I used to have an imaginary friend who lived in my bathroom mirror. His name was William. Between the ages of 4 and 7 I would converse with William while going about my important business. We’d talk about life, what we were planning on doing over the weekend, and how our friends and families were. Sometimes our conversations turned to the existence of God and the role of parents in violent media consumption, but as a preschooler these were rare. Mostly I shared whatever thoughts were at the top of my head and William usually just listened.
It wasn’t that real people didn’t listen to me, but real people talked back and I needed a chance to organize my own thoughts without interruption. The bathroom in my house provided a nice place for that. Real people never followed me in there (minus a few emergency situations where I forgot to put the seat down and fell in). It was, for the most part, just me and William. As I grew up I probably would have found it creepy that there was somebody in my mirror watching me use the toilet, but unfortunately this phase didn’t last. William died of Ebola in 1994.
So bathroom time became time to think privately, regardless of whether I was taking a bath, shower, or brushing my teeth. In fact, I’ve done some of my best thinking in the bathroom. Many school projects were conceived in the showers of my various college dormitories.
Then along came smart phones and tablets; portable devices that cured us of all boredom and turned pooping into an intellectually or socially stimulating experience. Now when you go to the bathroom and forget your phone, you have no idea what to do with yourself except the thing you originally went to the bathroom to do, which is enough for most people.
For awhile bathroom time became Facebook and Twitter time. It gave me a chance to break away from stalking my friends on my computer to stalking my friends in a smaller room on a smaller screen. Then I started using bathroom time to read articles online and further stimulate my brain instead of staring at the wall in front of me. But unless you’ve hit your mid sixties, you’re usually not in there for 20 minutes and therefore can only make it through the first paragraph before you’re back out in the world again. After a couple years of bathroom browsing, I started missing William.
I began making it a point to purposely forget to bring my phone to the bathroom with me. After all, if William was still alive today, it would be rude to ignore him. I’m connected to devices a lot, but just because they’re portable doesn’t mean they need to go everywhere. William serves as a daily reminder to take time to just think, whether it be in the bathroom where I do my best thinking or while lying in bed in the morning before work. Sometimes it’s just nice to be alone with your thoughts. William would probably agree. Why did he have to break that vial in the CDC headquarters?