Toilet-seat ups and downs

Kevin Cowherd

September 22, 1993|By Kevin Cowherd

As regular readers of this space know, my admiration for Ann Landers knows no bounds, to the point where I've written several columns lauding her innate wisdom and take-no-prisoners style of prose.

In fact, after the last such column, I received a very nice thank-you note from Ms. Landers herself, who felt the need to add an affectionate (if parenthetical): "What the heck kind of name is Cowherd anyway?"

Yes, well . . . in any event, if you read Ann Landers' column the other day, you know that there can no longer be any doubt that the country as a whole is suffering from a terminal case of stupidity.

I say this because in that column, Ms. Landers took a break from exploring the issues of cheating husbands and pushy mothers-in-law and went instead with a guaranteed fireball topic: The Great Toilet Seat Debate.

Yeah, I know, I know . . . hasn't ol' Annie (I can call her that, hey, we're practically pen pals) been beating this to death since the Cuban Missile Crisis?

Sure seems that way. But apparently the toilet seat issue was raised again in her column a few weeks ago and (here's where it really gets scary) more than 20,000 people wrote in to express their opinion on the subject.

And these weren't just psychopaths, shut-ins and talk-radio listeners, as you might expect.

No, some of these people were actually, um, normal -- well, as normal as someone with a toilet-seat fixation can be.

Anyway, the other day Ms. Landers printed some of the responses from her readers. It was all too much for me, though, and after struggling through 14 column inches or so exclusively about toilet seats, I felt the need to lie down in a dark room for several hours.

As it happens, a cousin of mine from Ireland called that evening to tell me he was considering a visit to this country.

"Don't come," I said. "The great slide back into the morass has begun. The Visigoths are at the gates. By the time you get here, there may be mobs running through the streets and public hangings and huge, hairy men roasting pigs on spits at busy intersections."

Then I read two or three of the letters in Ann Landers' column to him. There was a moment of stunned silence on his end and then he said: "I see . . . what do you hear about Portugal this time of year?"

I don't know . . . is this toilet seat issue really something that preoccupies much of America? Do people really come up to each other at the office and ask: "Yo, Frank, the toilet seat -- you leave it up or down this morning?"

At the end of the day, do families really gather around the dinner table, only to have mom tearfully slam down her fork into the mashed potatoes and shout: " Someone around here has been leaving the toilet seat up . . ."

I suppose this is neither here nor there, but my position on the Great Toilet Seat Debate is: Who cares?

If it's up and you need it down, put it down! And vice versa. And stop whining about it! And for God's sake, stop contributing to the wholesale slaughter of trees by writing Ann Landers over something so stupid.

Speaking of which, more than a few of the people who wrote Ann seem wound a little tight, if you catch my drift.

For instance, a reader from Coral Springs, Fla., wrote: "Like most females, you have been culturally brainwashed. You can bet the man who leaves the seat up is making a statement about the way he feels about women. It's not about manners, it's about control, stupid."

Well. There's an . . . interesting letter.

Leaving aside the wisdom of calling Ann Landers stupid -- after all, this is a self-described tough broad who you could imagine hopping a plane and showing up at your door with a baseball bat -- there is the speciousness of the argument itself.

So men leave the toilet seat up to subjugate women, eh? Yes, well, I guess that explains what my 2-year-old's been up to recently. The little fella keeps leaving the seat up after he goes, too.

I thought he was just new to bathroom etiquette. But now I realize it's all a plot to brainwash and dominate his mother and sister.

No doubt he's planning to hook up with a cabal of similarly minded pre-schoolers, who will grow up only to spend their weekends in sweat lodges deep in the woods, smearing their faces with paint and drumming on logs and spewing the most virulent anti-feminist rhetoric.

As a father, it's funny how you miss these things until . . . well, until a sharp reader in Coral Springs, Fla., slips a sheet of bond paper into her Smith-Corona and fires off a letter to an advice columnist.

We can learn so much from each other.

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