Call it a rite of passage. Every morning, since the dawn of modern civilization, man has followed an important routine. Man wakes up. Man smells the coffee. Man grabs some form of reading material. Man goes missing for an indefinite amount of time.
I’m talking, of course, about taking a shit.
Once he is all alone behind closed doors, he can attain an almost meditative state. Vital information is absorbed. Ideas percolate. Time seems to stand still (well, at least on his side of the door).
Once the natural cycle is complete — only when he is damn good and ready — he returns to normal life not only feeling lighter, but also enlightened.
It’s a tradition that becomes even more crucial as soon as the guy becomes a father. In a chaotic household, overrun with chores and children, the early AM constitutional offers that rarest and most precious commodity: sweet, sweet sanctuary.
Now, I’m sad to say, this restorative ritual is under attack. A scary new invention threatens to undermine the whole process by imposing a strict five-minute time limit.
It’s called the Toilet Timer. And if you’re someone who enjoys his time on the bowl, then this is the equivalent of an atomic bomb.
For eons, spouses all over the world have banged on bathroom doors, demanding answers to intrusive questions like, “Is everything okay in there?” “Did you fall in?” “Are you dead?”
The development of the Toilet Timer gives these aggrieved spouses a dedicated tool to irreparably diminish the domesticated man’s last place of refuge. “You’ve been warned…” is how my own wife cryptically relayed the news in a recent email.
Given the high stakes involved, I was personally shocked to learn that the inventor of this potentially devastating device is no one’s wife but rather a devoted husband and father just like me — a guy who, for whatever reason has decided to betray his fellow bathroom breakers. He is Adam Stephey, an insurance worker and part-time inventor, who lives with his wife and three young children outside Chicago.
I decided to get Stephey on the phone and find out exactly why he hates America, or at least the joy of someone who just wants to squeeze out a deuce while playing a few rounds of Solitaire, reading news, or whatever they choose to do during their bowl-o-rama. To set the right mood, we chatted while I was on the throne. Our conversation lasted a lot longer than five minutes.
Like many of us, Stephey only became aware of this fiercely contested issue because of comments made by his own wife, who noticed that every time he headed to the loo with his phone in hand he seemed to enter a time warp.
“She’s extremely gracious but there have been times where she’s like, ‘Hello?!’, he says.
Gradually, Stephey’s come around to the idea that maybe he has a problem. Maybe. “I seriously do spend too much time in there,” he admitted, noting that he sometimes lingers so long atop the toilet bowl that his legs fall asleep. “Sometimes I have to stand up and lean against the sink until feeling returns,” he added.
Stephey originally came up with the timer as a joke — literally for “shits and giggles,” as he put it. He had no idea how much the concept would resonate with people, particularly the opposite sex.
“It has struck a nerve with people,” Stephey said. On Facebook, a lot of the commentary involves “somebody tagging somebody else with no further comment,” he pointed out.
Other respondents seem just as terrified by the implications as I am. “There are guys who are like, ‘This is my holy time,’ and ‘five minutes is not enough.’” he admitted.
One endorsement that Stephey was not expecting came from the medical community — specifically, a gastroenterologist from Long Island, NY, who suggested that spending too much time on the john can cause nasty sounding health problems like anal fissures and hemorrhoidal bleeding (a claim that is supported by other specialists in the field).
While the doctor in question also supported the Toilet Timer’s five-minute rule, Stephey said he relied on no specific science when determining the device’s exact duration. It’s just that five minutes seemed like a sufficient amount of time to “take care of business,” he said.
That may be, but it’s hardly enough time to scan through the day’s headlines, let alone make it through an entire New Yorker article.
To Stephey’s credit, the Toilet Timer is cleverly constructed. It operates much like an hourglass, only instead of two connected glass bulbs, it looks like a dude on the toilet hunched over his phone, and the sand trickles from his midsection into the bowl below.
Unlike Disney’s Magic Timer app, which aims to keep children on a timely toothbrushing schedule, there is no data collection to track your progress and thereby provide your spouse with verifiable proof of your bathroom habits. It just pits you against time.
That’s the good news. The bad news, at least for fans of unlimited potty time like me, is that Stephey’s Kickstarter campaign already exceeded its fundraising goal of $20,000, which means that there’s probably no stopping this thing from hitting the market.
Stephey plans to roll out the Toilet Timer in time for the holidays, so don’t be surprised if you’re gifted one by your smirking spouse. You’ve been warned.