When faced with a public toilet, the first thing I do is assess the situation. Is the seat wet? Is the seat dirty? How clean is the bathroom in general? Does it look like there are germs crawling everywhere? Is there toilet paper? Do they provide you with the little seat covers, assuming the seat is not clean enough? Has someone carved his or her initials into the stall wall? Did they sit? The dilemma can take a few minutes, or it can be an instantaneous decision.
In the dirty airport bathrooms, I never need to think, Is this a clean seat? At the airport, driven by time, almost all decisions are instantaneous, and the next question is ‘do I have time to lie out a cover or neat lines of toilet paper?’ Usually not. And this calls for extreme measures: squatting. Yes, I know. What is this world coming to? But really. You never want to, but when you do think about what could be contracted from a solid plastic U- shape that people place their bare bottoms on, you won’t think twice about using protection.
But what about the sleek, shiny seats in fancy restaurants, hotels, and stores? Where do they fall? The cleanliness and newness capture our attention, leading us to believe that the seat is A-OK. But is it? Are the germs on a clean Ritz toilet seat insignificant? These questions lead back to the dilemma: Do I sit right on the seat like at home? Do I lay out neat rows of TP? If on hand, do I use the pre-shaped and perforated seat covers? Do I play it safe, save time, deal with the pain, and squat?
Walking into the school bathroom, the smell of industrial cleaner mixed with cold air catches in my throat. I walk up to an open stall and peer in. Nope, next stall. A bit better, but no toilet paper. The third stall is neutral. I pause; I am short on time. No time to roll out the lines of paper, no precut sheets and not feeling the squat after yesterday’s workout. I slowly back out of the stall, peek at myself in the mirror, and slip out of the bathroom, on my way to class.