Monday, September 04, 2006

Ladies Please Sit Down

My right knee had pretty much failed me by the time I turned 26. Kneeling, crouching and doing basically that required me to hold my weight with bent knees was impossible. This wasn't much of a problem in public restrooms because nobody told me until relatively late in life that women don't sit down in public restrooms. Somehow in my life as a fully functional, normal female nobody had ever mentioned that I was supposed to hover over the seat, rather than to just sit and relax. When I went into the ladies room to find the seat splattered with urine, I was constantly stumped as to how it got there. Did it splash when it flushed? Did a guy go in there and forget to put the seat up? I was physically incapable of peeing unless I was sitting, I had no choice but to wipe down the seat and go about my business.

Then when I was in my 20's I went to Europe where for some insane reason they don't put seats on the toilets. Even in an upscale restaurant or cafe, the ladies room can range from a hole in the ground to a cold, narrow-rimmed toilet with no seat. It's not like the seats were ripped off. They just decided to save the $20 per toilet or whatever it would cost and they were never installed. I was complaining to my girlfriends at work about it and they looked at me like I was crazy.

"What difference does it make? Nobody sits down on them."


"They don't?"

I stopped short of asking why. I wasn't that shocked that woman didn't want to sit down, I was more shocked that I didn't figure out how I had gone 26 years without this piece of seemingly common knowledge. How many times had I stumbled into the ladies room at some bar with my girlfriends and not noticed that I was the only one that actually sat on the seat. I also learned that day that women not only don't sit down in public restrooms, but they generally don't poop in them unless there is some kind of gastro-intestinal emergency. I had no idea that my bathroom etiquette was so drastically different from my peers. Sitting? Pooping? No problem! When you gotta go, you gotta go!

This leads me to wonder what exactly are they afraid of? Unless you're going to the bathroom featured in Trainspotting, they are actually quite clean. Public restrooms have undergone tons of germ analysis over the years, and it turns out that your average toilet seat is pretty clean and the sink faucet is germ infested. Pee is actually sterile. Nobody has ever caught a disease from a toilet seat that I've heard of. I understand a certain ick factor, but we live in a culture where a daily shower is fairly common. Is it really worth the discomfort?

The only reasons public ladies rooms are icky is because the ladies pee all over the seat. The crouching CAUSES the problem that it is intended to solve. So, if we all just sat down public restrooms would be less gross. Or at least could they put the seat up if they are going to crouch?



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