She’s gone. She’s been in place for 50 years. A faithful servant. Not that there haven’t been problems. The last 10 years she’s struggled with the problems of age. She’s had her innards reamed out. She’s undergone multiple open lid surgeries. Old hardware has been removed and replaced with new, but eventually no one was making replacement parts anymore. She overflowed a lot, but I nursed her through each episode. She got clogged. We had her reamed out as often as needed. Through all this she served on, uncomplaining, as best she could. But it was obvious that the end was near. She was irreplaceable. Her capacity exceeded that permitted by the government. She was grandfathered in, but once gone a pygmy would attempt to sit in for her.
Finally the day came when her therapist said that even palliative care was useless. She had to go. I had her put down on a Friday morning when I had a dental appointment. I had fabricated a tooth ache to be out of the house when she was removed from her station of half a century and sent to the junkyard. My faithful commode was no more. Gone was her 5 gallon reservoir, and her flush that could sweep away the droppings of a dinosaur, no problem with anything human. In her prime she could swallow books and boxes, cartons and crates. She was sanitary saint, a hygienic hero.
What replaced her? Nothing. She is irreplaceable. But something had to do her job. The federal government had moved into the toilet business long before my queen of commodes had expired. The first government approved proxy was a thin porcelain shell that could not bear the weight of an anorexic 15 year old ballerina. When confronted with a man it sheared from the wall taking with it not only my inflow pipes but those of my neighbors north and south. A local water emergency was declared and not lifted until the county water inspector, the state sanitation commissioner, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Environmental Protection Agency agreed on a second unit that was up to code. What code was never explained to me, but I have faith that it, like divine providence, exists in some privileged bureaucratic niche.
This quadratically blessed apparatus appeared to have been filched from the steerage lavatory of a superannuated steamer beached on an Indian coast for salvage. Alternatively, it may have come from a DC3 bleaching in the desert sun in the American Southwest. It too was a dwarf, but a strong dwarf. It did not cleave from the wall when used. What it did do was take in half the air from the house when its leaver was pressed. So powerful was its intake that oxygen was required when using it. The small amount of water that accompanied its sucking action was so small that the machine had to be used 5 or 6 times in succession to achieve a satisfactory elimination of waste.
The noise that resulted from these blasts of air that moved from inside my house to the exhaust pipes connecting to the county’s sewerage system rattled the windows and shook the roof. After several days use of this devil’s device singles started to fall around the house and cracks appeared in several windows and in all the mirrors. The EPA returned and cited me for noise pollution. The county decreed that I must be using an industrial strength device and thus was liable for a business tax of $8,000 and a fine of $5,000 for a zoning violation. The state said I was liable for not paying unemployment taxes on my worker. I told them I had no workers, but they declared my wife and me to be workers and we had to pay. The IRS wanted social security and Medicare contributions on our workers.
I agreed to replace the commode after paying everyone what they asked. But this time the four agencies couldn’t agree on a replacement. Unable to be continent for four months I had to rent a commode. Unfortunately the only way to rent a commode is to rent a room that has a commode in it. The Holiday Inn has very nice commodes that don’t make much noise and which get the job done with only four or five flushes. I conditioned myself to using the commode only four times a day. Luckily the nearest Holiday Inn is only a five minute drive from my house. Getting up in the middle of the night is a chore, but I bucked up (actually sucked up) and gritted my teeth until my 7 AM alarm went off and then raced to the Holiday Inn.
After the four months mentioned above I got a letter from OSHA (I don’t know who they are) telling me that I had to have one commode for every two workers – that would be me and my spouse. Faced with dueling agencies I decided to go with the flow, so to speak, and buy a new commode. I found one with two government seals of approval. I had it installed.
It’s not like my prelapsarian commode, Old Faithful, but it eventually gets the job done. I don’t need oxygen when I flush, and my windows and mirrors are safe. To be sure, each flush injects about as much water as a midget water pistol, but it reloads in less than 30 seconds. Thus about five or six minutes of flushing suffices. The downside is that if you spit twice into it gets stopped up. I’ve solved this problem with three plungers. Each one dispatches a different sized load. So flush and plunge then repeat as needed is now reflexive.
All’s well that ends well. Maybe later I’ll tell you about my new government approved shower head.