I don’t know what it is about me and toilets.
It isn’t my fault, really! I don’t flush horrible things down them (well, other than the usual), and half the time I’m not even in the room when they malfunction. But somehow they know, with some sixth sense, that I am nearby and that it is therefore time to do Dire Things.
One of my earliest childhood memories is the discussion between my mother, my father, my uncle, and my aunt about whether or not to take our toilet, which was attached to my uncle at the time, to the emergency room. My cousin had flushed a hairbrush down the toilet (I may or may not have been involved in this incident), and it had gotten lodged far inside, effectively rendering the toilet useless for its intended purpose. Uncle Larry offered to retrieve the hairbrush, but somehow managed to get his hand wedged so far into it that he was pinned to the bathroom floor, head resting on the seat and arm swallowed up in the bowels of the toilet. (Sorry. Do you have ANY idea how hard it is to write this much about toilets without making any poo-related puns?)
After weighing the options, he decided that it was worth whatever damage was incurred to his arm, just to avoid the spectacle of walking into the St. Peter Hospital ER wearing a toilet. Uncle Larry and the hairbrush escaped relatively unscathed, but I now believe that invisible waves of toilet-breaking must have traveled through the bathroom walls and decided to make themselves at home with me.
I don’t even think about it any more – any toilet that is in my proximity on any regular basis has Issues. Guest bathroom? Hold the handle down or it gets confused. Main bathroom? Spontaneously decides once a day or so that it won’t refill unless I take the lid off the tank and give it a personal poke in the plumbing. Kids’ bathroom? Jiggle the handle or it runs forever, emitting a high-pitched yelp every 10 seconds that sounds for all the world like a child calling, “Mom?” Yesterday I was in my office, typing and getting increasingly more exasperated at whichever of my children was sitting on their butt in another room saying “Mom? Mom? Mom?” I hollered back “WHAAAAT?” and my bemused daughter said, “Um, nothing?” before I finally realized it was just the unjiggled toilet calling my name.
Work toilets don’t escape my magical influence. There’s another handle-jiggler at one of the universities I work for, and the other university had a toilet with a plumbing error that resulted in hot water in the toilet bowl. This doesn’t seem like that big of a deal until you sit on it. “Something … is odd here …” A toilet that radiates heat onto your bare and unsuspecting backside is Just Not Right.
Since this would just be too gross, I won’t even mention the incident in which my son put a tiny bit too much toilet paper into the upstairs toilet, resulting in a vast stinky tidal wave of water that eventually granted me quality time with my insurance agent, my hallway carpet, my subfloor, and the nice folks who replaced the bathroom floor and a good bit of the kitchen ceiling. (Yes, you read that right.)
I’ll also spare you the story of the toilet that went so dramatically awry just before my sister’s wedding that the date of one of the bridesmaids actually volunteered to miss the ceremony and deal with it, rather than risk the grim spectacle of an exploding toilet in a library full of rare theological texts. Forget the Toilet From the Black Lagoon, this toilet was the Black Lagoon.
There’s one more toilet in my house. It’s in the basement. It has never done anything bad. Call me paranoid, but I think it’s just biding its time, waiting for me to get comfortable and complacent with my daily routine of handle-jiggling and float-ball-prodding before it makes its final dastardly move. I fully expect that one of these days, my neighbors will wake up one morning to see my house entirely gone, nothing left on the property but a flat expanse of bare earth, a smug-looking toilet, and a terrified oak tree.