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Toilet Training

There are two ways of doing just about anything in this world: You can either do it yourself or you can hire someone else to do it for you.

The same principle applies to fixing toilets: You either get a wrench or call the plumber.

Weaker beings – those afraid of pain, daunted by physical labor, and threatened by sewage – are expected to pursue the latter option, especially when faced with faulty toilets.

This is not unnatural.

After all, the possibility of encountering sewage brings out the worst in humankind. Whether in amounts both big and small, in forms both raw and processed, no one wants to see it, smell it, touch it, let alone find themselves tasting it, accidentally or otherwise.

Which probably explains why the toilet – despite its usefulness – has always been kept out of sight in most buildings and establishments. Very few individuals are comfortable with being reminded of what these facilities represent.

For better or for worse, I consider myself one of them. Thanks to a voracious appetite, a weak stomach, and a superhuman resistance to constipation, I remain awed by a technological marvel that swallows virtually anything that can fit in its receptacle. And as someone who has used restrooms in more than 15 cities around the world, I have become familiar with all sorts of knobs, buttons, and yes, pedals used for flushing toilets.

In Kuala Lumpur, I almost took a shower while testing a handheld bidet that could have been better used as a water cannon against protesters in Mendiola.

Just last year, I nearly fell into Parisian sewers, courtesy of a slippery squat toilet 10 times the size of my ass. And twice in my life, I have been caught using the facilities, so to speak, while the plane I was on was busy making a rough landing at Ninoy Aquino International.

All these experiences, I believe, were sufficient to prepare myself for fixing a faulty toilet on our apartment’s first floor.

The problem seemed simple enough.

All I had to do was to stop water from coming into the tank once it was filled to the brim. However, complex issues came into play. The mechanism, already old and rusted, needed replacement.

To do so required taking the whole thing apart, a plan that involved using tools, many of which were either misplaced or left unreturned by well-meaning friends.

In short, I had to abandon the project altogether and shut off the water flow to the tank.

Now, instead of pushing a handle to flush, you had to turn on the faucet, and wait for facial hair to grow until the pail was full of water.

Not that I actually bother to do that.

There was still a perfectly functioning restroom on the second floor.

While I now have to run up the stairs every time I need to go, huffing and puffing to beat the deadline, I at least have the convenience of a flush toilet. On top of the fact that I need the exercise anyway.


Shown are toilets and urinals, as the case may be, at (from left clockwise) the Malpensa Airport in Milan; the Villa Melzi in Bellagio, Italy; the Il Papiro store in Florence, Italy; the Pearl Continental Hotel in Bhurban, Pakistan; and the Corcoran Museum in Washington, DC. These pictures just go to show you that I’ve got a world-traveled class.

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