Thursday, February 14, 2008

Unless You Plan to Lick Your Butt...

I just don't get it. What's with the female paranoia of public toilet seats? Well I don't know, maybe it's not just women, but men so rarely have to deal with sitting down in public restrooms that I don't know how things "go down" on that side of the stall. So I will restrict my comments to what I have gleaned from my years of group bathroom trips and various more-than-even-I-wanted-to-know discussions on female bathroom habits.

Prepare yourself for a ghastly confession: I don't always bother with those stupid toilet seat covers. *Gasp, choke* Now don't blame my mother. She taught me the "right" way. As a kid I was even made to execute precautions in all their "toilet paper precariously balanced on the seat" glory when those paper covers weren't available. Then I got to thinking, and I rebelled.

I mean, sometimes I laugh when I look at those frail little things telling me that they've been "Provided by the management for my protection." What protection can they really offer? You know, the ones you have to carefully finesse out of the dispenser to keep from ripping? Assuming there are actually any there? Five tries later, you finally get a mostly cohesive one and lay it down on the seat only to have it get soaked in about five places where unidentified moisture has collected on the seat. Let me tell you the secret to a happy bathroom experience. Just tell yourself it's water. It probably is. I mean, it's almost always pretty clear, right? Otherwise you would have seen it before. And really I think it's more likely that the ancient plumbing in the back leaks a little or that there was a tiny splash at the tail end of the last flush than that the last woman was actually a man with bad aim. Oh, I know what you're thinking. I forgot, I was supposed to have wiped down the whole seat with toilet paper first, right? Because toilet paper apparently has magical disinfecting properties I am not aware of. Also, do you really want to risk running out of toilet paper for something like that? Because seriously, I'll take a few water splashes over not getting to wipe when I'm done. I guess we all have our priorities...

Now for the purposes of this discussion we're just going to assume that no woman has ever had to use a public restroom with one, let alone two or more, of her children crammed in the stall with her. No, no, that would NEVER happen. We're also going to assume for a moment that, against all odds, you have managed to meet all the following criteria:

1. Didn't pee your pants waiting in line for all the other women before you to perform their own special brand of delusional sanitation rituals.

2. Managed to enter a stall that has both a lock and a hook for your purse so you can perform the rest of your own rituals with both hands.

3. Lucked out and found a stall that still has seat protectors in the dispenser AND ample toilet paper.

4. Wiped down the seat so that there are no wet spots to spoil your seat protector in all it's glory.

5. Extracted, unfolded, and successfully torn your seat protector along the perforation without tearing through the outer seat ring.

6. Laid the protector on the seat without it sliding into the water or having the water wick up the center flap, causing it to get sucked down into the bowl before you can sit down all the way. Because I'm pretty sure that a seat protectors' favorite time to fall into the bowl is once you've already checked that it's appropriately positioned and begun your blind descent...

Okay, so you've met the criteria and now you're seated. You can finally go! Oh, but watch out that the water from the bowl doesn't wick up the center flap now that you're sitting there and get you even wetter than the water on the seat to begin with would have made you. Don't even get me started about the hassle of trying to wipe off with that wet thing dangling in your way. And definitely watch out that the slightly waxy surface of the seat protector doesn't create, say for example, a water resistant channel for urine to run away from you and onto your clothes or legs. Not that I speak from a scarring life experience or anything...

So now that we've hypothetically gotten to this point, how much good do you really think that thin paper is doing? It's not exactly an impenetrable shield, nor is it "shielding" the parts of you that care if they get germy. I mean, I don't know about you, but I usually keep the "important" parts of me squarely in the middle of the seat, not touching anything. But maybe the rest of you like to drag yourself back and forth across the seat? First of all, EWWW. Second of all, how much is even alive on that toilet seat anyway? Most public toilets get cleaned at least once a day. That's more than I can say for my toilets at home. I know, I know, you argue home toilets don't get that much traffic, but you obviously don't live with Claire. Now my poor cleaning habits are a whole different discussion, but I venture a guess that bacteria cultures would reveal that you're better off at most public toilets than coming over to my house and using my toilet. (I suppose that statement combined with yesterday's urine chair comment have just ensured that we will never have guests again... Meh, saves me the trouble of tidying up for guests. But for the record, I bet you'd fail this petri dish test too.) I'd be a lot more afraid of what's on the toilet paper in public restrooms. That's actually going to touch "the goods." Alas, I'm not willing to bring my own roll with me everywhere, so I'll take my chances. But in the end, you do have some form of an immune system, right? So if by some chance these hypothetical germs leap from the seat or bowl directly into your "inner workings," you'll probably pull through.

