To paper or not to paper. That is the question.
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous filth
Or to take arms against a sea of germs
And by papering end them.
If you’re a germaphobe like me, the answer is to not only paper, but to practically paper mâché the entire toilet before your delicate bum makes a touchdown.
I always paper in public restrooms. I’m talking two minutes of carefully placing strips all around the seat. Sure, they have those newfangled paper protectors with the shoe-horn like centers. But I’ve yet to find one that covers the entire seat and doesn’t slowly start sinking into the bowl before I even sit, threatening dangerous outer-derriere-to-seat contact.
So I have two papering techniques ― one for the average restroom and one for the extremely questionable truck-stop, bar or fast food restroom.
The usual technique involves two horizontal strips at the front and back of the seat and two strips on both the left and right side, overlapping to cover both the inside and outside rim.
The more involved technique requires 12-20 single strips around the entire toilet, arranged like spokes on a wheel ― when I want to make sure that even my pants cannot accidentally brush against any part of the entire fixture. It’s quite time-consuming.
Each time I use a restroom, I ask myself how many unknown and unidentified butts of questionable character have frequented the same seat … and make a quick judgment call.
Now, obviously, I don’t paper in my own home. Only three butts touch those seats, and one of them is mine. If a guest is using the potty, they are someone who I am close enough to invite inside, which automatically deems them butt worthy. Likewise, if I throw a party at my home, I don’t paper the seat, because I know those people. Their butts are just one degree of separation from my own.
Or are they?
What about “plus ones?” I don’t know their butt worthiness. And yet, I’ve never questioned this before.
Now we’re getting into some gray area. What about at a friend’s house? Do I really know who my friends are inviting over to use their toilets? No, I don’t. And yet, by manner of association, I figure that if I’m close enough with you to be using the toilet in your home, the other people you have over are also butt worthy. So I don’t mirror my OCD papering behavior in the homes of others. They are not public restrooms.
In fact, some of my friends have cleaning ladies, so I know the toilets are being scrubbed on a regular basis. They’re probably cleaner than my own.
But what if there is a party at a friend’s house? I likely won’t know all the guests. Now the butts sitting on those seats are two degrees of separation from my own. And yet, I never paper at a party … which leads me to believe I’m a heinie hypocrite.
So how many guests is too many? How many guests need to be invited into a home, before one needs to paper? A small dinner party at a friend’s place has a limited number of guests. I don’t usually paper, even if I don’t know anyone. Why is that? Do I figure the odds are on my side, because it’s a small crowd? Do these butts come highly recommended, because we have a mutual acquaintance? Does sharing some chicken cordon bleu and a bottle of merlot deem someone butt-worthy?
What if it’s a bigger gathering at a friend’s house? … like a New Year’s Eve party? … or the Kentucky Derby party I attended last year with the mint juleps? It was at the home of one of my best friends, so I didn’t paper. I didn’t know everyone there. But they were all from my synagogue. Can I assume these butts were kosher, because we all have the same rabbi? Are religious butts cleanlier than non-religious butts?
What about a large fund-raising event? I can assume that people attending a fund-raising event have money to donate. Are wealthier butts more sanitary? Is a millionaire butt safer than a lower- or middle-classed butt? Do wealthy people bathe more often? Do they all have bidets?
Obviously, I paper in a port-o-potty, a restaurant, a mall. But I’m seeing fuzzy territory here.
What about at work? I routinely paper … except when I worked at a small newspaper in Michigan. I seem to recall that I knew everyone and that it was like a family. You don’t paper with family. Or did I somehow think Midwestern tushies were more wholesome?
What about my house of worship? My synagogue has an excellent cleaning staff. The bathroom is always immaculate. And unless it’s the high holidays, there aren’t thousands of people using the stalls. Why do I paper there? Who’s using those toilets? I can assume the clergy. I can assume my fellow members of the choir. I can assume the nice ladies who donate their time to work in the gift shop or bake hamentashen for the Purim carnival.
I know these people. These are all cleanly professionals. In fact, if I threw a latke party at my home, these are the people I’d invite – and I wouldn’t paper the seat at my own house. But these same people, gathered in a public place, I now need to guard against?
And what exactly am I guarding against?
According to doctors and scientists, my potty paranoia may be a little over the top. While bathrooms may be a witches brew of streptococcus, staphylococcus, E. coli, hepatitis A and various sexually transmitted organisms, the toilet seat is not how infections are usually passed to humans, they say. In fact, many disease-causing organisms can survive only briefly on the seat. To contract an infection, the germs would have to be transferred from the toilet seat to my urethral or genital tract ― or through a cut or sore on my buttocks or thighs ― which is possible but highly improbable.
I’m still not taking any chances, but it’s good to know.
But here’s the scary part: I recently learned from WebMD that germs in feces can be propelled into the air when a toilet is flushed. In fact, microbiology and diagnostic immunology experts advise leaving the stall immediately after flushing, to keep the airborne mist from choosing you as a landing site. The greatest aerosol dispersal occurs at the end of the flush, when most of the water has left the bowl. You know, while you’re standing there making sure everything went down, before exiting the area.
I really wish I hadn’t read that.
Because now, in addition to papering the seat, I need to make sure I’m wearing running shoes and a rain slicker and cultivate my ability to hold my breath while flushing with my foot and unlatching the door, bolting over to the sink and scrubbing every exposed area of skin before making my escape.
Suddenly, Depends aren’t looking so bad.