Tuesday, January 8, 2013

On Toilet Seats

When you're using a public bathroom, do you ever choose your stall based on how often you think it is used? I always hesitate to go for the first one in the row, assuming it gets used the most and is therefore the most ... you know. So then I head for the second, but then think, "How many other people have my same thoughts? Maybe it's the second stall that gets used the most because people think it actually gets used less!" Then I awkwardly stumble to the third stall, which I find un-flushed and grody, so I settle on the fourth stall.

The worst is when you sit on a warm public toilet seat. Or any warm toilet seat. Maybe in your house you have a tricky Japanese toilet with a heated seat that offers a comfy good morning free from any questions about how long the previous patron's stay was, but you probably don't. At least in your house you can be reasonably sure of who that patron might have been.

While in the Chicago airport over the holidays I noticed an exciting absolutely sick innovation in toilet hygiene. My first encounter was in a handicapped stall, so initially I thought this new feature was an exclusive, but on the return trip I encountered this again in a normal stall. Saran-wrapped seats are not just a perk for the disabled.


My first reaction was disgust. I imagined all the germy bum-sloughage cradled in each crinkle of the plastic, nesting in wait for the next unwitting visitor. Did someone fail to unwrap the new toilet seat? What was this unholy texture? Sick.

On my second encounter, I inspected the seat a bit more. I noticed all the fine print and the conspicuous green arrow directing me to wave my hand at a sensor. I waved. Then this happened (not a video of me. I'm not that much of a germophobe that I feel the need to use my shoe to activate a no-touch sensor):

And then I realized that this wasn't as gross an "innovation" as I thought, though the seat cover change wasn't as automatic as I would have liked. It didn't have the reliability of most auto-flush toilets, for example. There's also no way to tell if the seat cover is truly fresh when you walk in the stall. Now it seems more wasteful than cool, especially as "the toilet seat is not a common vehicle for transmitting infections to humans" (webmd.com). Maybe they could use the same concept to wrap airport hoagies, though.

To the champion of public restroom phobia, my dear friend Stephanie, would you use a toilet armed with such a device? Would you sit happily on such virginal plastic? To the rest of you beloved readers, what is your public restroom protocol? Are you a hoverer? An open-the-door-with-a-paper-towel-er? Teach me your ways.


  1. Hahahaha! Kim, I seriously laughed out loud at this post. I guess I'm not really a germophobe, because my only caution is to wash my hands thoroughly afterwards (I heard somewhere that you should sing "Happy Birthday" three times at normal tempo to ensure you wash long enough). Also, I think that the plastic wrap texture would almost gross me out more than a regular toilet seat, despite it's cleanliness.

  2. These thoughts regularly occupy my brain as well. I once read an article (forgive me, i don't recall the actual source) which claimed that the very first stall is actually the most sanitary because it gets cleaned most often and used least. The article claimed that this is so because people don't generally like being in the stall closest to the door, and that the janitor is most likely to use his/her full effort on the first stall closest to the door. So because I believe everything I read, I generally like to use that stall. But how many other article-readers do the same thing now? It may have just cancelled itself out.

    I am also married to someone who--even in our private home--carefully places toilet paper around the toilet seat every time. I have grown accustomed to buying him an all-new toilet seat for each bathroom every time we move, so problem solved, right? No. He still does it, and it continues to hurt my feelings just like that episode of Seinfeld when Elaine is only sharing a work bathroom with one other coworker and that other woman continues to use the "hygienic" seat covers. Rude. Even if I did have a communicable disease, do you really think that the toilet seat is the only possible way you could contract it? I no longer ask logical questions, but embrace it as one of his adorable quirks.

    1. The answer to my dilemma! The first stall it is.

      I cannot believe Andy. This is so rich. I love this: "I no longer ask logical questions, but embrace it as one of his adorable quirks." That's the secret to a successful marriage, I think. :)

  3. Replies
    1. Onto another roll that they'd better throw away.

  4. The idea is to change it before you use the seat. I think that people are too anal about public restroom hygiene. Pun fully intended. If you are going to catch something that toilet cover isn't going to help. Really people? Come on

  5. Since we visited China a few years ago I have no problems with US public restrooms. In parts of China--yes even the airport--the toilets were stalls with a hole in the floor. Squatters. There were outlines of feet so you know where to stand. I felt bad for the restroom attendants--yes--they stood there with a bucket and mop and mopped after each person did their thing. I'll take a US toilet any day!!

  6. I cannot tell you how much I love this post! I am so glad that these topics occupy other people's minds as well! I have the "least used stall probability" debate every time I used a public restroom, which, as you know, is as infrequently as I can physically manage.

    The strange plastic cover has no relevance to me, as I never touch my flesh to any toilet seat (covered or non), except those in my own home, and sometimes in the homes of my immediate family and close friends. (Amanda, I cannot stop laughing about Andy and the toilet paper on the seat. Hahahahahahah!)

    I know it's sort of wasteful and doesn't make much logical sense, but I cannot just pull off and use the toilet paper from the roll in the stall. Who or what might have touched the free-hanging end?? I always rip off the first few inches and throw them away before taking the amount that I need.

    Bowman doesn't share my "issues" in the least, as evidenced by the night that he took Rayna into the men's restroom AT WALMART, in her fleece footie pajamas, where she got down on her belly to see who was in the next stall before Bowman could grab her. I can understand that catastrophes like this happen sometimes, but he told me all this after they were home, and she was asleep in bed WHILE STILL WEARING THE CONTAMINATED PAJAMAS!!!! I AM FREAKING OUT REMEMBERING THIS!!! THE HORROR!!!

    1. I think you should get Rayna checked for TB, and hepatitis, and probably the black plague. That is disgusting.

    2. Steph I don't know you but I just picked myself off the floor after laughing so hard my husband thought I was having a stroke. As I write this I'm still bursting into barks of laughter every 3 words. I don't let my flesh touch the toilet either.

  7. Kimber I love reading your blog. It brings such joy to my life.


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