Small Masthead's a long way to Washington

Dave Hitt

Several years ago we spent a considerable amount of money remodeling our house. We ripped out both bathrooms and the kitchen, right down to the studs, and had everything completely rebuilt. In accordance with the Contractors Oath it took longer and cost more than it was supposed to, but when the plaster dust finally settled and the last stray nail was swept away we were thrilled with the improvement.

A week later one of my kids flushed the toilet. She had been flushing toilets on her own for quite a while, and was pretty good at it, but this time the water rose instead of going down. So she flushed it again. The water rose again, quickly running over the new floor into the hallway, then seeping through the cracks and staining our brand new ceiling in the kitchen below. We had enjoyed the expensive improvements for exactly one week before it was permanently disfigured. At the time I thought it was my kids fault. I didn't realize Congress was to blame.

The contractors hadn't told me that Congress had criminalized installation of the time tested, reliable toilets that used 3.5 gallons per flush. Instead, we had to use 1.6 gallon toilets, which are supposed to conserve water. Unfortunately, 1.6 gallons is not enough to reliably flush a toilet every time. It's not uncommon to have to flush two or three times to get the job done, which uses more water than the old fashioned (i.e. working) toilets. The old toilets backed up so seldom we had a hard time finding the plunger when it happened. With the new, improved toilets the plungers are always in reach and their handles are worn smooth. Thank you, Congress.

Recently The Algore, who prides himself on being an environmental advocate, paid a visit to the Connecticut River for a photo op. The plan was to film him in a canoe to convince us he's just like Grizzly Adams except for his impeccable shave and that stick shoved up his butt. The river was only about eight inches deep due to the drought that's been plaguing much of the country. The resultant pictures would have left us with plenty of jokes about being up the creek without a paddle, being left high and dry, running aground, etc. But he was unwilling to provide us with such entertainment. Instead he had a dam opened, releasing four billion gallons of water, and smiled for the cameras. If we had been allowed to install the old 3.5 gallon toilets in our house we could have flushed them twenty times a day for 276,243 years before wasting that much water. By then humans will have evolved into a different species and might not even need toilets. (Al's spin doctors claim he only wasted 97 million gallons. If that's true we'd only have to flush for 13,397 years to catch up.)

The number of gallons supposedly saved by these no-flush toilets sounds impressive, but 80-90% of the nation's clean water is used by agriculture and industry, with virtually no restrictions on usage. Expressed as a percentage, the amount of water saved is trivial.

With this in mind Congress is re-visiting the law and thinking about giving us permission to install working toilets again. It's too late for my kitchen ceiling, which bears the scars of many overflowings. Will I run out and spend hundreds of dollars to replace the toilets forced on me by these miscreants? Probably not. The expense is the major factor, but not the only one. As a writer, I appreciate things like metaphors, similes and allegories. Whenever the toilets misbehave and their unmentionable, horrible contents are overflowing I'm reminded of Congress, and that just may be the most perfect metaphor ever.


© 1999 Dave Hitt

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