Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Quest

Or ...a potty post...or a guy thing

I think its safe to say that men have a strange affinity to toilets. There are few places on earth more peaceful and tranquil than the privacy of one's privy, enjoying a magazine, (or book as needs must) while allowing nature takes its course. Closing that door opens one to a new world where only the immediate is of concern. There is also the sense of security that one is able to proceed with one's business undisturbed as is not always the case in a public toilet or an airline toilet. Its these disturbances that really cause me to shun the public commode where possible - given the choice I will always wait till I get home to do my business.

You can imagine then, after arriving from a 24 hour plane ride I found myself urgently in need of relief. In my haste I neglected to follow the first rule of toiletry - make sure the damn thing works before getting on the pot. After seeing to my needs I went to push the little button on top of the tank. Unfortunately there was no sound of water running merrily into the bowl. In fact the little button resisted all attempts to be moved into the flush position. WTF? Opening the top cover I stared in consternation at the absence of water in the tank. WTF? When I left home everything was fine. What is going on? My toilet, my porcelain throne, my inner sanctum had been defiled by the the twin demons of time and high calcium content of the water. This situation required immediate action so, after flushing out the jet lag with a bucket I wrote down everything that resembled a brand or model number on my till-now-trusty-commode and the following morning set out to replace the calcified guts of my loo. Little did I know...

A little background. I'll have you know I happen to be an engineer. Years of re-inventing the wheel has given me the conceit that, with enough time and money I can figure anything out. Toilets are not exactly high tech - should be a snap right? Well the first cracks in that little fantasy when I arrived at the first toko bahan bangunan (building supplies store). For the next 6-7 hours and several shops later I had several interesting variations of the following conversation.

Staff: Good morning sir. How can we help you?

Me: Good morning. I'm looking for some spare parts to fix my toilet.

Staff: Of course sir. May I know the brand of toilet you have.

Me: Of course! Its brand x.

Staff: ooooooooooooh! brand xxxxxxx....

Now when you get the oooooh delivered in a singsong it can mean one of two things. First that the staff you are talking to has no idea what the hell you are talking about. You may as well been asking for parts to a titan missile. Second, that he remembers brand x vaguely, as it was something he saw once in his youth, in a neighbors house somewhere in Java. "Sorry sir we don't have that brand here....have you tried my friends shop down road...perhaps he can help you." And so my first toiletless day passed in Futile quest through Denpasar going from building supply store to building supply store. Eventually I came to the realisation that brand x was one of those items like print cartridges. Here today gone tomorrow.

That evening I reasoned to myself that toilets should not be too different on the inside. I should be able to find some generic parts somewhere that I could use. A small voice inside was saying to me "PJ...replace the'll be easier" but I steadfastly ignored it. I was after all an engineer. I had worked on multi million dollar projects, a mere toilet was no match for my cunning. Putting the failings of the day behind me I slept the dreamless sleep of the man with a plan.

Bright and early the next day I was back at the the toko bahan bangunan. As it turned out I was partially correct in my theory of the evening before. But choosing the right generic parts proved in itself to be something of a challenge. As I can now tell you there are more permutations on the inner workings of a toilet than there are types of women's shoes. In all its sort of a testament to the ingenuity of the mundane or the number of different ways to skin a cat. Quite simply I was amazed at the length that people will go to to ensure the perfect, most reliable, flush. After studying a number of different contraptions I choose an assembly that I thought might work and hurried home to do my best imitation of Tim Allen .

Arriving home I immediately set to work. Everything was going fine until I noticed that the flush mechanism was 2 inches longer than the tank. Damm its too big! The little voice in my my head was decidedly sarcastic at this point:" toldya to buy a new one PJ". Firmly ignoring that voice I studied the flusher more carefully. It looked to be modular and sure enough, with the help of my trusty Swiss army knife could be shortened. "Ha! I am getting somewhere" I thought as I was putting the top back on the tank. Filling the tank needed only a slight adjustment and pushing the button resulted in a most satisfying sploosh which was only partially mitigated by the fact that I had forgotten the replace the seal between tank and bowl and had just flooded the bathroom. D'oh!

Eventually I replaced that seal and my toilet is now good as new. Better actually. If there is a lesson here I suppose its sometimes better to let the professionals do things that you can do yourself. Equally though its important to do things yourself just so you can say you have done them. I don't think I have much of a future as a toilet repair man but at least I will know what the next one is talking about when it comes time to fix the loo.

Now about that flickering lamp at the gate. Should be a cinch to fix....