Ass Gasket

A few days ago, skimming through the always excellent Ask Metafilter, I stumbled across a great post asking about America’s quirks as seen by foreigners.

A slew of international readers weighed in, listing the number of American flags in non-civic setting, the giant portion sizes, that cigarettes are sold at drug stores with news agents and tobacconist shops nowhere to be seen.

And then, one said: paper toilet seat covers.

And I thought: paper toilet seat covers?!? Certainly, we must not be the only country using them. The very idea of pooping sans-paper struck me viscerally as below barbaric. Were all of these foreign people raised by wolves?

But a bit of cursory Googling confirmed the usual; we’re the ones who are really the barbarians here. Toilet seats, it seems, are actually far cleaner than faucets, door handles, toilet paper rolls, even office desks and workstations. And, further, it’s essentially impossible to catch anything from a toilet seat, regardless of germ content. From the Mayo Clinic and the CDC on down, the consensus was clear: the seat covers are an odd Americanism, a placebo at best.

(Also discovered in that Googling: women’s bathrooms apparently have twice as many germs as men’s, and men, who get the bum rap for supposedly carelessly peeing on toilet seats, are actually much less likely to do so; we lift the seat when peeing, whereas germaphobic women apparently pop a high squat hovering over the seat and pee all over the place. The fairer sex indeed.)

Of course, I’m not alone in my faith in the power of the toilet seat cover. A USA Today poll showed that nearly 90 percent of Americans erroneously believe diseases can be transmitted by sitting on toilet seats. Which is why, perhaps, even armed with the knowledge that I’m accomplishing nothing by doing so, in the days since discovering this all, I’ve continued to paper up – I just also feel vaguely guilty and foolish for doing so. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

November 8, 2011