an hour without using their cell phone? Think about the places where young adults are required to wait… waiting rooms, oil change places, Kentucky Fried Chicken (“Oh, you want chicken? That’ll be about a five minute wait.” That’s a legitimate quote I’ve heard from them.), etc.


Look at any of these places, and you’re bound to see nearly every young adult with their head down, thumbing away at a screen.


Really, I can’t blame anybody for this. I’m the exact same way in that, if given a few minutes, I tend to check my phone for new e-mails, news, Facebook updates and anything else that tends to keep me entertained. I try to remember what it was like to sit there without anything to keep me entertained and just let my mind wander, and it’s difficult to do. Usually, young adults just experience this these days on that one day each year when they forget to plug in their phone the night before and it goes dead. This is usually a traumatic experience.


Is this a change in human behavior with the introduction of a device that allows us to simultaneously use a toilet while “liking” a friend’s status about how they’re going to go work out after they get off of work, or have young adults always had the urge to be entertained, but just didn’t have the means? I suppose that would explain growing up with magazines next to the toilet, but I don’t recall those being used so frequently that they were dropped into the toilet often, even with the smaller “Reader’s Digest” versions.


We’ve reached a point in our society where we have begun to expect to be entertained at every moment. Interests shift as quickly as thoughts pop into our head…we’ll go from checking baseball scores to going onto Facebook to wish somebody a happy birthday to checking a new e-mail that just came in – all in the span of two minutes – and not give it another thought. This is because the technology is available…anybody that is like me and has tried to remember the name of the lesser-known Ocean’s 11 guy that was in “Enemy of the State” that was on TV, so you look it up on imdb.com and then find out that he’s the son of James Caan, who apparently is working a lot on several projects and has a long film career, but what the hell was he doing between 1983 and 1987 where he was in nothing, so I Google “James Caan 1984” expecting to find a stint in rehab and somehow stumble across a page of horse memorials where I find that he owned a palomino stallion that he named “Golden Caantender,” which makes me feel a little ill, and now surprised that there is a page dedicated entirely to horse memorials complete with a cheesy quote at the top by Stanley Harrison, which makes me wonder if he wrote exclusively horse poetry, and so I Google “Stanley Harrison” and find only that same quote about horses on other horse pages, so I broaden it and Google “Stanley Harrison poet” and find that, indeed, he was nearly exclusively a horse poet, which leads to the obvious question of “how much does a horse poet make” and “what other oddly specific types of poets are out there.” I consider Googling these briefly before remembering that I’m at work and don’t want our network guy approaching me asking why I’m Googling horse poets, so I go to the bathroom to use the stool and Google “donkey poems” on my phone.


There you go. I just went from Scott Caan to donkey poetry in about five minutes due entirely to the accessibility of technology. Fifteen years ago, I would have abandoned the urge to visit the library to find a reference book to look this information up, and would have gone about my day. That just doesn’t happen today.


We live in an age where technology allows us to look up literally (yes, that’s used correctly) anything we want in just a couple of minutes. Life has become far less philosophical and far more concrete, and this quest for knowledge has brought us from the library into a bathroom stall. The problem is, we rarely use it for self-betterment. There’s nobody learning Latin while on the toilet or learning about World War II while waiting for an oil change or trying to bust age-old math problems while waiting for a KFC to cook some chicken, which should be ready, because it’s already included in their freaking name. We use it for the most ridiculous questions that we never would have wasted a ride to the library for in the past, but now will gladly sacrifice two minutes to find out.


We need to learn what it’s like to simply sit there and do nothing, and give our mind the freedom to wonder what would happen if someone did, indeed, fill up a swimming pool with Jello. Go ahead and Google it…I’ll wait.


I can’t imagine what life will be like 50 years from now, as technology improves and, eventually, leaves me behind at the point where most 80-year-olds are…a bit intimidated by multiple buttons and not wanting to inadvertently blow up Cuba while trying to send a “letter” to my grandson. I imagine at that point that I’ll find myself in the former rather than latter category when posed a statistic about what people are doing in the bathroom with technology (re-reading that sentence, I think I’m as disturbed with how that’s worded now as I will be when I’m 80). Maybe technology will reach the point where it’s just normal to access information constantly, maybe people will grow jaded by technology and abandon all of it in the future, or maybe our brains will be assisted by electronics to recall the information without using handheld devices.


No matter what happens, if we hold on to our old practices and habits the way our elders do now, chances are people using their phones in the stalls is something that will happen the rest of my life. I’m just hoping that someday they develop the technology to make the damn things waterproof.

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