Saturday, February 6, 2010


Many years ago we awoke one morning to water flooding our master bathroom. This house was built on a slab, so the plumber had to come out with a leak detector to find where the problem originated. And wouldn’t you know it, it was under the bathtub. Men came out with a jackhammer and got the tub out in pieces and set about repairing the leak. Doing a complete bathroom remodel at that time wasn’t in the budget so I told them to simply replace the tub with a similar kind. They did.

The men – big, burly men used to wrestling with heavy tubs, toilets and sinks – saved us a bunch of money, but their idea of what was “similar” and my idea weren’t even close. I ended up with a cheap bathtub in which I had to sit upright like a Quaker in a church pew, and with an overflow hole so near the bottom that I was lucky to be able to keep 3 inches of water in the tub before it all ran out through that hole.

I had no one to blame but myself. I had never given bathtubs a second thought. As far as I was concerned, a tub was a tub was a tub. So I wrote off the idea of “soaking” and repaired to the shower in the bathroom off our bedroom. When we finally, ten years or so down the road, were able to really redo the master bathroom, you can be sure I looked very, very carefully at what was available. I didn’t make any mistakes the second time.

I say all this because I wish our management company had asked for my advice when choosing to replace the toilets in all 1244 units of this apartment complex. However, all we got was a notice that new “green” toilets – high-efficiency, water saving toilets - were going to be installed shortly in an effort to decrease water usage on the property. (And of course you’ll remember that management’s first effort toward this end was to cap off all the outside water spigots so that we could not water any of our plants around the perimeter of our apartment, plants that previous management encouraged us to grow to make our barrack-like apartments attain a more pleasant image.)

Our old toilets were small and pretty close to the ground. This complex was built in 1965 and was built for families, not just seniors. So if the existing toilets were the original ones, they certainly would have accommodated short people and small children. They were only slightly higher than a potty chair. In the interim, as the complex became set aside for seniors 55 and older, bars were installed on the bathroom walls so that old people could grab onto them to help hoist themselves up off the toilet. Luckily we haven’t had to use them yet. (As you know, this complex isn’t the most wonderful in the world, but the rent is right so we just work around all the little irritations.)

Anyway, when the new toilet got installed, we were like kids who once inside a restaurant absolutely have to try out the toilets. So we did too, but we had two shocks: first, the toilet is so high we almost have to have a little stool in front of it to enable us to get onto the seat. And I will tell you that any woman (or man) under 5’6” tall is going to find her feet dangling as she sits. This toilet is more uncomfortable than my Quaker bathtub!

But the biggest problem is that it may call itself a high-efficiency water saving toilet, but it takes between three and seven flushes to clear out the bowl. And even at that, it requires using the toilet brush at least once a day. Aside from adding one more aggravation to our golden age years, it makes me wonder what draconian remedy to the increased toilet-water usage management is going to think up for us next.

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