[Opinion] - The BRIAN BLESSED Of House Fixtures



If any of you are long time readers, or cursory readers, or happened to have have found your way here  across successive weeks, you'll recognise that there is something of a schedule to updates. Movie reviews on Mondays, TV reviews throughout the week, and what I laughingly call "original content" on Fridays. These usually consist of lists, because if the great and awesome power of the internet can and is utilised for anything in great volume, it's pornography. Followed swiftly by lists. Lists are everywhere, and on everything, and carry with them with all the authority of someone who is able to check Wikipedia.

My original intention with this site was to force myself to write, to produce product on a regular basis. And while “product” is about the loosest applicable term you can give to my lists, there are only so many time that I can claim that West Wing and Farscape excelled in a particular trope before even I loose interest. So, in an attempt to both challenge myself as a writer, and to interest you as a reader, lists will hence forth be fewer and farther between. And in their place, I will attempt to provide true "original content." Short essays, possibly even (if only unintentionally) funny, on a variety of topics which might include modern popular culture, and might be about how the guy I sat next to on the bus smelt of cheese and feet. The quality and success of these will depend entirely on me, and whether or not I'm willing to put actual effort into the content of this site.

For the first in this series fuelled by a renewed sense of purpose, I choose to tackle a topic of shared experience, a subject of great social importance, and one that action is long overdue to tackle: the loudness of the flush of a toilet.

If you were asked what you believed to be the most important piece of technology which we have access to today, yet take completely for granted, what would you say? Computers? Refrigerators? Processed cheese? No, to that I would say the toilet. Forget sliced bread, the invention and embracing of the toilet is the single greatest achievement of modern society, and the only bench mark by which civilisation can truly be judged (if NASA wants to find traces of life on Mars, design a robot to detect minute traces of toilet paper). Don't believe me, just look at how quickly the humanity leeches out of people at an out door rock concert when there aren't enough Port-a-Johns. You could have nothing but a crowd of accountants and nuns, but limit the access to facilities, and they'll be recreating the Lord of the Flies in no time.

So how is it, that we live in a time when I can shout terrible things to a child living at the bottom of the Marina Trench through my television while virtually recreating Sonny's assassination scene from the Godfather, in real time, but we still haven't mastered the ability to make a toilet that doesn't flush at a volume equivalent to a rhinoceros falling into an orchestra pit? In fact, toilet technology hasn't progressed much in the past century. Like the automobile, we seemed to reach a stage in development where the product functioned at the barest minimum, and the researchers simply said, “screw it, I'm going to lunch.”

There have been various aesthetic changes over the years: toilets with smaller tanks, the so called “low flow toilet,” whose basic function is to appear in all respects to be a toilet with none of the functionality; the chemical toilet, whose function seemed to be to smell as differently but just as terribly before use as after; the compost toilet, which I believe to have been a practically joke developed by suddenly fashionable hippie types to see if they could get rich people to pee on tree bark; and those Japanese toilets that talk to you in disturbingly happy tones.

Listen, if appliances are going to start speaking to me, in some twisted take on the Brave Little Toaster, those voices should at least mirror the sort of voice a human would use if they were doing the exactly same job. A toilet should therefore fall somewhere in between Marvin the Android and Steven Wright: resigned acceptance. At least then, I wouldn't suspect my toilet of lying to me. Or being overly nice for nefarious purposes. It does no ones mental health any good to start suspecting their toilet of plotting against them.

Talking toilets aside, the basic form and function of the toilet has remained unaltered, and if it uses water, it will flush. And despite the decades long attempt by the publishers of Everybody Poops, going to the bathroom is still a socially embarrassing event, one we have seen fit to attempt to disguise in the most obvious euphemisms, like “powder your nose,” “see a man about a horse/dog/powdered nose,” and “drop the kids off at the powdered nose.” These fool no one, yet we continue to use them, because it's more polite then saying “this morning I ate a 18 oz steak and a half gallon of yogurt, and my sphincter is about to pop.” (Sphincter is, by the way, one of the Inherently Funny Words, and any successful use in regular conversation is worth 7 points, which will be mailed to you at the end of the month). Happily for social grace, in public settings, the toilets are far removed from the public areas, often hidden from view behind partitions and winding halls, thus presenting the others the ability to drift sweetly into a day dream, wherein after you leave the table you are magicked off to Narinia and help anthropomorphic ferrets retake their stolen kingdom, rather then stand in a small room and touch your Netherlands.

In private quarters, this is not the case, which makes your activities all the more difficult to ignore. How many times at a fancy dinner party have you chosen to sit and squirm and risk bladder rupture rather then go to the bathroom and risk the conversations coming into a lull just when you hit the flusher, setting off a vacuum-generated noise roughly on equal with a detonating Bikini Islands H-Bomb. And knowing that, at that moment, despite the fact that everyone has heard this explosive punctuation mark to your recent activities, they are all pretending not to, which won't make the knowing glances you receive as you return to the table any less penetrating.

Worse yet is the middle of the night flush. That awkward moment when, while being a house guest, the half a case of beer you drank earlier decides that 3:41 am is the opportune moment to demand release. It has been scientifically proven [citation needed] that darkness, like water, actually carries and increases the volume of any sound, and that there is only so much that can be done to disguise your late night sojourn. The soft tiptoeing to the washroom turns into an attempt to cross the Korean DMZ, with every loose floorboard and errant twitching cat tail blessed with the sensitivity of a hair trigger, and the proportional sound generating ability of a Who concert.

Finally, you reach the door, turning a door knob that has been recently filled with rusty nails and opening the door on a hinge attempting to prefect its “cat in heat” impersonation. When it comes time for the actual flush, you hope for a sudden and well time thunder clap or for the house across the street to explode, to cover the unmistakable noise of a toilet sucking it's contents down. And gods help you if, for whatever reason, you need to flush more then once. Nothing hones a person's senses more then successive toilet flushes in the middle of the night. Most people, given the choice, would rather be found dead in the morning of internal hemorrhage, then to be heard flushing several times in the night.

It wasn't always like this. Toilets used to be located outside, on the far edge of the property, and the sort of place you only went to in the middle of the night if it was absolutely necessary. And when you got there, it was the sort of place that you didn't linger in. Not only because of the aroma that would have been cultivated by the previous day's noon sun, but also by the overwhelming desire not to have your obituaries read, “died covered in poo when a bear tipped the shitter,” which ranks up there with “former member of N'Sync,” or “vegetarian” as most embarrassing epitaph.

This is not a call, obviously, that we return to the old days of outhouses. Having once walked into one only to find a drowned raccoon half emerged from the seat, that's not an experience I'd like to replicate. Though with today’s technologies, fully equipped outhouses with running water, wi-fi support, and bear proofing wouldn't be such a chore. But until a silencer is developed that can be used to smother the various noises of the modern commode, can people start insisting that builders double insulate lavatories? Until then, I'm lining mine with yoga mats.

Now, if you'll excuse me, my toilet is talking to me, and I suspect it's up to no good.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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