Friday, January 1, 2010

Bathroom commode replacement turns existential

George Waters column for Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014:

Like most things which start out as a nagging idea in the back of your mind, it has ended up as a royal mess in the front. Regular readers may remember I have an old house. We're talking Vin Scully old, but without the charm. Evidence suggests it was built by a guy who knew his way around a scrap yard.

Not to be too graphic, but our spare bathroom's commode has had horrible hard water deposit buildup for years, beyond any cleaner's capacity to remove, so I got the idea last week to surprise the wife and yank the sucker out of there and replace it with a shiny new one. (The aforementioned nagging idea.)

Bought the new one. Yanked the old one. Plopped it on the driveway. (You know, to provide local color.) It was then I was visited by a second nagging idea: in recent years, when one sat on the commode, one tended to list a little to the west. The floor was, much like my physical self-image, fundamentally unsound.

So I also yanked up the linoleum, revealing the rotted floorboards, which I yanked up, revealing the rotted subfloor boards. Water damage in some previous decade had resulted in weakened wood, which termites then decided to remove orally.

Visions of my wife sitting down on the facilities in the middle of the night, only to plummet to the core of the earth, flashed in my mind. Dodged a bullet there.

A reputable online fix-it Web site suggests that at this point the smart thing to do is stop and consult a professional. But that is for men who are wusses and who have money.

I went around to the side of the house and removed the varmint-repelling screen from the under-house access hole. Like the house, the hole in the house was made at a time when men were the size of modern prepubescent girls. I looked at the hole and tried to imagine not being claustrophobic and failed.

So I stuck just my hand in the hole, aimed up, and took pictures. Yup, the pictures confirmed, that is one freaky spidery under-house region.

I went back inside, got on my hands and knees and peeked down through the floor holes and confirmed the same from that angle. Then I had the thought that, probably, every man has when faced with adversity: We can probably do O.K. with one bathroom.