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Alex McRae Columnist

Published Sunday, November 25, 2012

Shopping goes down the drain

Everyone has a horror story about someone doing something stupid while trying to send or read a text message on a smartphone.

This habit isn’t just annoying, it’s dangerous. Law enforcement pros will tell you that texting while driving is a leading cause of traffic deaths and injuries. I went to a civic event recently and the handouts included school pom-poms with tags attached that said “Don’t text and drive.”

Mothers Against Drunk Driving has done a great job of raising awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving. How long before we see the first chapter of MATT, Mothers Against Teen Texting? As far as I’m concerned, it can’t come quick enough.

Smartphones are now as common as road-killed possums. And in many cases, about as welcome. Not long ago I sampled the new James Bond movie. I was amazed at how many times small lights blossomed around me as text messages flew in and out of the theater. According to some of the posts I see on Facebook and Twitter, people can’t eat a meal or go to sleep without spreading the word on a smartphone.

To be sure, there are times, when using a smartphone is necessary, like if you’re running late to meet your parole officer and need to send a photo of the car wreck that caused the delay. But now people aren’t content to use smartphones and tablets to send messages. More and more, they are using portable devices to shop online. And not in the privacy of their homes.

Smartphone shopping is now common in the last sacred space in America. Not the church: the bathroom.

A survey just released by a company called CashStar revealed that an estimated 38 million Americans have shopped while sitting down. On a toilet.

CashStar’s CEO and co-founder David Stone said on the company’s website that “Smartphones and tablets have enabled consumers to shop and gift on-the-go in more ways and places than ever before.”

The survey said people shop online on the toilet more frequently than anywhere else.

More than four million Americans have shopped online while driving a car, according to CashStar. Over nine million have shopped online during a business meeting. But a staggering 38 million Americans have conducted business while doing their business.

Frankly, I’m dubious about the survey. Mostly because it claimed that men were more inclined to shop in the john than women. Not any men I know. I can see guys checking the ball game scores, but the retail sales? Nah.

And even if people can shop anywhere, anytime, the question is, should they?

Legendary Hollywood hottie Greta Garbo was famous for saying, “I want to be alone.” When I’m in the bathroom I feel the same way.

I have always considered the bathroom my fortress of solitude, a place where I could escape the cares and woes of the day. I’m sure everyone else who grew with a family of four (or more) in a one-bathroom house feels the same way.

Oprah warned us that we couldn’t be good to others if we weren’t good to ourselves. I agree. In fact, the bathroom is often the only place where I always “give back.”

Some things are just not natural. I’ve stopped more times than I can count at a restaurant called Squat & Gobble in Bluffton, Ga. But you’ll never catch me at the Squat & Shop.

Texting on the toilet may be your right, but that doesn’t mean it’s not wrong.

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