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The Private Lives of Public Bathrooms

The public collides uncomfortably with the private in the bathroom as it does nowhere else. How psychology, gender roles, and design explain the distinctive way we behave in the world's stalls:

The vulnerability and exposure of using a urinal seems to create the need for additional social boundaries, in place of even “flimsy” physical ones. A famous, though ethically questionable, study from 1976 found that invading this socially agreed-upon bubble of personal space made it much more difficult for men to pee. To discover this, one researcher hid in a bathroom stall and watched men at the urinals through a periscope, timing the “delay and persistence” of urination when a confederate came into the bathroom and stood right next to or one urinal removed from the unknowing participant. The closer the confederate was, the longer the delay before the man was able to go, and the less time he peed overall. Whether he would have been able to go at all had he known someone was spying on him through a periscope, no one can say.

AUTHOR:Julie Beck
PUBLISHED: April 16, 2014
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4520 words)

The History of the Future: A Reading List

A new technology reading list by Daniel A. Gross, featuring Wired, The Atlantic and Esquire.
PUBLISHED: April 15, 2014

The Business of Books: A Reading List

This week's picks from Emily includes stories from The Atlantic, Vulture, The Rumpus, and Slate.
PUBLISHED: April 13, 2014

Life of a Police Officer: Medically and Psychologically Ruinous

The intensely challenging job of law enforcement is linked to many health issues. Erika Hayasaki met a former officer who tried to protect her high school friend and learned the effect her death had on him:

Police officer Brian Post recognized the 16-year-old girl lying face down in the grass at the Whispering Pines apartment complex in Lynnwood, Washington. He had gotten to know her in recent weeks, helping her obtain a restraining order against her abusive ex-boyfriend. Now, here was Sangeeta Lal, unconscious, with two bullets in her chest.

PUBLISHED: March 14, 2014
LENGTH: 10 minutes (2679 words)

My Life as a Retail Worker: Nasty, Brutish, and Poor

After veteran reporter Joseph Williams lost his job, he found employment in a sporting-goods store. In a personal essay, he recalls his struggles with challenges millions of Americans return to day after day:

My plunge into poverty happened in an instant. I never saw it coming. Then again, there was no reason to feel particularly vulnerable. Two years ago, I was a political reporter at Politico, and I spent my days covering the back-and-forth of presidential politics. I had access to the White House because of my reporting beat, and I was a regular commentator on MSNBC. My career had been on an upward trajectory for 30 years, and at age 50 I still anticipated a long career.

PUBLISHED: March 11, 2014
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3914 words)

The Dark Power of Fraternities

A yearlong investigation of Greek houses reveals their endemic, lurid, and sometimes tragic problems—and a sophisticated system for shifting the blame:

One warm spring night in 2011, a young man named Travis Hughes stood on the back deck of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house at Marshall University, in West Virginia, and was struck by what seemed to him—under the influence of powerful inebriants, not least among them the clear ether of youth itself—to be an excellent idea: he would shove a bottle rocket up his ass and blast it into the sweet night air. And perhaps it was an excellent idea. What was not an excellent idea, however, was to misjudge the relative tightness of a 20-year-old sphincter and the propulsive reliability of a 20-cent bottle rocket. What followed ignition was not the bright report of a successful blastoff, but the muffled thud of fire in the hole.

PUBLISHED: Feb. 19, 2014
LENGTH: 60 minutes (15228 words)

Our Numbered Days: The Evolution of the Area Code

Long-distance digits long ago shed their monetary worth, but they gained something else in its place: cultural value.

I grew up in Carmel, smack in the middle of the new code region; my first cell phone number—the only cell phone number I have ever had—bears that 831 preface. I have held on to those three digits through happily-multiple changes of location (New Jersey, New York, Boston, Washington) and through unhappily-multiple losses of handset. The powers that be—hardware salespeople, cell service representatives—have, at one time or another, tried to force me into a 609 and a 917 and a 617; each time, I have resisted. Because I am not, fundamentally, a 609 or a 917 or a 617. I am not even, my current residence notwithstanding, a 202. I am an 831, wherever I may be in body, and will remain an 831 until they pry those three otherwise totally meaningless digits out of my cold, dead iPhone.

PUBLISHED: Feb. 13, 2014
LENGTH: 12 minutes (3200 words)

Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Our story picks of the week, featuring Gary Greenberg, Missouri Review, New York magazine, The Atlantic and The New York Times.
PUBLISHED: Jan. 3, 2014

A Speck in the Sea

A fisherman's improbable rescue after going overboard in the middle of the night:

The first thing you’re supposed to do, if you’re a fisherman and you fall in the ocean, is to kick off your boots. They’re dead weight that will pull you down. But as Aldridge treaded water, he realized that his boots were not pulling him down; in fact, they were lifting him up, weirdly elevating his feet and tipping him backward. Aldridge’s boots were an oddity among the members of Montauk’s commercial fishing fleet: thick green rubber monstrosities that were guaranteed to keep your feet warm down to minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature Montauk had not experienced since the ice age. Sosinski made fun of the boots, but Aldridge liked them: they were comfortable and sturdy and easy to slip on and off. And now, as he bobbed in the Atlantic, he had an idea of how they might save his life.

AUTHOR:Paul Tough
PUBLISHED: Jan. 2, 2014
LENGTH: 30 minutes (7588 words)