I’VE had more glamorous shopping experiences; I’d just like to state that for the record. Heading out with my husband Stanley in search of a new john wouldn’t have been high on my priority list in calmer, less compelling times.
But we had a puppy whose leavings had to be scooped up and disposed of through the sewage system, and our aged toilet had started expressing hatred of this household newcomer in the most heinous ways possible. It had to be put out of its misery, pronto.
That meant touring the bathroom fittings stores, though I, for one, had no intention of discussing the nitty-gritties of toilet function with a salesperson. There are some things you don’t talk about in polite company, and I was determined to appear completely indifferent to our own personal needs.
We are not toilet gourmets; nor are we toilet gourmands. The fixture does not have to speak to us in Japanese or play the trumpet or serve as any kind of spa in its spare time. We only need one, not seven representing each of Snow White’s disparate dwarves. We’re not sultans, either – no gold is required, or even longed for. We simply wanted a white toilet, shaped like a toilet, that works like a toilet is supposed to work.
Unfortunately, the word “toilet” is sharp, bold, ugly and inspires graphic images of an unappetizing nature. And it doesn’t sound any more appealing if you pretend you come from some Real Housewives series where they might prance around calling it a “twa-lette.”
Upon entering the premises of the final fittings store, I made a beeline for one of those mile-deep bathtubs that’s big enough to submerge a family of manatees. I caressed its cool, smooth flanks. This was what I was used to, my facial expression implied – life’s better things. But Stanley was having none of it. He booted me unceremoniously toward the commodes.
There isn’t really much to a toilet -- at least, not much that you can see. Its entire raison d’etre is whisking unpleasant things out of view. So we walked over to the toilet side of the showroom and stared at the floor models for the couple of seconds each one seemed to merit. Almost instantly, a long-haired, greying 60-year-old man in what appeared to be flamenco pants tapped over to ask if he could assist.
I didn’t want to get into any in-depth discussions -- this was not my finest hour. “We’ll just take the closest one,” I was tempted to whisper. “Wrap it in brown paper and leave it out by the dumpster -- we’ll pick it up before sunrise.”
But Stanley doesn’t like to pussyfoot around. “We need a toilet with a big … capacity,” he boomed.
I went crimson. “We have a dog,” I added hastily.
I’m sure Mr. Conquistador had already heard every reason under the sun for purchasing a potty, including “country home door-stop,” “en-suite paperweight,” and “bric-a-brac for the children’s wing.” Riiiigggghhhttt, I could see him thinking – you’re buying a toilet for the dog.
He quickly established that we weren’t looking for the equivalent of a Ferrari 250 GTO but rather a workmanlike Honda Accord, and ran through the features of several models. They all had names like “Cimarron” and “Santa Rosa” -- not “The Turd-buster 3000,” the sort of frank branding Stanley enjoys.
The last thing the names of toilets suggest is the practical purpose for which they are intended. If I were a toilet manufacturer, I’d probably name my toilets after celebrities – the Chelsea Handler (practical), the Sharon Stone (brassy), the Ashton Kutcher (approachable), with the crème de la crème being the tough, resilient Tom Cruise.
We showed no interest in chatting about skirted trap-ways, bowl shapes, or advanced flushing technologies. After all, we weren’t planning to fly this thing to Iceland. We did know we wanted to avoid the kind of toilet that makes a terrifying sucking sound after you flush, the one that, on an airplane, makes you start feeling around in alarm for your rip-cord.
And we wanted something that wasn’t too short, because we’re a leggy family. We’re not such hillbillies, however – at least, I’m not -- that we were keen to sit on a “throne” right on the showroom floor, testing it out in front of other shoppers.
“Is there a standard, er, size?” I asked, with what I hoped was a posh little cough.
“Yes,” said Mr. Conquistador, whose actual name was Larry.
“Because we would need something taller,” I noted. “Our dog is a larger breed.”
He blinked in bafflement. Good God, this wasn’t getting any easier.
“In addition to the standard size, we also have ‘Comfort Height,’” he assured me, defining the difference in terms of inches from floor to seat.
That was plenty of information, as far as I was concerned. White, tall, and working sounded perfect.
“The Cimarron. Sold!” I shouted, and dashed out to the car, leaving Stanley to complete the transaction.