This story originally aired on June 8, 2019.
It all started with a raised toilet seat in The Stranger's editorial department bathroom.
"To those of you in the office who don't have any women in your personal lives I'm sorry to inform you that you have women in your professional lives," Nathalie Graham, a staff writer for the alt-weekly newspaper, wrote one Friday afternoon. "Please put the seat down after you tinkle."
Apparently, bathroom etiquette has been a point of contention at The Stranger for some time. Maybe you've had the same problem: men leave the toilet seat up, and the next woman has to lower it. Is one position cleaner? Is one sexist?
Lester Black and Katie Herzog are two staff writers with The Stranger who squared off over the issue through a dueling pair of essays on the paper's website. Sound Effect host Gabriel Spitzer recently sat down with them together to hear their arguements and try to broker some truce.
Up or down?
If you leave a toilet seat down, Lester says, a man will pee on it. It's a matter of when not if, so instead of tempting fate, he just leaves it up as a rule of thumb.
"Men are to blamed for making the toilet seat dirty in general, but everyone has an interest in making sure that toilet seat is clean," Lester said.
Katie follows a more utilitarian school of thought — bringing the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people. Most of The Stranger's editorial staff are women. By her math, it would be easier for men to watch their trajectory.
"It could be your responsibility as a male to go police your behavior," Katie told Lester. "Instead of this insurance policy you could actually fix the root problem, which as you said is a lack of respect for women."
Who are you calling dirty?
Up or down, clean or dirty. Does any of this really matter when people are supposed to wash their hands in the bathroom? At least Lester says so. He goes so far to say that Katie's aversion to touching the toilet seat might reflect a bigger problem.
"It says something revealing: is Katie Herzog washing her hands when she goes to the bathroom?" he said. "Because if you're washing your hands it doesn't matter if you are touching the toilet seat or not."
Katie says that's irrelevant. (And in case you're wondering, Katie says she maintains a strict hand-, arm- and face-washing routine whenever she goes to the bathroom). She suggested a compromise: close everything, lid and seat. Germs are kept at bay. Women are no longer forced to touch the toilet seat.
"So you're telling me you would agree, right now, to always close the lid before flushing and exit with lid closed?" Lester said.
"Yes," Katie said.
And so, a tentative truce was reached. Listen to their full debate above.