I know a plumber in South Nashville who’s hoarding contraband commodes. He’s got a load of ’em in his backyard shed, and he’s got a bad-ass rottweiler chained to the door to make sure nobody steals ’em. “I’ve got another 30 bought and paid for,” he told me proudly, “and me and my buddy are gonna rent an 18-wheeler and go up to Canada and get some more.” He tells me he can sell all he can get his hands on, and he can name his price.
What is it that makes these commodes so special? They’re just regular, ordinary American Standard units, new in the box. But what makes ’em contraband is that every time one gets flushed, it uses two more gallons than the government thinks it ought to use.
Now, you may be thinking, What is Jowers talking about? This is America. People have spilled blood on foreign shores so we can have any dang commode we want. There can’t be any such thing as a contraband commode, can there?
Well, yep. Our lawmakers have ordained that whenever and wherever a new commode gets installed, it must use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush.
Now, I’m all for saving water. But not bathroom water, and especially not commode water.
I don’t know about y’all, but when I pull the handle, I want to have high confidence that whatever’s in the commode is going to get off my land, for good. I don’t want to have to think about things lingering in the inner workings of the bowl or stalling in a drainpipe. If the price of that peace of mind is a 55-gallon drumful of water for each and every flush, then I’m willing to pay it. And if that means putting bigger pipes underground and building a 40-acre waste treatment plant, I’m willing to contribute my share.
Truth be told, 1.6 lousy gallons of water just won’t do the job sometimes. That means using a plunger, an experience that’s roughly on a par with stepping on a rusty nail. After a couple of plunging sessions, a whole lot of people start flushing their stingy water-saving commodes twice per session, thus violating the spirit, if not the letter, of the law.
I’ve had a rich and varied commode experience, including the long-term use of some classic water-wasting units. I must admit, the new commodes have one great feature. Barring extraordinary circumstances, they won’t overflow. Believe me when I tell you: Using a plunger is a miserable experience, but mopping up after a big overflow is a life-changing experience, the raw material of recurring nightmares.
Back in the golden age of commodes, the tanks held up to 10 gallons of water. When you pulled the handle, you got your money’s worth. But sometimessometimeseven the mighty 10-gallon flush wouldn’t do the job, and the result was a hellish fountain right before your eyes and a cleanup job that you couldn’t hire somebody to do for a million dollars.
A couple of years ago, I saw the ultimate commode overflow. Able associate Rick and I were inspecting a new house in an upscale development in Franklin. The builders had just finished up, and the cleanup crew was hard at work. Rick filled and tested the upstairs whirlpool tub, just like he’s supposed to do, then he pulled the plug.
Next thing we know, we hear the real estate lady squealing like Ned Beatty in Deliverance. We ran downstairs, and in the little half-bath off the kitchen, the commode was giving back the 80 gallons of water from the whirlpool tub, along with insulation, cigarette butts, and worse. It turned out that the cleanup gang had been flushing trash down the commode all day, and the resulting clog was enough to throw back the big slug of water from the whirlpool tub.
And wouldn’t you know, the water formed an inch-deep sheet over the oak floors in the kitchen and dining room before it dribbled into the crawl space.
Which brings us around to this: There’s something funny going on when you have to make a back-alley deal to get a 3.5-gallon-flush commode, but you can have any number of tubs that will hold enough water to float a battleship.
Y’all figure it out. It makes me all swimmy-headed.
Visit Walter Jowers’ Web site at http://www.nashscene.com/~housesense.