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Stephen Branagan, who describes himself on his official representative page as an "outgoing, social, and energetic" 23-year-old from Algonquin, says he heard about the contest from his mom (who heard about it on the radio) and entered a video tape answering three questions. "My video was very creative and humorous," he assured us in a letter sent to our letters@ inbox.
Now comes the next phase of the contest: a quest for most-points status, with a December 17 deadline. Winning requires "getting as much media coverage as possible," Branagan explains, as well as the toilet seat design (done), "submitting a photograph of the best bathroom in Illinois, and trying to get as much people in Illinois to 'Like' the company's Facebook page." (Seriously: who doesn't "like" toilet paper?) The top five reps nationwide get to travel to New York City on December 27 for the final rounds of competition; the winner gets money and New Year's Eve in NYC.
"I really need to get to New York and compete in the final round because I know that I can win," Branagan says. "I want to represent Illinois to the best of my ability and advertise my pride to our amazing state." He offered to meet us and show us pictures of his toilet seat—quite an offer!—as well as his submission video. He's also accepting bathroom photos from the general public, which sounds almost like punishment for losing a dare.
The Reader's editorial staff held a special meeting to debate the newsworthiness of the man's pitch. We even briefly considered doing a special issue on Chicago's toilet seat culture with reviews of new seats encountered around the city, articles on City Hall's rumored proposal to privatize the city's toilet seats for the next 75 years, toilet seat design trends originating locally, and related issues. It seemed like a nice way to support Mr. Branagan's quest to restore pride in a state beleaguered by debt, political corruption, and wintry temps. But in the end, something about the idea didn't seem right.