I summoned my chief research scientist to my study.
Now see here, von Heiligenacht, I told him. I’m determined to solve the toilet seat mystery. We’ll get to the bottom of this if it costs me my entire fortune.
Heiligenacht is not a man of many words, and he simply clicked his heels as he bowed slightly, one eyebrow raised almost imperceptibly.
This is the – how is it one says in your country? The well-grown-up purchasing list?
You mean a tall order, von Heiligenacht. A tough assignment. Yes. It is a tough job, but you’re the man to do it. You may be an insolent swine, but you’re the best damned research scientist in Europe.
True, agreed von Heiligenacht. There is, of course, the small matter of the moneys?
No limit, I assured him. Hire the finest minds. Go out there and buy one of every kind of toilet seat in the world. Study them. Examine them. Analyse them. I want your report within the month.
He nodded, swivelled on his heel and was gone.
Every day for the next month, I paced the galleries on the cave walls above my laboratories, looking anxiously down at the legions of scientists as they examined, dissected and sifted through truckloads of toilet seats that arrived at the Bockschloss by the hour. Specialists came. Ballistics experts. Astronomers. Cosmologists. Nuclear engineers. Theoretical sub-atomic speculationists. String theorists. Musicians. Philosophers. Stephen Hawking.
Four weeks passed and I sat again in my study, completing a small monograph on the identification of beer stains, when a sharp, Teutonic rap came at my door.
Herein! I barked and von Heiligenacht stepped inside.
Well? I demanded.
We have studied the problem, he began. We have made the great analysing of all facets, and the mock-ups we have constructed. The destructive testing and the not-so-destructive we have carried out. The guinea pigs we have poisoned just to be on the safe side and also the rattle-snakes we have injected with bad things. We the mathematical modelling have done, und the dynamic examinations have made.
Yes, yes, I interrupted. But the results, man. The answers. Have you got to the heart of the problem?
von Heiligenacht looked down at his highly-polished riding boots. Herr Direktor, he murmured, I regret to tell you that we have failed.
You mean – I started.
Ja – I mean yes. The toilet seat, we have discovered, is a very simple mechanism, and there is only one mode of operation. For it to go up, you make the UP! movement with the hand. For down it to go, you simply the DOWN! movement make, like so without mystery and none of the magic about it and it all very simple is.
So, I said. Why then? Why can’t women work out how to put the toilet seat down?
Herr Direktor, he replied wistfully, this has defeated me.