October 13th, 2007
The high-rise blues
It’s time to broach an unpleasant subject: public toilet seats sprinkled with pee. This is caused by women who refuse to sit while urinating and instead hover above the toilet, thus soiling the seat and forcing successive users to adopt the same uncomfortable high-rise position. It’s a problem in all public ladies’ rooms, but particularly those in bars, where trips to the toilet are more frequent. Rock clubs, where I go to see drinkboston.com contributor Scott Howe’s band the Hammond Group, are especially notorious; their bathrooms are heavily trafficked and dimly lit — a bad combo for anyone hoping to keep her bum dry.
We can’t chalk up the annoying behavior of high-risers to alcohol and darkness alone, however. It really stems from an old-fashioned, entrenched, completely unfounded belief that toilet seats are breeding grounds for infectious diseases. To all you dainty dolls afraid to park your precious derrieres on a toilet seat that others’ backsides have touched, I say this: you want to see a breeding ground for infectious disease? Look at your desk. Microbiologists have found four hundred times more illness-causing bacteria on the typical office desktop, with its germ-filled computer keyboard, mouse and phone receiver, than on most toilet seats. Hands, which are out in the world touching everything, and not bums, which are covered by clothing all day, pass the vast majority of bacteria that make people sick. So worry more about the faucet handle in the bathroom than the toilet seat, princess.
Howard Heller, an M.D. and infectious disease specialist at MIT Medical, says, “It’s very difficult to get sick from a toilet seat. A little extra caution might be warranted if one is traveling in an area where enteric infections like cholera are more common.”
In other words, if you find yourself in a public restroom in Angola, you may want to play it safe and hover. Otherwise, sit down on the damn toilet. Please. I mean it. My thighs are killing me.