Now if every one behaves normally (no cavalier butt swipes), in the ideal case you should essentially only have the equivalent of skin-to-skin contact, right? Not that I love the idea of skin-to-skin contact with strangers, but I'd feel a little OCD if I started refusing to shake people's hands. I mean, what if they didn't wash their hands? What if they have bad cough and sneeze habits AND they pick their nose??? Guess what? Get over it. All of those are probably true AND they probably just left a public bathroom without washing their hands. Their hand might actually be WORSE than a toilet seat!

Now let's assume for sake of argument that, undoubtedly by some evil terrorist plot (darn you, Osama bin Ladies Room!), there are catastrophic germs just waiting to cause an epidemic lingering on the toilet seat.
And. You. Sit. On. Them.

Okay, I'm sorry to have stopped your heart beating like that. Take a moment. Just breathe. In fact, take all the time you need to pull yourself together after the shock and horror. I'll be right here waiting...


You good now? Great, let's pick up where we left off. So the unthinkable has happened. Now what? Were you planning to rub your hands across your bare buttocks after you get up from the seat? Oh, you need to pull up your underwear, tuck in your shirt, etc etc and that might lead to cross contamination. Okay, go ahead. You were still planning to wash you hands before you leave the bathroom, right? See where I'm coming from here? If all I have is some germs on my "cheeks," under my underwear and under my pants, I don't really see the problem. I'm not usually in the habit of the following:

Other person: Here, I brought you some food.
G: Thanks, it looks delicious.
OP: Let's eat!
G: Wait, just a minute.
[G quickly undoes her belt and jams both hands down the back of her pants and rubs vigorously while OP indulges in a little Purell]
G: [buckling back up] Okay, let's dig in.
[OP, face contorted in disgust, leaps up and runs away screaming, leaving G all by herself to consume the delicious food with her E. coli-ridden hands]
G: [evil laugh] Just as I planned...

So I know another alternative to toilet seat protectors is the ever popular "hover." Don't you realize that this is another probable reason your seat was wet to begin with? The last paranoid nut-job tried to hover over the seat to avoid a "horrible germ-ridden fate" and in the process, probably found her quads or triceps not up to the task and wavered, thus contaminating the seat and probably her clothes. If you do this, I hope your rogue pee washes someone else's germs off the seat onto your pants. And then I hope you fall into the bowl when your arms give out. Can't you see it? We've set up a vicious cycle here. Let's put our foot (and our butt) down and stop it. Let's put the "rest" back in restroom.

Unless you have open sores on your bottom or you have an immune disorder:


Ah, the blissful simplicity of it all, or at least as simple as possible while still being a female in our society. Enter. Lock. Unbutton. Sit. Wipe. Button. Unlock. Flush. Leave. Don't do a little dance (because you really gotta go), make a little noise (ditto), and get down on the floor to scour the whole stall with some nappy toilet paper and half of a baby wipe. Instead, make it quick and dirty then spend twice as long washing your hands, where it will actually do some good! I will concede that. Though I'm not protective of my glutes, I AM protective of my hands. I flush with my foot and count while I lather up with soap, etc. So I am not totally devoid of sanitation, I promise. Unless I'm missing something. Is there some horror of toilets seats I don't know about? Did I not get the memo from the Women's Estrogen Association for National and International Etiquette (WEANIE) that public toilet seats must not be touched on threat of being disqualified as a member of the female kind? Feel free to enlighten me, but until then, I bet I can beat you out of the bathroom. A couple of times I have even beat M out!!!


Bart said...

Against my better judgment, I actually read this post. And it made me laugh hard. You're a good writer.

Janssen said...

I loved this post until you started talking about flushing with your foot. What then!?!! Now I'm flushing with my hand touching what touched the bottom of your shoe which has touched the bathroom floor and the sidewalk and some old gum and maybe some dead bugs. The whole vicious cycle beings again! :)

Sheyenne said...

