Tales from the throne

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There was a time, a time long ago when in polite society, one did not mention bodily functions in public discourse. After all, we all had the same waste and it was disposed of in a circumspect manner. We didn’t talk about it.

I think the first to break the spell was Archie Bunker who, when called by his wife Edith, announced, “I’m on the terlet,” and the sound of a flushing toilet was heard by the television audience. Many of us remember outdoor toilets in town whose contents were referred to as “night soil” and picked up by a town employee driving what was euphemistically called “the honey wagon”.

Except for summer camps or cottages, it is rare to see an outdoor “john” which was often called “the library” – a title earned no doubt from the practice of reading a Simpson’s or Eaton’s catalogue while ridding ourselves of certain body wastes.
Children were taught to refer to such ablutions as “number one or number two” for it would be considered crass to verbally announce the event in slang terms.

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Enter the 21st century. The manufacturers of laxatives and toilet paper are hard pressed to tell us why we need their products and have fallen back on those who dream up new television advertisements. Today the catchphrases tell us that laxative A is perfect “for the poo in you”, while brand B of toilet tissue advises, “We all have to go, so why not enjoy the go?” Huh?

We have come a long way from the days of the outdoor privy. Privy, by the way, comes from Latin – “privitus – withdrawn from public place or private”; Old French- “private or private place”; Middle English – “belonging to one’s own private circle”. Apparently the old definitions do not apply anymore.

However, for those who do remember those private places known as privies, they will recall a deep hole in the ground, with a structure surrounding the hole to ward off the elements and offer privacy. Once inside, one would see a few boards covering the deep, smelly hole-in-the-ground, with a circular opening in the middle of the boards. It was on that location where one would sit, do the necessary deed and leave as quickly as possible. The circular opening in the boards was the first toilet seat.

Toilet seats today come in several shapes and sizes. Some are padded with foam for comfort. Some are white; others come in a rainbow of colours. It is rumoured that some toilet seats are made of gold or are plated with gold. They are all functional – that is until a bolt breaks or the seat cracks. Then it’s time to buy a new one.

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My new toilet seat was an ordinary purchase. The only thing that set it apart from other such fixtures seemed to be its 10-year warranty. Then I read the instructions.

Cleaning toilets or their accessories is not one of the subjects taught in home economics classes. It’s not a credit course at night school. I have never seen a how-to book that shows how to have the cleanest, shiniest toilet seat in town. If it was ever there, I didn’t see the subject covered in Pinterest. But after many, many years of keeping house, I thought I instinctively knew all that was necessary to clean a toilet seat. My instincts were all wrong.

The instruction leaflet tells me my new toilet seat must not be cleaned with kerosene, gasoline or naphtha. Oh sure, who doesn’t keep a five-gallon can of gasoline right next to the toilet for quick wipe-ups? Also, if the water is shut off for some reason, we might even use the gas for a quick flush. Just don’t do it while you’re burning those pretty scented candles! Nope. That conjures up an image best forgotten. I can’t clean my new seat with gasoline, but as I read those instructions, I learned something else that wasn’t covered in Shiny Toilet Seats 101.

“If desired, the seat may be waxed with a self- polishing, water wax. Just be sure the wax and cloth are clean and contain no grit.” A slippery, waxed toilet seat conjures up even more images best left to the imagination. I am not making this up. These instructions actually accompanied my new purchase.

I have my own opinions on present day advertising of laxatives and toilet tissue, preferring modesty over full disclosure. However, the image of a full-to-the-brim, common white porcelain toilet, plus a can of gasoline, plus an open flame does bring a wicked smile to my face. I trust you had a smile too.

That’s my view from Over the Hill.

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