Thursday, April 1, 2010

Not-so-Royal Flush

Evolution of some of our taken-for-granted products often goes unappreciated, until you look at that product's origins.

Look at Alexander Graham Bell's first telephone, and look at the gadget we have today. It's hard to believe both of them came from the same egg, so to speak.

Visualize if you will Henry Ford's Model T, and compare that to the death mobiles we drive today.

Now take the lid off your toilet tank (you heard me). Look inside.

Why do I have the feeling that today's tank is no different than the very first one ever concocted?

How did evolution bypass the American home toilet?

You ever REALLY look inside a toilet tank? I know it's not the most pleasant of things, but sometimes they do act up. And when you pull off the 500-pound marble top, the task of which is similar to exhuming a body, you'll see a contraption that looks like a prototype---from 1877.

There's a chain in there. And a big, black, bulbous bobbing thing. There's a piece of metal that looks like it came from an erector set. There's a thin rubber disc of some sort. And a small rubbery tube. I'm pretty sure there might be a paper clip in there, too.

The American toilet insides look like something MacGyver might put together under duress.

Can't we, as an industrialized nation on the cutting edge of modern technology, do better?

You open up a toilet tank, and it's like opening a time capsule.

"This, son, is the crude origins of today's modern---what do you mean, that's IT?"

If other things evolved like the toilet, you'd still be lashing your horse to a pole in front of your office building. You'd be reading by candlelight. Movies would still be viewed in nickelodeons.

The funny thing is, the public toilet has been turbo-charged and pimped out.

The public toilet, first of all, dispenses with the archaic tank and its marble slate of a lid.

The public toilet has a handle---and a very powerful one at that. You plunge that thing and the sound and the force make you think that the whole building might be flushed along with your coffee and lunch.

The public toilet has no tank and therefore doesn't need lag time before you can plunge the handle again. The home toilet has that tank, which has to fill up after every use. You think a watched pot doesn't boil? Try watching a toilet tank fill up. You could get through half the New York City phone book before you are allowed to flush again.

The public toilet flushes and is ready for another flush, immediately. Its handle is so powerful that it scares me. It even feels powerful; it's got that torque push back on it that makes it more than a handle---it's a weapon.

But woe is the home toilet, with its big, clunky tank.


This photo might as well have been taken in 1910 instead of 2010


We're so far behind the times that it sometimes isn't enough to merely flush the home toilet.

"Jiggle the handle!!"

How many times have you heard THAT in your lifetime?

If you are a lifelong American, there's about a 67% chance that you've had to, at least once in your life, jiggle a home toilet handle.

But when you consider the rickety insides of a tank, you can understand why some jiggling is required; those scrap heap parts sometimes need some jiggling to work properly.

I'm continuously amazed at how NOT far we've come in the evolution of the American home toilet. If whomever invented it were to come back to life and see what we're using today, he'd say, "Umm...you could have improved on it. I wouldn't have taken it personally, you know. It was just something I threw together."

We're a chain, an erector set, and a paper clip away from doing our business in the backyard, the way I see it.

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