Flushed with pride

Whoosh. I am Toilet Man.
    You can laugh at me if you like, but I am flushed with pride. I just completed a ground-up installation of a porcelain princess. Sure, like all men, Iíve done my share of flapper and float-fixing, but this was the first time with the whole ball of wax. Well, wax ring actually, which is a contraption that seals the bowl around the sewer line.
    Congress made me do it. We moved into a new house recently and all its potties are of the water-saving variety. Our representatives in Washington, apparently with nothing more pressing to do, passed a law a few years back requiring that all new toilets use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush.
    To put it delicately, that just doesnít get it done.
    There arenít many options, either. The old-style gushers canít be offered for sale anymore in the United States. Some desperate people smuggle them in from Canada. Others, having worn out their plungers, search junkyards and salvage dealers looking for old toilets. Style and color donít matter to these poor souls Ė they just want to push the handle and get results.
    Thank goodness for American know-how. My pal Shafer told me about these new Power Flush models. Incurable romantic that he is, he bought one for his wife on her birthday.
    Basically, the way they work is that there is a sealed plastic chamber inside the tank. When it fills with water, air pressure builds up. So when you hit the lever, voila. Whoosh you were here.
    There are some drawbacks to this baby. If (when) it breaks, itís not like you can trot over to the hardware store and pick up a $1.29 part with which to fix it.
    And my wife says it sounds like Niagara Falls. I say thatís a small price to pay. Besides, once I get up in the morning, I donít like anyone else to be sleeping.
    A few words about the flush toilet: Contrary to popular belief, it was not invented by Thomas Crapper. That distinction belongs to Sir John Harrington, who erected one, appropriately, near Bath, England around 1600. The first patent went to fellow Englishman Alexander Cummings in 1775.
    Crapper did patent several improvements, including a system to vent sewer gases through the roof. Early toilet-makers hadnít figured on sewer gas being explosive, and this proved quite a hazard to people who ignored the "Thank you for not smoking" signs in the bathroom.
    Some of Leonardo DaVinciís architectural plans show flush toilets. DaVinci also sketched airplanes, but it had to be someone much more sinister Ė and with much less genius Ė who designed airplane toilets.
    While I was out shopping for plumbing fixtures, I went to one store where they had showerheads selling for over $1000. Unless these things turn water into wine, it just shows some people have too much money.
    Showerheads. Bah! Toilets deserve the lionís share of the household plumbing budget. You can go a week without a shower Ė the French are living proof of this. Heck, you can go a week without any appliance or fixture in your house. Except one.
    If you are stuck with one of the water-saving toilets, write your Congressman. Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich), has led a fight in the last couple of years to end the mandate, but as is always the case in Washington, repeal is much harder to bring about than passage.
    If your toilets are more than six years old, be grateful.
    I donít usually thank readers for sitting through a column, but today I am doing just that. Feel free to post this piece in your favorite reading room. And join me in celebrating the best invention ever.  Even better than the remote control.
    Iím off to go see a man about a horse.


July 23, 2000
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