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As cold as the North Pole? As cold as an auditor's heart on Feb. 29? As cold the hand of an ice cream vendor who fell asleep with his scooping arm in the Heavenly Hash?

As cold as cold can be?

Just how cold does your backside need to feel in order for you to – quite literally – slow cook it over months on your car's seat warmer?

This question consumed me last week after it was announced that drivers were suffering from "toasted skin syndrome" caused by over-use or improper use (or perhaps, over-improper use) of their vehicles' bottom warmers. Reuters reported that "two reports in the Archives of Dermatology describe cases of the rash apparently caused by pressing the back of the legs to warmed-up seats for prolonged periods."

In other words: burned butt, roasted rump, singed seat, cooked caboose, heated hienie, kettle-baked keyster, caused by that miracle of driving technology, the heated seat.

This wasn't a case of spontaneous combustion. The burn didn't creep up on these drivers. It was tantric toasting applied over months of winter driving.

In one case, a 67-year-old woman made 130 45-minute trips and 10 two-hour trips, all, apparently, with the bottom warmer blasting. The result? Her dermatologist, Dr. Brian Adams at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, found "rusty brown reticulated patches" that matched up with where her legs and posterior rested on her car seat. She'd been, more or less, branded by her seat warmer.

The clinical name for "toasted skin syndrome" is erythema ab igne. It sounds serious. It's not. It's not a burn, it's a discoloration. It is ugly and can mimic other more serious dermatological problems, but the worst that might happen is you have ugly skin at the beach.

Can Erythema Ab Igne be beaten? Adams told Reuters that the best thing drivers can do is "avoid prolonged, tight juxtapositioning of their lower legs on the hottest setting of the heated seats. Turn down the setting."

In other words, stop cranking your butt warmers up to the max every time you drive to the corner store.

The revelation that machines designed to serve (by gently warming our butts on cold February mornings) had turned against their human overlords and slowly seared their thatched Corinthian leather markings into their master's buttocks tipped off big issues.

Is there no device that drivers cannot misuse to harm themselves?

Mobile devices are obvious culprits. But you can see how they can easily be dangerous. They distract drivers – but a seat warmer? Its sole purpose is to "warm" (not boil) your rear end – the only part of the anatomy that is virtually immobile during the operation of an automobile. I mean, when you drive, your hands and legs are going, your eyes are scanning the road, ears open to alarm, but your butt just sits there.

And are our seats in that desperate need of warming? Are we drivers in danger of suffering from frost bite if we just tough it out and let our butts warm up at the same rate as the car's interior? Are butt warmers Canadian? Did the coureur des bois have seat warmers in their canoes? Were there butt warmers on the landing craft at D-Day?

Yet there may be some hope in the fight against butt-related erythema ab igne. I'm not a quitter. If drivers are determined to bring their backsides into the equation maybe there is a way to channel this predilection for good.

Distracted driving is a problem. Drivers like to have their butts warmed while they drive.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

That's right: Apple, RIM and all the other technology manufacturers should create a mobile device that is also a butt warmer. This could eliminate distracted driving and eradicate toasted skin syndrome once and for all. I am not sure of the exact specs for the new TushPhone (my working title) but it would function something like this:

  • Upon entry of his vehicle the driver rectally inserts the TushPhone.
  • The TushPhone heats the backside from the interior, thereby eliminating the chance of toasted skin syndrome.
  • With his eyes and hands free to operate the vehicle free from distraction, the driver uses his sphincter and colon muscles to make calls, surf the web or send a Tweet. It’s mobile computing at its best.

Properly applied, the TushPhone has the potential to save lives and spare seats. It presently only exists in my fertile imagination but I urge you to write your service providers and ask them to fast-track the TushPhone prototype.

It's time to stick mobile devices where they can do no harm – up our backsides. Why not? Most drivers already have their heads up there anyway.

Follow Andrew Clark on Twitter: @aclarkcomedy

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