Dispatches | January 22, 2014



By Alison Balaskovits

When I worked at a now-shuttered bookstore in my teens, one of the surprisingly popular series – this was before Twilight, mind – was Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader. On January, people would stride on over to the Humor section and loaded up on as many as they could carry. Considering the general bowel dystopia that occurs after the holidays or after five bowls of crockpot chili in one sitting, it made sense to stock up. Nothing gets the potatoes and meat moving quite so well as factoids.

I’ve been to many private bathrooms, and for the life of me I have never seen an Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader, but I have seen a cornucopia of other delights. Through the improperly learned scientific method, I have made several observations about what a person is like – in their most heart of hearts – based solely on what they leave me to contend with when I shut that door.

People Magazine – Your television habits have downgraded from Breaking Bad and The Wire into Keeping up with the Kardashians. You  follow Kimye on Twitter. You texted all your friends that one time she accidentally retweeted you when she meant to retweet Alan Greenspan.

The New Yorker – You live in Ohio.

The Wall Street Journal – You are my Uncle Glenn. You are also out of toilet paper.

Infinite Jest –   You want people to  imagine that you ponder the implications of Quebec separatism in your most intimate moments. You have a hard time finding Quebec on a map. That bookmark on page 542 is not fooling anyone.

A Rubik’s Cube – You want your guests to stay forever. You do not believe they can read.

The Newspaper – You may want to consider adding Metamucil into your diet.

High Theory – You are in the middle of your comprehensive exams and you consistently question your life choices.

Ayn Rand – Shrug.

Poetry Collections – You have a secret desire that your guests will begin reading them out loud – as poetry should be experienced – and you have created a party game of gathering outside the door and listening for the perfectly expressed stanza.

Sudoku (Easy) – You believe it will always be 2005.

Sudoku (Difficult) – You filled in half a puzzle six months ago and you have already made a mistake.

No Reading Material – You have a tendency to serve quadruple bean burritos to your guests and then gleefully chortle at their boring horror.

Literary Journals – You just got back from AWP and you ran out of space on your bookshelf in 2011.

Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader – You are a unicorn. You never invite me over.