Warm Toilet Seats: A Rant

Just when my new MacBook Pro, penchant for long Russian novels, and ability to catch wild trout on dry flies start to make me feel sophisticated, another nature calls.

You know the feeling—that tremor in your bowels punctuated with a cold sweat. Your eyes pop open in panic, and then you collect yourself and turn the mental dial to tactical mode. The unseen hand of that buffalo chicken sandwich that you just had to order for dinner starts an egg timer above your coccyx. You now have sixty seconds to find a bathroom, secure the premises, turn on fans to disguise any growling, and, most important of all, get your pants down.

If you’re lucky, you can conceal the quick, bird-like calculations of that desperate moment, politely excuse yourself from conversation, and power walk to the bathroom without attracting attention. If you’re unlucky, you are driving a desolate stretch of interstate in North Dakota, or you’re exploring Mayan ruins in Copán, Honduras, with friends. See Spot freeze. Now see Spot run.

Sometimes, you choose your souvenirs, and sometimes, they choose you. Thanks for a great seventeen days, Giardia!

God gives men puberty and incontinence to keep them humble. He gives them a stomachful of gas during a school play filled with silences to teach them how to pray. Giardia, erectile dysfunction, and toenail fungus have nothing to do with God at all. They are by-products of existence in a broken world.

As to warm toilet seats, it’s hard to say who is responsible. I’m not saying I like cold toilet seats. I know what is coming, but this foreknowledge never dampens the shivers that run up my spine like electric currents. They remind me of my creatureliness. They are similar to a postcard reminder of a prostate exam.

But one thing worse than being reminded of my body’s persistent need to expel waste is being reminded of someone else’s, especially a stranger’s. When I slide the bolt in the gas station bathroom door, drop my shorts, lower my backside to the porcelain, and let out a sigh of relief only to feel the residual heat of prior fecal activity, I do not feel kinship with my fellow man. I’ll take the seemingly antiseptic cold any day.

I grew up in a family of five, so I understand that we must put up with one another’s bodily quirks. For a friend, family member, or spouse to raise the temperature by 10˚F and transform the bathroom into a greenhouse is one kind of trial. Letting this horrible dirty stranger’s discarded body heat creep into my flesh is another.

I know nothing of his hygiene or personal habits. My high school chemistry teacher, Mrs. Reynolds, taught us that “smells” are particles of their source that interact with our olfactory cells. I’m fine with having particles of fresh baked bread in my nostrils, but other implications are appalling. Don’t even think about it.

Perhaps warm toilet seats represent the essence of what it means to be human as much as language and awareness of our mortality, bubble gum and weightlifting. Or perhaps human dignity has long since departed when you can identify the skunk by his musk.

Though I cannot see the bacteria, I know they are leaping around like microscopic grasshoppers. They’re just waiting for a new home. I can’t help but imagine a huge butt completely enveloping the toilet, rolling off either side like a great mass of hairy, veiny biscuit dough.

Being forced to do my private business in a humid dumpster on an August afternoon offends my sense of propriety. My faith in humanity has atrophied.

What is this? Are these soggy clumps of the cretin’s toilet paper plastered to the bowl like bloated white leeches? He could have at least had the decency to waste a couple more gallons of water to preserve the illusion of cleanliness.

Is that a mark? Doth mine eyes betray me or is that a brown sickle moon?

It is! Unbelieveable. Really? You’re going to blow out a toilet and just walk away? Have some decency.

These are the same people who don’t wash their hands in the bathroom and transfer their body fluids and diseases to the doorknobs on the way out. These are the people responsible for hit-and-run accidents, shoplifting in J. Crew, and walking out on their checks at Ruby Tuesday. They eat 99% of the pork rinds and pickled eggs in this country.

You’ve always wondered who buys those pink Tijuana Mama hot sausages that make you taste pennies just looking at them. Yep, the culprits are these people. They invented the deep-fried Twinkie and buy tickets to watch live professional wrestling.

My gorge rises. I may vomit now. But I can’t vomit. Then I’ll be the guy who vomited in the bathroom and painted the tile with homemade chili.

I might have left it too because I’ll tell you right now that I’m not putting my face anywhere near that floor. You may as well tell me to start licking people’s shoes.

Don’t tell me to use one of the toilet seat covers. They stick to my skin and negate the possibility of a graceful exit.

I may as well wear an adult diaper and a Hazmat suit.

Yes, I will take the handicapped stall if it’s available. Yes, I will waste toilet paper wiping the seat down and try to scourge germs that could survive a nuclear holocaust. Yes, I will flush the toilet with my foot as many times as is necessary to restore the appearance of sanitation. Yes, I will, if necessary, break a sweat to perform these ablutions. Yes, I will spread my knees as far apart as possible to keep my shorts from touching the swampy floor. Yes, after washing my hands, I will use the paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the door. I learned that trick from Mrs. Bornstein in the sixth grade. In lieu of paper towels, yes, I’ll press the silver button with my elbow and use my shirttail to unlock the door and escape.

No, I am not a germaphobe. I will drink after you. I will eat food off the ground. I go sometimes go days without showering. But I am not dirty. My hygiene is impeccable. Dental assistants compliment my flossing.

You’d be fastidious too if you had my experience in Prague. At first I loved the public Port-o-John-style bathroom that cleaned itself after each use. You put in so many korunas to get inside. You do your number. You wash your hands with real soap. But then you take too long, and the cleaning unit activates, and water shoots from the toilet and hits you in the face.

Receiving a freestyle swirly at the age of twenty scars you. I had no way to defend myself. My shirt was wet. I felt dirty.

Comments Closed

3 Comments

  1. ash
    Posted August 18, 2010 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    I love this one! You were 20 when you got that swirly? Your fiance got hers at a Young Life Camp in Minnesota at age two! Love ya Austin…keep writing…it makes me laugh!

  2. Nate
    Posted August 19, 2010 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    I had no idea where this would end up. Like most trips that start this way, it was an interesting ride.

  3. Steve Sparks
    Posted August 20, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Maybe it’s the 12-year-old boy in me, but I love this entry into scatological glory. And the accompanying picture, hmmm, when were you in a juvenile detention facility?