Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Crapper Conundrum

The toilet seat is one of the key battle zones of modern society. This lowly appliance accessory should not even intrude into our thought processes, yet somehow it has become one of the key controversies in any relationship.  Before the invention of civilization, people used to just squat, or else use fallen trees to sit on. But from the dawn of civilization, the basic design of the out house was perfected and has remained unchanged for centuries. Chamber pots were the other device, and have enjoyed a similar longevity of basic design for about the same time period. Usage of the outhouse was generally restricted to daylight hours. At night, you would use the chamber pot. There was never any controversy with a chamber pot lid. Everyone was happy to put the lid on those little suckers! When settlers came to North America, one of the first buildings constructed was the outhouse. Often before the main living structure was built.  These noble constructions are not to be confused with the more recent twentieth century invention of port-a-potties, which is pretty much a portable flush toilet in drag, and actually carries the same social problems as a flush toilet anyway. I digress.

Outhouse design was a masterpiece of simplicity. It was about the size of a closet, and had a door with an obligatory sickle moon cut into the door. Inside was an enclosed bench with a hole of exactly the right size for sitting cut in the top. The bench was about thirty six inches high, and there was usually a small stool inside for children to use.

All privies had at least one mail order catalog inside.. It not only supplied reading material, but when you were finished it was the toilet paper of choice for most of North America .

The more affluent families could of course afford to build a more upscale privy, and a couple of variations ensued. Both of these enhancements came down to a variation in design, often referred to as the 'two holer'. For young families growing up, the second hole was cut to child size proportions and had a small step in front of it so kids could climb up to the level of the 'one height suits all' bench top. As the children left home, this now unused small hole was usually enlarged for women to use. Sometimes the step height was adjusted as well. For some reason, the accepted standard was for men to use the left hole and women the right. It is unclear where this practice originated, but it was well accepted in society.

The brilliance of the standard outhouse design was often un-remarked. It was the fact that the bench top was about thirty six inches off the floor. This pretty much eliminated any splatter caused by men urinating. This more than offset the inconvenience of having to use a stool for children and when sitting. This inherent splatter free design would be a boon for modern bathrooms.

The forerunner of the modern flush toilet was first invented in the late seventeenth century by Sir John Harrington, and debuted in the royal palace for Queen Elizabeth 1. (this is likely why we have the expression 'going to the john') The original design of Sir John was used for about 75 years. In the middle of the 18 hundreds, a man named Thomas Crapper made several distinct improvements to the design. He managed to get quite wealthy, although never knighted. To this day his name is immortalized in the expression 'going to the crapper'. (There never was a 'Sir John Crapper' even though the name exists in urban mythology.)

It is unfortunate that the modern flush toilet is the instigator of so much strife in male-female relationships, because this very appliance was truly the most significant contributor to the wide spread improvements in health achieved in the last century or so. As more houses in North America and Europe converted to indoor plumbing, there was an equivalent rise in life expectancy. About the only real flaw in the design of the toilet is the standard height. Most thrones of this nature are only 30” tall. The problem with this is that standers will tend to splatter all over the place. There are two basic positions in using a toilet, sitting and standing, and the thirty inch height only caters to sittersBecause of this poor choice of vertical dimension, they tried to solve the problem by making the bowl bigger around to minimize splatter issues caused by standers. Unfortunately, increasing the size of the bowl made it so big that you could literally fall into the john. Something had to be done!. Thus was born the idea of the flip-up toilet seat. The concept here of course is that you have a seat that is sized for an adult butt – one size fits all just like an outhouse– so you do not fall into the hole when sitting. This of course flips up so that standers do not spray all over the sit down seat. Women all over North America and Great Britain took to the streets and cheered!!

Unfortunately this series of adjustments to the basic flawed design had the nasty side effect of introducing a major point of controversy in male-female relationships. This is a conundrum that will likely never be solved in our lifetimes. So the culprit here is that a design choice made two and a half centuries ago has caused some bandaids to be invented, none of which have ever addressed the root problem that toilets are built too low to the ground!

Looking at the issue from the male perspective, they have to actually touch the seat to lift it. Toilet seats are not the most sanitary thing in the world, but the next place that they put their hand is on their privates . (Many women would not believe that men actually think about such sanitation issues, but it does cross their minds from time to time). Men have been conditioned to be more pragmatic. Whatever position the seat is in, they move it to the desireable position for what they have to do themselves.  When done, men will usually leave the seat in the last position that they used it. If the next person in is a man, there is a 50/50 chance that the seat will be in the correct position.  For this reason, you will never hear a man complain that  someone left the toilet seat in the wrong position. One important differentiation between the sexes, is that when a man gets up in the middle of the night to pee, he has to turn on the bathroom light so he can see what he is doing. Otherwise you are apt to find yellow puddles all over the place.

Looking at it from a female perspective, there is only one way that they use a toilet, and that is with the seat down, locked, and loaded. Women who have to pee in the night do not have to actually turn the light on to go to the washroom. In this way they do not have to become fully awake to use the water closet. They will generally feel their way to the toilet, sit down to the task at hand, and then leave after suitable physical and ritualistic ablutions are performed. Ninety percent of accidents in the home caused by women falling into toilets happen in the wee (wee wee?) hours of the morning. This difference in behavior means that men almost never have a splash and scream incident (it would be a splash and yell incident if it actually happened anyway)

So now we know the reason for the dilemma, and the perspectives of men and women on the issue.

About now you are probably thinking that there could be a lucrative payout if someone could come up with a way to eliminate the problem and thus solve the issue. It should be worth a lot of money. Well, it has been tried. Automatically lowering seats, special self cleaning seats that you do not have to flip up have both been tried unsuccessfully. All of these systems were never adopted because of the expense and the installation complexity. But a major contributing factor to the failure was that these were only dealing with the symptom of the problem, and not actually fixing the fundamental source of the problem. Most middle class households in North America pretty much deal with it by designating one washroom, usually the powder room, as the men's bathroom.

From my perspective, likely the best solution is to vary your behavior based on location. When you are a guy and at her place, just be sure to put the seat down. If you are a woman at his place, then just take it on the chin. Whether the seat is up or down, just put it in the down position and be done with it. When you finish, walk out and leave the seat down. Unlike women, real men never complain about the position that they find the seat in. They just deal with it, do their thing, and move on. Men only complain when faced with complaints directed at them.

So quit your bitchin!
Relationships should be about love and romance. Relationships should never be about complaints and other petty crap!

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