Rachael Berkey
May 29, 2012 3:00 am

You hang there, unobtrusive,
Crisp and white and clean.
I know you only mean to help my cause,
But all I hear: sarcastic applause.
Someday soon I’ll see you first,
And not fear a bladder burst.

Consider this my ode to the toilet seat cover, lovely readers. You know what I’m talking about: the paper circles stuffed into a thin box hanging flush against the back of a swinging door in a bathroom stall right where you can’t miss them and never see them at the same time.

Don’t look away, ladies! I know it’s the bathroom I’m talking about, but we need to have a serious conversation.

Have you visited a public restroom lately?

Did you flush by pressing the lever or button with a leery foot rather than your hand?

Did you advance the paper towel before you turned on the water and use that same paper towel to open the door of the room before you left?

I do the same thing. Bathrooms are kind of gross. There’s no way around that fact even though I’m pretty sure that the industrial strength cleaning solutions and corporate set ups of the majority of bathrooms the public uses means they are actually not terribly covered in pestilence and plague.

You know what else I do? I clean up after myself. I throw my paper towel in the garbage, and I wipe down the sink if the over-enthusiastic faucet has splashed all over the place. These are just good manners.

Now I know, the toilet itself is a scary, scary place. It must be because women all over the place are no longer actually sitting on the porcelain throne. They’re squatting, and they’re not being neat about it.

It used to be the only thing I had to fear in the bathroom was sharing it with a careless or forgetful male. It has happened to us all. At 3 AM, when it takes all my mental faculties just to make it there without tripping over a shoe or running into the door jam, inevitably I find out the hard way that my lovely male roommate has left the toilet seat up.

He’s a good guy. I know he doesn’t do it on purpose for all that I am quite literally muttering curses at him in the dark.

Even worse than that rude awakening – pun intended – is the moment of realization, when it’s too late to correct trajectory or landing, that the person who used a public bathroom before you was a squatter.

I get that you’re afraid of germs, and clearly you have the quads of an Olympic athlete, but these fears and physical superiority do not excuse your complete and total lack of manners.

If it came out of your body, and it didn’t make it where you wanted it to go? It is your duty to make sure it makes it there come Hell or high water. It is not the responsibility of the next person who uses the bathroom to make sure your bodily fluids make it into the sewer system.

And it’s definitely not the responsibility of the men and women paid to keep whatever facility you are using clean.

Even if you’re a millionaire, cleaning up after you like this is still not your maid’s job.

What would your mother think?

I’ll make you a deal. I’ll start paying more attention to the neglected box of toilet seat covers that hides on the back of the stall door if you promise to do the same. Maybe if we both start using them, even though we’ll waste a lot of trees that could be saved if everyone cleaned up after themselves, there will be fewer mishaps and wet derrières all around. And I won’t hate the previous occupant of every restroom I visit.

Maybe you need poetic inspiration. Here’s what my friend Avi tells her child:

If you sprinkle when you tinkle, please be neat and wipe the seat.

Other public restroom etiquette to keep in mind:

1. Don’t talk on your cellphone. Yes the person you’re talking to can tell exactly what is happening. Also everyone else in the vicinity is judging you for your lack of shame.

2. Wash your hands.

3. Do a courtesy feet check before you go barging into a stall you think is unoccupied.

4. Have the mercy in your heart to tell a fellow lady that she has tucked her skirt into her tights or is trailing a paper towel stuck to the bottom of her shoe. It’s just nice.

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