Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Hilarious Heartbreak Of Bibliofecosis

Poor Gilbert is probably still confused.
The interesting thing about the Internet is that, no matter how odd and alone you thought you were, online you're bound to find kindred spirits with whom you can share any hobby, interest, fetish, condition, disorder and/or dysfunction one can possibly imagine. Probably millions and millions of them.

I'm not necessarily saying this is a good thing, just interesting is all.

In this particular instance I didn't need the Internet to find my kindred spirit; I shared a tent with her. As we packed up camp and loaded the sleeping bags into the car after a lovely weekend in the mountains, my BFF Julie said, "I need to stop at a book store on our way back to town."

"You need to buy a book?"

"No. I need to poop." As Julie elaborated on the reliable impact that visiting a bookstore has on her impacted colon, it began to dawn on me she wasn't being sarcastic. Then it clicked, and I suddenly felt less alone in the universe. "Wait..." I interrupted her, "book stores make you hafta poo too?"

"Oh my God, every time!" As liberating and comforting as that bonding moment was, when the dancing was over I was left with more questions than answers.

Thanks to e-publishing, constipated bibliofecophants face increasingly
limited options. For them, the future looks bleak. Don't be surprised
to soon see these people reduced to huffing Hallmarks at Walgreens.
Like anyone faced with the uncertainty of a probably trivial but possibly deadly medical condition, I turned to the Internet for reassurance that I was normal and everything was going to be okay. But that wasn't meant to be, not this time.

It turns out that Julie and I are far from the only ones plagued with this puzzling affliction. There's even a fancy latin-sounding term for it, which proves it has to be a real thing: bibliofecosis. (That is, if Urban Dictionary counts as a definitive resource, which -- when it reinforces my belief system -- I pretend it does.)

My informal online research began to reveal a pattern. For many people it's the big chain book retailers, while others find smaller, used book stores do the trick. Some have noticed that public libraries consistently pull their poo trigger. Even among those who didn't initially go there for that specific purpose.

Still others admit to being compelled to move when in a record shop, only it isn't the music making them dance. Curiously, this only applies to stores selling vintage vinyl, as the newfangled digital compact discs don't seem to produce the effect. I'm still waiting for data on iTunes downloads.

I even found more than one mention of greeting card shops, or even just a stroll down the greeting card aisle in the supermarket, prompting insistant peristalsis.

But why? What is it about being surrounded by stacks of paper, ink and glue that seems to tickle the pelvic splanchnic ganglion? While theories abound, they all fall neatly into two opposing categories: psychological vs. physiological.

Conspiracy theorists suggest
that popular potty training
books such as "Everybody
and "Once Upon
A Potty
" are actually a
desperate plot hatched by
Barnes & Noble to entice
the next generation of
customers back into their
brick and mortar stores.
Presumably compelled by
the sudden, inexplicable
urge to shit.

When asked about this
allegation, a B&N assistant
manager -- speaking on the
condition of anonymity --
first laughed, then got
kind of sad and quietly
admitted to putting fake
"out of order" signs on
all the restroom doors
during her shifts.

As you can imagine, the psychological camp leans decidingly Freudian. I've also noticed that most of the psychological explanations are expounded by people who never experienced this phenomena themselves, but feel the need to tell those who have that we're cuckoo-cuckoo-cocoa-puffs.

The most common psychological theory is that we've conditioned ourselves by reading in the john. It goes like this: If one's feeble brain repeatedly experiences the activity of reading concurrently with the activity of pooping, it will inevitably form a neural link between the two activities. Performing one would then trigger a subconscious urge to, uh... two. I call this the "Pavlov's Log Effect". (With humble credit to fandango_matt at MetaFilter, although I'd like to think I could have come up with that one on my own.)

While this may sound plausible at first blush, many bibliofeco... (bibliofecophants? ...phytes? ...philes?) Many bookstore poopers insist they've never made a habit of reading on the toilet. I myself think the PLE theory is -- pardon the term -- bullshit.

Every morning I read dozens of blogs while I sip my coffee and... Wait, bad example. Okay, at work I'm predominately a knowledge worker. If reading in the bathroom caused reading in other contexts to bring Dan Brown a-knocking, well, I guess I'd pretty much be crapping everywhere. This would have a noticeable impact on my job performance, not to mention the professional image I strive to project.

To follow through with this absurd logic, I'd also have to drop a deuce every time I launched fowl from a slingshot, or gave a pig a black eye.

The most important thing to remember about bibliofecosis is that it's not contagious.
Unless it is. In which case, the most important thing to remember is that
you didn't get it from me.

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