Kage Baker once broke our toilet with a conch shell. On Christmas Eve. With lots of family members coming over for Christmas Day. Including a clean-freak grandmother.
All of you, Dear Readers, probably have holiday plumbing stories. Some of you probably even have a similar holiday/plumbing curse. I’ve always felt that people simply remember the plumbing disasters that coincide with holidays, because they’re exponentially worse than normal days. But Kage felt it was a symptom and proof of the underlying sentience of the Universe, which was capricious, inhuman, and striving toward chaos.
Hence the conch shell disaster. Kage loved sea shells, and was especially fond of a couple of big, blush-pink conches she had acquired. She kept one on the toilet tank, as a grace note. During the frenetic cleaning of that Christmas Eve, the shell fell into the toilet bowl. Fortunately, it was unharmed. Unfortunately, it shattered the toilet bowl into half-a-hundred shards of razor-sharp porcelain.
(That accident was one of the reasons that, years later, Kage made Mendoza’s tropic hideaway with her three lovers out of nano-engineered sea shell. That stuff, she decided, was better than concrete.)
Our next door neighbor, Kent (who was a Disney Imagineer) glowed it back together with some sort of secret super glue; evidently what they used at Disney to keep pieces from flying off the Matterhorn and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Then we covered all the cracks with silicon gel. For the 3 weeks it took us to save up for a new toilet (because no one has extra money the day after Christmas!) the toilet worked – but sunlight shone through the transparent silicon and you could see though the cracks … hilarious and unnerving.
The entire incident has been memorialized in family history because there is just no ordinary aspect of it anywhere. Many families have holiday tradition of the plumbing going south – the sink clogs up or the dryer fails or the garbage disposal starts running backwards. This is the only occasion I personally know of, though, that involved blowing up a toilet with a sea shell. Or gluing it back together so it appeared to be encased in a transparent force field.
Today we are dealing, here in my family’s little century old California bungalow, with a leak in the toilet. It started out as a few drops round the bolts that hold on the tank, and rapidly escalated to a steady stream. Emergency work with Super Glue (and oh, dear Kent, I miss you even more right now!) and Museum Wax by nephew Mike gave us a brilliant improvised holding action for a while. But, with unaccustomed common sense, we decided to pursue a more permanent repair while the temporary was still working.
Those bolts, despite leaking, also proved to be rusted in place. Some heroic work with a hack saw by Mike got them loose, but we accidentally knocked a flange off the part where the tank is seated to attach to the bowl … we have just now finished gluing that flange back on (backed up by gaffers tape) and Mike has re-fastened the tank in place with nice new bolts.
Shortly, we shall draw straws. The winner gets to be the first to test the repairs. But it does look like it’ll last while we shop around for a new toilet. They come with so many bells and whistles these days – often literally – that a bit of shopping is needed.
The good thing is, the bathroom should then be free of toilet disasters for another 20 years.
Because no one has dared put a conch shell on the tank in this family since Kage murdered ours all those years ago.