by The Inmate
Here in this small state
High and low are equal
Each one lets down his pants
The moral as well as the lax . . .
—from a bathroom wall in Germany
Most toilet seats were not made for comfort. This is a disturbing fact considering that all of us spend at least a part of our day there (I think women should be particularly disturbed). I like to read on the toilet, but after five minutes I can feel my legs and feet getting less and less blood. Shifting positions only brings momentary relief and if I have to spend a lot of time there either out of necessity or because what I am reading is so interesting I forget what it was that originally brought me to the throne, my feet fall asleep ruining what could have been a pleasant, extended period of rest and reflection.
My job allows me to sample numerous rest rooms. Usually I don’t need to use a toilet seat but there are occasions when that becomes necessary. On one momentous day, sometime back in 1988, I entered a rest room on the 14th floor of a large bank building in downtown San Diego. It was an emergency. I had come to that point where postponement was no longer an option. I entered the small cubicle, closed and locked the door. While I was fitting the seat with a protective, sanitary shield (provided by the management) I noticed something different about it. The back curved and sloped like no toilet seats I had ever seen. It had a futuristic appearance, like a toilet seat in STAR WARS might have looked if Jedi Knights and Wookies ever felt nature’s inevitable call. I did not think much about it. At the time there were more important things to consider. When I sat down, however, I was euphoric. That seat was made for my derriere.
Big corporations make toilet seats. Most toilet seats are uncomfortable. These two facts cannot simply be coincidental. Here is an effect with its indisputable cause. Logic demands that this relationship be explored. If all toilet seats were as comfy as the one I found that day the hours lost to corporations might be responsible for a drop in the market from which the DOW could never recover(The benefits of a comfy seat for one’s buttocks will, of course, be ignored or denied.). Crappy toilet seats are most likely a plot, a well-planned, secretly known strategy of The Asylum to get every minute possible out of employees. Toilet seats are in “rest” rooms and rest, in the eyes of the corporation, is the antithesis to work. Rest is exactly what the corporation attempts to infringe upon. Productivity is the inevitable answer to most problems even if the pace is so harried one feels rushed in the rest room. If employees do not feel rushed they certainly should not be comfortable.
It is even possible the government is involved(This would make an interesting X-Files episode.). If toilet seats were too comfortable citizens might not rush back into the living room to feast on a rerun or the network news. They might actually start thinking and anyone who thinks is bad for government. Politicians depend on citizens not to think. So do advertisers.
Rest rooms, however, have another function that corporations may have missed. You might be the CEO, a sales rep, the V.P. or a delivery guy, but when you enter that small cubicle and take your seat upon the most common of thrones, you’re just another asshole taking a dump. This is something that has been done for century after century by kings and serfs, rich and poor, free and slave. Centerfolds do it and so does Brad Pitt. Even Queen Elizabeth sits on the throne. It is one of the most unifying factors known to mankind. It demotes those of high rank and raises those of low. It is the great equalizer, the common seat that we meet upon(not literally, of course). The next time you’re talking to someone who intimidates you, imagine them on the can taking a crap–assuming such a thing can be imagined without completely losing your composure.
My favorite poem about a toilet, in fact the only poem I know of specifically about a toilet is in Bertolt Brecht’s play, Baal, from Act One, Scene Three.
The spot on earth he most had come to crave
Was not the grass plot by his parents’ grave
Or any whore’s bed or confession stool
Or snowy bosom, soft and warm and full.
Orge said to me: His best retreat
On earth had always been the toilet seat.
For there a man can sit, content to know
That stars are overhead, and dung below.
A lovely place it is where even on
His wedding night a man can be alone.
A humble place where you humbly know
You’re only human, so you may as well let go.
A place of wisdom, where you clear the way
For the drink and victuals of the coming day.
A place where by exerting gentle pressure
A man can benefit while reaping pleasure.
You find out what you are in these dank pits
A man who feeds his face and meanwhile–sits.
One of the strangest experiences I ever had in a rest room occurred in the early 90’s. This was an emergency–I did not need the urinal–I needed the real thing. I rushed in, closed the door and sat down. As my unique aroma filled the air the toilet, which was secured to the wall, suddenly dropped about half an inch and it looked as if and felt as if it might rip out of the wall. Getting up was not an option, at least at the moment. I had visions of it breaking, water spraying everywhere, me sprawled on the floor, people rushing in–when, to my puzzlement, the toilet raised itself back against the wall. I became curious. Then it fell again and I heard a flush on the other side. A revelation! My toilet had a direct link through the wall to the women’s rest room and another toilet. I had been sitting back-to-back with women who were on the other side of the wall. It was the only toilet teeter-toter I have ever seen or used. The image is a strange one, but there we were linked by a common water pipe and our mutual humanity.
In Jonathan Swift’s poem “Cassinus and Peter,” Peter goes to see his friend Cassinus who is “with Grief opprest.” When he asks him what is wrong he cries, “Caelia” three times and sighs heavily. Peter is mortified. Is Cassinus’s woman dead? Did she sleep with someone else? Is she sick? Does she love another? Cassinus assures him it is worse. Peter begs him to reveal the tragedy and Cassinus does.
Nor wonder how I lost my Wits;
Oh! Caelia, Caelia, Caelia shits.
For lovers such revelations may destroy precious illusions, the same thing it can do for employees in corporations. Caelia is not the only one who shits. We all do. We are in this sense bound together. One. Equals.
I have a great fondness for rest rooms.
The Corporate Asylum sells a long line of toilet seats for private residences–all extremely comfortable. Our seats come in many styles and colors. Unlike most toilet seats ours also come in different sizes–we know our fannies(and yours too). We also have adjustable seats for families whose buns are significantly different in size and shape. For corporations we sell a long line of utilitarian seats guaranteed to get your workers off their asses and out of the bathroom in no time. We sell toilet seats that look so uncomfortable workers will actually postpone the inevitable until they get home. Independently administered tests show that 87% of workers will refuse to use this seat. Imagine the bottom-line results you will get!
- Dundes, Alan, Life is Like a Chicken Coop Ladder: A Portrait of German Culture Through Folklore, Columbia University Press, New York, 1984, pp. 39-40, 118.
- Swift, Jonathan, Swift: Poetical Works, edited by Herbert Davis, Oxford University Press, New York, Toronto, 1967, pg. 531.