Tuesday, December 27, 2011

In Praise of Toilets

 I vaguely remember, as a very young child, having to use a chamber pot on a cold night -- probably at my grandmother's house. 

And I remember the cold walk onto her back porch in Porterdale, Georgia, where a cold little room had been added, with the cold seat.

I remember the path from the back door of our neat little parsonage in Dunkinsville, Ohio, out to the tiny smelly little shed with the bench punctuated by a couple of oval holes cut into it. And similar little sheds with crescent moons cut in their doors at little country churches like the one at Cartecay, Georgia. I remember Boy Scout camping trips and the temporary latrines we dug with our little camp shovels. I remember getting out the camp shovel again when our well went dry out in Booger Hollow, after Sheila and I were married, and finding a private spot in the woods near our little log cabin.

Well, folks, I have moved uptown. For Christmas this year I have purchased and installed an American Standard, Cadet 3, Dual Flush, Elongated Bowl, Water-efficient toilet: the very lap of luxury. Thanks to Deena (not her real name) this was not a blind choice.

You see, I am a card-carrying member and a director of the Coosa River Basin Initiative. This is the premiere environmental group in northwest Georgia. The CRBI mission is to conserve and protect the water resources of our wonderfully diverse watershed. And, I have to admit, for years, Sheila and I have wasted great amounts of water every day through our relatively new but highly inefficient toilets. Two flushes have been necessary as often as not, and each flush was using a couple of gallons of formerly pure water. So when we needed to call in a plumber to repair a toilet, we decided to use the opportunity to upgrade. I headed out to the a local big-box home supply store to find an efficient replacement and found Deena.
I had located the row of toilets and ascertained that the store carried two dual-flush models. Each offered a choice of one gallon or 1.6 gallon flushes and proclaimed itself wonderfully efficient in evacuating whatever contents necessary. Both were "chair" or "comfort" height. The pricetags were were the only obvious difference: one was $99, the other $198. The enthusiastically helpful Deena was johnny-on-the-spot (pun-intended, of course) to help me reach the right decision for my family. 

"Now, Mr. Shaw, both of these are good toilets. But the Cadet 3 here has a stronger flush, and you know what that means. If there's something left in the bowl, now what do you do?"

"Well," I sadly admitted, "I flush again."

"That's right, Mr. Shaw, and there goes the water savings right down the toilet. With the Cadet 3, one flush will do. Use the button on the left there for Number 1, and the one on right for Number 2. That's all it takes."

I was a little concerned about the height of the bowl. After all we have used a standard height bowl all these years. Would we find the higher seat uncomfortable?

"Well, now Mr. Shaw, we can put your mind right at ease about that. I think you'll find the 'comfort-height' just right. Just step right on over to our displays on the main aisle and try it out."

Deena led me to the busy main aisle, pointed to one of the "comfort-height" models, pulled out her tape measure to demonstrate its exact height, and then with a sweeping gesture invited me to sit and test it out. She observed with folded arms as I nestled my nether regions onto the porcelain throne, while assorted Romans with bemused expressions pushed their buggies past us. I expressed my approval of the comfort afforded by the increased height as a young family strolled by and the Daddy greeted me with "Hey, Mr. Shaw! I'm Jackie, remember me?" 

I laughed with Jacky awhile and explained that I was "trying out toilets". He reminisced about witnessing a pre-school child trying one out more completely at a different big-box store. 

"Oh, yes," Deena exclaimed, "we've had that happen right here. We have to cordon off the area, put up hazardous material tape, and call in a team in rubber gloves and masks to clean it up!"

Despite that disturbing image I was sold. Deena called in a young man to lift the 100 lb. box onto a flat cart, and I bought my 2011 Christmas present for myself. I got it up the stairs at home all by my self - no small feat. It is now installed and, I must say, flushing beautifully.

And I went online to sing Deena's praises at www.bigboxhomesupply.com -- I may not have gotten that link exactly right.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Rest in peace, Harry Morgan

Seventy Years Ago

(December 8, 1941)

To the Congress of the United States:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

And this morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounding determination of our people - we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Thank you Mr. President

I continue to be very proud of my vote in 2008. Thank you Mr. President for your efforts to unite us, despite the stonewalling of the opposition party and the name-calling and pettiness that you have encountered day-after-day. Thank you for living up to the overwhelming majority of your promises despite the stubborn recession that turned out to be even worse than any of us realized in 2008. After a fight of 100 years beginning with Teddy Roosevelt, you have helped us achieve, as you promised you would, a universal healthcare program. It is among the most conservative programs of its type in the world, but it is a vast improvement over the system it replaced.

Here is an Op-ed from the LA Times:
In Praise of "Obamacare"

Friday, December 02, 2011

You Done Lost Yo' Apples

Yesterday a Facebook friend admitted to falling through her ceiling. I had to tell her this story, famous among the Shaws.

My Uncle Bill was an electrician. This day his baby brother Jack was his assistant. When they arrived at the house their knock was answered by a prim older lady who sweetly and with great condescension explained that, "If you boys do a good job and don't leave a mess..." (in her upscale spotless Atlanta home) "...I'll give y'all a big bag of apples to take with you."

Later while Bill worked on the outlet in the bedroom below and Jack snaked a new wire across the attic, Jack lost his balance. Suddenly Bill was covered with dust and and debris and, looking up, saw Jack's legs dangling from a tangle of insulation, sheetrock, and wiring. Without a pause he looked into Jack's frightened eyes peering down through the dust cloud, shook his head sadly, and chuckled these immortal words, "You done lost yo' apples."

In the forty-five or so years since then, every mess-up in our family has elicited that retort: "You done lost yo' apples."