It began as a tiny area of condensation, but soon grew into a trickle of water which eventually created a puddle on the bathroom floor. I could see the hairline crack in the porcelain. It became too steady of a stream to ignore around the time I started hauling in sandbags. Yes, it was time to replace my toilet.
Toilets are a subject that few writers have glorified. I cannot recall a single famous line from either a Faulkner novel or a Shakespeare play where there is any mention of this object. Not once does Juliet complain about Romeo leaving the seat up, but we know that in the natural process of things it must have occurred. Perhaps Shakespeare’s editor just didn’t feel the audience needed to know about the personal hygiene of this star-crossed couple.
I’m no Faulkner or Shakespeare so I can write about toilets if I want to write about them.
With my porcelain fixture crumbling before my very eyes, I had to begin the process of replacing it. I called around to compare prices. Shouldn’t I at least compare prices? I would compare prices if I were in the market for a dishwasher or a swing set or a car.
Perhaps we imagine our toilet shopping will involve a salesman not unlike the stereotypical used car salesman in a loud checkered sports coat, chewing on a cigar as those multi-colored triangular flags flutter above a lot filled with not cars, but toilets.
“Hey, buddy, you in the market for a fine piece of porcelain?” he’d ask around the cigar. “I’ve got just what you need. Over here we’ve got an imported number with sleek lines and a seat covered in rich Corinthian leather. Or maybe you’re lookin’ for a nice domestic model with simpler lines. If you’re in the market for an antique, I’ve got a fine little number over here—lots of room with a moon cut in the door and everything.”
I pushed this scenario out of my head and pursued my porcelain purchase by visiting a few showrooms in the area.
Funny how those mock bathrooms are set up in an area closer to the size of my backyard than my bathroom. And they always have them accented with beautiful rugs, bathing accessories from Victoria’s Secret, and draperies. Draperies? You know you have acquired great success when you have draperies in your bathroom.
Why don’t they make these displays a little more realistic so we can actually get an idea of how the toilet is going to look in our own bathroom? The showroom bathrooms should be one-sixth the size and the draperies should be replaced with a roll up shade that hangs slightly askew and is difficult to adjust. Add a few mint green streaks down the sink basin to represent dried Crest toothpaste where the kids lacked the proper spitting force. Hang a few wet towels over the shower rod—they don’t have to match either. (You have to save the matching towels for when the in-laws come for a visit.) Throw a few miniature rubber porpoises, tropical animals and a dinosaur or two in the tub and a couple Barbies on the floor. And add any other toy which might be pleasant to step on at 5:45 AM in the morning with a bare, sleepy foot.
Put a small basket of seashells on the back of the toilet or, better still, one of those crocheted lavender poodles that cover the spare roll of toilet paper—you know, the one your Aunt Viv made for all her nieces and their husbands a couple of Christmases ago. Add a few magazines by the toilet, a copy of Life’s Little Instruction Book, an off-white plastic container that holds the toilet brush, and a plunger concealed by the base of the toilet which is rarely used but just hasn’t found it’s way back to the garage after you commissioned it a couple years ago when Little Suzie flushed your electric razor.
Throw in a bath mat shaped like a foot, a kitty litter box under the sink, and a medicine cabinet whose contents spill from their shelves and into the lavatory each time you open the squeaky mirrored door. A few of those 1967 rubber daisies that stick to the bottom of your shower to prevent slippage is a must. And what bathroom would be complete without a dozen containers of shampoo and conditioner that, though close to empty, remain due to our uncanny talent to squeeze just one more hair cleaning out of each bottle.
As I stood in the showroom pondering how one would protect drapes from mildew in an Olympic sized bathroom, a charming older lady with big hair and impeccable style came over to me and asked: “Can I help you?”
I said: “Well, uh, yes, I’m well; uh . . . I need a toilet. I mean I need to buy one.”
I must admit, I was a bit flushed.
“And what are you looking for in a toilet?”
I realized I hadn’t really thought about it. It should be durable, right? Comfortable, I guess. Aesthetically pleasing. Yes, definitely aesthetically pleasing. It needs to be attractive, but not so attractive that it distracts from the aesthetically pleasing attractiveness of the entire bathroom. Yes, it will need to blend. Blend, yet make a statement? But what statement? Perhaps my significance in this brilliant, yet often maddening, universal plan?
With all these thoughts swirling in my head, I turned to her and said: “I need to buy a toilet—a plain white toilet.”
I quickly made my purchase and left the showroom with my new porcelain product. After I finished installing my new toilet, I suddenly contemplated one of life’s great mysteries: Why do we spend so little time choosing an object that will touch our lives several times each day, yet we take hours searching for the perfect Christmas tree that will stand in our living room for less than three weeks before it becomes fuel for a back yard bonfire?
Let that one swirl around in your head for a while.
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