Monday, April 14, 2008

COLUMN: Toilets

As I was leaving work last Friday, I bumped into Sean Leary, our entertainment editor. Sean's mere days away at this point from becoming a first-time dad, so his life has been a whirlwind of home remodeling and baby-prepping.

"How're things going?" I asked. "Did you get the place all baby-fied?"

He then spouted off a checklist of accomplished renovations. Room redesign, nursery creation, wall painting... the list went on and on while my head swam. Here was somebody of similar age and mindset to myself -- yet all grown up, mature, and doing things with his living space I couldn't dream of. He's putting up wallpaper. I, meanwhile, still get jittery when I have to change a lightbulb (Am I using too much force? Is the bulb going to shatter? Should I wear an oven mitt?)

I've got to face it. When it comes to fix-it type stuff (and, well, most things related to independent, self-sufficient survival,) I'm pretty much a flunky. Yet this week, I accomplished my most challenging feat of home improvement yet. And it started, as most good stories do, sitting on the toilet.

There I was, deeply engrossed in some pretentious music magazine's list of The World's Greatest Albums Ever. What? How could they ignore the genius of The Kinks' 1970's output? Any music critic with half a clue would tell you that -- KA-BAM!!!!

-- And I was falling to the floor.

My natural instinct was to assume that I had been shot. Obviously, a pack of toilet-raiding banditos had broken into my apartment, crept into my bathroom with ninja-like stealth and precision, and offed me at point-blank range. And that's where they'd find me, pants around my ankles, just like Elvis. LIFE OF COLUMNIST TRAGICALLY FLUSHED AWAY BY BATHROOM NINJAS, the headline would read.

But I wasn't shot. Not even grazed. In fact, the only thing wounded was my pride. So what the heck happened? That noise -- the ear-splitting, heart-stopping bang -- was the sound of my toilet seat snapping in two. Half was still attached to the toilet, the other half on the floor with me.

This would normally be a clear-cut sign that it's time to lose some weight -- or, at the very least, introduce fiber to my diet. In fact, it would have officially Freaked Me Out, had I not known it was coming. See, during my last home improvement kick - Installing A New Shower Head - I tried a fancy manoevre involving standing on the toilet seat for leverage. Leverage I did NOT attain, but cracking the toilet seat I DID manage to pull off flawlessly.

That was four years ago. In the epic battle of Laziness vs. Toilet Repair, lazy won out. I had learned to live with that crack through the good times and bad. You know how annoying it was when your grandmother would come up and pinch your cheeks? Well, it's kinda like that -- if grandma was a toilet seat and she was pinching an altogether different set of cheeks.

Still, I made do, and just assumed that one day, it'd break. And that day, it broke. I needed a replacement post-haste. But where does one turn for toilet seats? I'm a total novice here. Is there a Toilet Seat Emporium someplace? A catalog I could peruse? Shockingly, the Yellow Pages had no section for Toilet Seats.

Ergo, I went to one of those 24-hour-Super-Mega-Conglom-O-Marts. "Welcome," said the greeter, "can we help you find anything today?"

"Sure can," I replied with a chuckle. "You won't believe it, but I sat on my toilet seat today and broke the thing in two!" In the world of Too Much Information, this was perhaps a record-setting statement. Despite looking at me as though I were there to lure small children into my unmarked van, she dutifully pointed me to the toilet seat aisle.

And I mean aisle. I was expecting toilet seats, but I certainly wasn't expecting a wall of them. Blue ones, pink ones, ones with little palm trees and ocean vistas so that every trip to the potty is like a tropical get-away. Happily, though, I was able to whittle away the selection right away. Why? One word -- "cushioned."

In my day-to-day activities, I am a fairly well-cushioned individual. I lead a padded life, from my poofy desk chair to my overstuffed sectional, from my padded pillows to the padded cell they'll probably lock me in one day. I'm a guy who appreciates cushions. That said, one place where cushions NEVER belong is the bathroom.

I never want to sit on a toilet and hear "koooooooooooosh" as the seat deflates. And let's not even dwell upon the awkward issue of trying to stand up while the vinyl seat is adhered to one's nether-region, as if the toilet itself were clinging to its only companion for dear life. Fact: Padded potties are just gross.

Finally I found a sturdy, no-nonsense, run-of-the-mill replacement seat. And I brought it home and installed that sucker all by myself (though the deceptive pop-top screws almost threw me for a loop.) Yes, my hands had to touch parts of my plumbing that could be legally classified a level 3 biohazard, but I got the job done. I am a Mr. Fix-It after all.

So good news, ladies of the Quad Cities. I'm apparantly mature and stuff, which means (at least according to my grandchild-pleading mother) that it's time to procreate. Step lively, the line forms to the left.

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