Friday, November 25, 2011

Toilet Cracks, Again

Something very strange happened the other night, something that challenges my concept of the physical world in general and of toilets in particular.

It reminded me of an event about 30 years ago, back when I lived in an old civil-war era house in Arkansas, a house that had barely moved into the 20th century, still burning wood to provide heat for all the rooms except the master bath, which had a small gas space heater. The second bathroom had no heater at all, and it was the room that was farthest away from the wood stove in the living room. In the winter I would warn people not to use that bathroom because they risked getting stuck to the seat.

My landlord owned about 300 acres surrounding the house, and I was permitted to cut my own firewood. I remember those days very well, walking through the woods with my dog Matt to find a big tree that was dying or dead and then cut it down. I'd fill up my panel van with wood, sometimes even the passenger seat in front, so that Matt would run alongside the van on the way back home. He seemed to think that was great fun--I can still see him out there wagging his tail.

For several days in winter I had to wear a jacket inside the house day and night. The house had very little insulation, and the windows were so old and rickety that a strong breeze would rustle the curtains inside.

After one very cold night I found water puddled up on the floor in the second bathroom. The water in the toilet had frozen and cracked the porcelain bowl. OK, I thought, that probably doesn't happen every day but at least I understand how that could happen.

But when Cheryl woke me up at 4am the other morning and told me that the toilet in the guest bathroom had broken and that water was going everywhere, I could not, and still cannot, understand why this happened.

The crack starts at the top of the tank and runs down the side. This allowed water to spill out, causing the float to go down, causing the tank to fill again, then out through the crack again, over and over, until water had run into the master bath and then through the cracks in the wood floor to swamp the kitchen floor below. Thank goodness Cheryl woke up.

What made the tank crack in the middle of the night? I had stored it outside for a while during the project, and maybe I banged it and caused a microscopic crack at some point, like a small windshield crack that finally opens up when you hit a bump in the road. But there was no bump in the bathroom.

Now I need a new toilet...

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