This post is AWESOME! Love the details. But still, I will put down the toilet paper or seat cover to sop up any lingering liquid (water or otherwise) because I really really hate a wet behind. Just the idea of having someone else's "splash" on me, whether harmful or not, is gross. And I'm not fond of the skin to skin contact when it's of the butt to butt variety. You made a valid point, but still, I just can't get past it. However, I will NEVER hover. I've tried that before and immediately realized the awful results. So. Point well taken. But YOU can just sit. I'll stick with the paper. I'm okay with deceiving myself.

azufelt said...

I'm with G on this... jsut sit and wash your hands later... and the foot flush is a must... A MUST!!

Now for some interesting toilet insight.... When I visited Russia there were visable mud footprints on nearly every public toilet seat we used... They stand on that thing, then try to aim? That's horrible, those "rest"rooms were a mess. (And they didn't offer any t.p., so you had to pack your own.

Now, IN Japan (oh so luck, you get to visit these again!) they merely had troffs in the floor, it was like somebody brought the ease of the camping squat to indoor plumbing. And of course they were a mess, but nobody cared, because it was essential a big hole in the floor that flushed, so nobdy after you could sit either, all had to squat, genious in my opinion. ANd a much speedier way to get the job done!

Anonymous said...

I don't know if it's this flu season or that I work with a million students, but I'm almost paranoid going into the public restroom at work. The toilet is the least of my concerns. Think of all the slimy 20 year olds who sneeze in their hand and touch the door knob or the handle on the toilet.

I flush with my elbow and get the paper out of the dispenser first and I get two. After I wash I want to grab the door handle with the extra one.

When I got married I learned that women's restrooms are FAR dirtier than men's. gentility ends at the ladies room door I understand. Good gosh, go to a concert and gaze upon the masses of drunk females stumbling from the public toilets.

My wife informed me of the "hover"; I shivered.

What you didn't even go into was the whole tampon wrappers on the floor and blood on the toilet seat.

Please, for the love of all that's sanitized, jut put the Chlorox wipes in the stall.

Now, I don't feel so bad about a guy who happened to miss the urinal.


Anonymous said...

Oh I forgot, those "nasty Europeans", ya they have troughs too. Seems they have the right idea despite the non-privacy.


. said...

I must say your's is better than mine!

Jessica & Nathan said...

I am at work and I was laughing so hard I was weeping. It's funny that we have never talked about this, but I do all the same things. Mom taught us, then we completely rebelled and in the same way.
I sit with no paper cuz as long as you don't touch your butt, pull you pants straight up, don't straddle the seat, stay centered, shower everday to clean those cheeks, and wash your hands, there is no need for anything else.
I think these feminine habits must be from way back when men and women used the same public restrooms. Cuz, holy crap, men's bathrooms can be toxic. As a former bathroom-cleaning janitor, I must share. Women must be thinking of the messes men leave. Everyday there was a toilet with was I called a poop explosion! It was on the seat, it was on the wall, sometimes it was even on the floor. Don't ask me about the logistics or physics of a poop explosion because they still baffle me. But if you have witnessed too many of those, then I could see being as paranoid as most women are.
However, also by being a janitor, I know how well bathrooms are cleaned. We used chemicals that could not even touch your skin because they would burn you horribly. We also cleaned every inch, twice a day. So, that is one more reason I am confident enough to sit, relax, camp out, but have also been named as a contender for "Fastest pee-er west of the Mississippi."

Pickles & Dimes said...

This was awesome.

Kristen Joy said...

I am TOTALLY with you on this one ! I've always thought this...unless you have open sores on your butt/thighs, whats the big deal??? I never use the paper things, sit right on it. I sometimes do a little swipe if i see drops.

Beth and her Spinrad said...

Hey, you don't know me but I surfed into our blog by following "Friend of a friend of a friend" links.

This post was AWESOME. I think this whole germaphobia thing was invented to give the toilet seat cover companies more revenue. I am honestly more afraid of a 3-year-old than a public toilet seat, germ wise.

A 3-year-old's superpower is the ability to take a normal bacteria normally found in yogurt and mutate it into a plague!

I traveled all over the middle east - you were lucky if you even HAD toilet paper. Most of the time it was a hole in the ground and you were grateful for it.