Sunday, February 15, 2009

Love in the toilet

My 2008 Valentine’s Day gift was a new toilet.

I realize it may not seem like much of a sweetheart gift, unlike a bouquet of flowers that can be displayed as a symbol of love and affection. I also can understand why people might prefer chocolates over industrial porcelain. And compared to jewelry, a toilet isn’t exactly the kind of present one might be eager to show off, although mine IS the environmentally friendly, low-flush type.

However, the new toilet does meet some “good gift” standards: It was unexpected (arriving in advance of February 14th) and it won’t be exchanged. Nonetheless, I realize few would view a piece of plumbing as a gesture of affection. But I certainly did.

I might never have received this unanticipated gift if it hadn't been for the revelation that an empty nest also meant a vacant bathroom down the hall –and a way to end Husband No. 1’s years of grumbling over the makeup and other female necessities encroaching upon his half of the vanity.

After 30 years of marriage, I was downright giddy at the thought of my own bathroom. Such a luxury was worthy of a massive reorganization and cleaning operation. Concerned about the chemicals about to be unleashed, I wrapped my toothbrush in a washcloth for safekeeping. The bathroom overhaul took longer than expected. By the time I pulled the level to flush the cleaning liquid, I’d forgotten that the cloth I grabbed next also contained my toothbrush. I watched in horror as it rolled into the toilet bowl and disappeared with the cleaning solution.

In 20-plus years, no child of ours had ever plugged a toilet with foreign objects. Was this cosmic payback for the bathroom banishment? It began to look that way when plunging and snaking did no good and the overflow risk ratcheted higher.

The plumber finally arrived three days later. After two hours of unsuccessful manipulation, he reached the point where a new toilet would be cheaper than his mounting hourly bill. He tried to ease the pain by noting a 23-year-old toilet couldn’t last forever.

Final tab: $330 (plus a new toothbrush). Are you wondering what this toilet tale has to do with romance? Despite all the aggravation and the cost, Husband No. 1 never once complained or chastised me. He simply shrugged and wrote the check. What's more loving than that?

I just hope he’ll be as understanding with the $250 speeding ticket I brought home yesterday. Maybe that can be my President’s Day gift.

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