Rural Life in the UP of Michigan Some stories about life on 160 rural acres in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

August 24, 2011

Water Closet

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 3:21 pm

Disclaimer: This disclaimer is being written before the story was written, so what is being disclaimed may not in fact actually materialize in the story. You’ve been warned. Also, there could be words and phrases that talk about rooms in the house, and appliances in those rooms that are involved with human bodily functions. If you are potentially offended by such things, you should be prepared to avert your eyes as you read along.

When we first moved into this house, there was no plumbing or electricity, and we had very little money to spend. We were fortunate to have access to Alice’s Dad, who knew lots of people in the community, and helped us get some things we needed for little or no money. One such item was the bathroom toilet, which came from a friend of his, who took it out of a rental home he owned, because, as the story goes, it didn’t flush very well. We’ve had this toilet for over 30 years, and we can confirm that it doesn’t flush very well. My guess is we kept the toilet all these years because we thought if we would just be nice to it, it would eventually start flushing better. We gave it everything a toilet could ask for, but did not see any improvement.

If you live in the country as we do, you’ll understand there are always 10 projects looming for every one that there is any time for. Somehow over the decades, we just didn’t allow the anemic toilet to bubble to the top. That all changed last week when we had some company, and our guest asked us, after a fairly long visit to the bathroom, if there was some trick to get our toilet to flush. The crucial event happened after his comment. I penciled the word “toilet” onto my shopping list.

Now, once each week, usually on Monday mornings, I head to town and do the week’s errands. I am an errand running machine on these days. If it is on the list, I *will* give it some attention. I visited the local plumbing supply store, walked up to the desk, and engaged the clerk’s attention. I immediately realized I was about to have a discussion of a highly personal nature¬†with this total stranger, and that I hadn’t prepared myself for it mentally.

“Hello, I’m interested in a new toilet,” I said. The guy kind of just looked at me. I was standing in a showroom that had probably 6 different toilets on display. I think he kind of expected me to ask about toilets, and that he needed more information before we could proceed.

“We need a toilet that flushes really well,” I said. He brightened up at this statement, because now he had something to go on. He suggested I divert my attention to the computer monitor in his desk, and he showed me this video. The toilet he liked the best for its flushability is the Gerber Viper. He said they’d installed hundreds of them in the community, and they’ve never had a complaint. I had to admit that whatever we might have to flush down that toilet would be child’s play compared to the bowl of fruit salad the video showed the Viper gobbling down. So I plunked down the money and loaded two substantial cardboard boxes onto the back of my truck.

Buying a toilet is the easiest part of the process. In order to get the old one out, I had to grind the boltheads off with my angle grinder. I did this with the full knowledge that once this process started, there was no turning back. A house without a functional toilet is not a home. After several minutes of grinding, wrenching, and lifting, I had the old toilet in my arms, and was proceeding to carry it downstairs and outside. It being impossible to get every drop of water out of the trap, I sloshed some dodgy looking water on the floor as I lumbered out of the house with it. I was grateful Alice was at work and not here to observe and offer helpful suggestions like, “YOU SPILLED SOME TOILET WATER ON MY FLOOR!”

Once the old one was out, I began to assemble the new one. I can tell you that in the 3 or 4 decades that have elapsed since our old toilet was produced, the technology has evolved. The Viper went together smoothly and I was soon at the point where I needed to install a layer of plumber’s putty to the bottom rim of the appliance. This seals the unit to the floor and helps avoid damaging condensation. I had some old putty in the garage, rolled out several putty snakes in my hands, applied them all around the bottom, stuck the wax seal onto the bottom, lifted, and walked toward the awaiting erect floor bolts.

Toilets are heavy and awkward, but I am a strong and determined guy. I got within a foot of setting the toilet down on its bolts when the putty fell off. I set the toilet back down, rolled some thicker snakes of putty between my palms, applied them with firmer handstrokes, and came up about 3″ short of making it around the bottom. I called my neighbors and learned no one had any to loan me. (Bear in mind the clock is ticking, and if the new toilet isn’t working when Alice arrives home from work, we may need to get a hotel room.) I rerolled the putty slightly thinner such that it made it around the bottom, spit on my palms, picked the thing up again, and it slid onto its bolts like the champion toilet that it is.

Once the toilet was bolted down to the floor, all that remained was to attach the water. I had neglected to purchase a replacement flexible pipe from the plumbing supply store, and the one I had would not reach. Tick tick tick went the clock.

Franco and I jumped into the truck and made a second trip to town in order to purchase the necessary part. I actually bought two of them in case the first one was too short. It slid into place perfectly, was tightened down in seconds. When I turned on the valve, the sweet hissing sound of water filling the bowl filled the bathroom. No leaks materialized. I punched the lever and the water whooshed out of the bowl like an active reptile. “So that’s where the name ‘Viper’ comes from,” I thought to myself.

I began the cleanup and had things pretty well back to normal about 10 minutes before Alice was due home. I’d told her I planned to shop for a new toilet, but hadn’t let her in on the fact I’d brought one home and would be installing it. I figured it would be best to let it be a surprise, and surprised she was.

Instead of wondering how many 5 gallon flushes will be required to carry away today’s load, we smile the smile of the world’s smug Viper owners when we push down the handle and stand back. WHOOSH! Smile.

1 Comment »

  1. […] one other time have I delved into bodily functions to the degree I’m about to in this post. As before, I want to warn the squeamish among you that the word “urinate” may pop up in […]

    Pingback by Country Living in the UP of Michigan » Blog Archive » Travelling Pee — January 13, 2012 @ 1:15 pm

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