Is my family the only one having difficulty flushing the toilet?
It feels like every third time I lift the lid in my house, there’s a little surprise waiting for me.
At first I thought it must be a mechanical issue, but after a thorough inspection of each toilet’s internals, I’ve concluded everyone in my house simply forgets to flush.
I don’t get it. You’ve used the toilet for more than a decade. Isn’t it just muscle memory at this point? Do you also forget to turn off the faucet or tie your shoes?
…Actually, in the case of my kids, the answer to those last two are yes. But my wife is just as often a culprit, and when I confront her about it, she shrugs.
“Oops,” she says.
This wasn’t as big of an issue in our old house. I mean, they never flushed there either, but since we only had two bathrooms, there was more traffic and less of a chance of a pee sitting for an extended period of time. Now that we have four bathrooms on three different levels, though, the odds of someone coming across your deposit before it starts to fester has reduced.
Not long after we moved in, I noticed an alarming odor coming from the upstairs bathroom. Thinking we might have a dead animal behind the vanity, I came armed with a flashlight and a trash bag.
I quickly discovered the culprit was not a decaying mouse, but an unflushed toilet. The contents of the bowl looked like a science experiment gone wrong, the urine brown, a film clinging to the top like a pot of soup left out overnight.
If anyone should have a reason not to flush, it’s me. I grew up in a house with a strict if it’s yellow, let it mellow policy. We had a septic tank, which, if you’re not familiar, is an underground vessel that collects all of the house’s waste. Every couple of years, the tank would become full, and my dad would dig a hole in the back yard so a truck he called the honey wagon could come and pump out the sewage.
Unlike a public sewer line, which whisks your waste miles away without a thought, everything you’ve ever flushed is in that septic tank. This is something I learned my freshman year of college, when my mom initiated one of our most awkward conversations.
“We had the septic tank pumped out today,” she said. “And we found several, er, condoms, floating on the top.”
I’d been having sex at that point for maybe six months, and I was horrified my parents now not only knew it, but they also knew I’d been doing it in THEIR HOUSE when they weren’t home.
“Oh,” I said.
“Yeah,” Mom said. “Your dad wasn’t very happy,”
That’s enough to make anyone think twice before they flush for the rest of their lives.
But we don’t have a septic tank at our house, and our policy is very much FLUSH THAT SHIT. So I’m confused why it doesn’t happen.
Maybe my family is trying to be cost-conscious, which is something I appreciate. The Department of Energy estimates each toilet flush costs around 1.3 cents, and as my grandfather used to say, watch the pennies and the dollars will come.
But if I’m being honest, I’d rather pay an extra couple of bucks a year to not see my family’s bodily excretions each time nature calls my name. How can you put a price on such a thing?