Latrines make good locales for literary humor

Good bathroom humor is really important in these tough times.

No, I'm not talking about latrine jokes soldiers tell out of range of the platoon sergeant. I'm talking about something funny to read when you're sitting down and have nothing else useful to do.

It can't be a novel or long nonfiction; you don't have that much time. It must be short, easy-to-read stories, preferably funny, that'll leave you feeling accomplished.
My grandparents at Belmont, Ga., kept only the Sears & Roebuck Catalogue in their bathroom, which was a half-furlong from the house. But a body didn't linger long in those conditions anyway.

Today's bathrooms, however, are comparatively comfortable for short periods of time, and pages aren't torn out of books anymore. Except in emergencies.

The centrally located bathroom in our house-and for years the only one-is a favorite place to read. So, naturally, whoever visited last leaves his or her book or magazine for the next visitor. And there it sat: "Mason-Dixon Knitting," by Yankee Kay Gardiner and Southerner Ann Shayne.

Let me hasten to say that I don't knit, but my wife does. She has knitted dish cloths for everybody in the family, not to mention the golden retrievers next door. Now she's into sock hats.

So, this being the only book in the room that I hadn't read, I opened it up. Much to my surprise, knitters can have a lot of fun. For example, the authors talk about "Places We Have Tried to Knit and Failed."

The first one is a funeral: "Well, I didn't actually try to knit, but throughout the service I kept thinking about the handbag under my chair and the little scarf I was cooking up in the most colorful Diakeito. As I sat in the far back, one of a jillion folks paying their respects, I had a passing thought: He would have wanted me to knit during his eulogy. He would have liked that."

Read two or three more, and you're done.

Another favorite is "Uncle John's Bathroom Reader," by the Bathroom Readers' Institute. A former colleague, Mike Fernandez, gave me this book just before I left for a new newspaper assignment.

You turn to Groucho's sayings and find: "She got her good looks from her father -- he's a plastic surgeon."

One of us sitters might pick up Dr. C.B. Skelton's book, "Dirty Laundry: Don't Take No Doctor's Orders." If you can't find something funny in that book, you need to see a doctor.

Doc tells about a young woman with a several-day history of nausea, cramps and diarrhea. Said she: "I've got a 24-hour virus with a stopped clock."

Not all bathroom reading has to be a knee-slapper, of course. Short facts are welcome, too. Did you know that evidence of the first flush toilet was found on the island of Crete, and it dates back to 2000 B.C.?

Wonder why my grandparents never heard of that.