My (First World) Toilet

Walking toward the counter of the hardware store yesterday with my purchase in hand, a guy who works there paused and said to me, “I HATE working on toilets!”. It was a relevant comment, as I had a toilet repair kit in my hand. I couldn’t help but agree with him, especially in light of the fact that the one I had to repair was brand new in 2007. The sturdy white part was made in Mexico, but the broken bits inside were, you guessed it, from China. The shitty part, if you’ll pardon the pun, is that if it weren’t made as absolutely cheaply as possible, the failure was one that in days past wouldn’t have required any new parts at all. In those days, and in the replacement, the flapper of the flush valve was/is actuated with a chain — if it broke, there was usually enough extra chain hanging around there under the lid to make the repair. But not on this cheesy Chinesey piece of crap, oh, no. It was a strand of plastic, integrally molded to the flapper. Probably saved a nickel in manufacturing cost, at the expense of making it irreparable and so destined many years too soon for the landfill. But that’s good for the cheesy Chinesey factories who make the cheesy Chinesey shit, because they get to sell that many more irreparable products — crapitalism at work!

That was my household repair for today, and now the Hall Of Congress works as it should and without leaking.

That’d be “a first world problem”, wouldn’t it? I remember the first time I ever heard that term, and thinking, “And what other kinds of problems would I be having in this environment?”. Having observed the rise in popularity of the term I think I understand it a bit better now: I complain about fixing my toilet and someone says, “That’s a first world problem”. In that context, it means shut the fuck up. If someone else complains about something and follows it up with a remark that it’s a first world problem, then it’s most often an excuse for ostentatious vanity, but sometimes an expression of something akin to what was once known as White Man’s Guilt. On the other hand, if someone speaks of a problem he’s having, and a commentator remarks to others that it’s a first world problem, it means essentially both things: The first speaker should shut the fuck up, and all present should think poorly of that speaker, and by extension grant the commentator somewhat less low moral ground owing to his or her feigned cultural enlightenment. The commentator is, after all, at least enlightened enough to employ a recently overused phrase.


16 thoughts on “My (First World) Toilet

    1. happierheathen Post author

      I’ve never really thought much about it, but I always found it curious that when a public restroom stall appeared to be empty due to the absence of visible feet on the floor, but was locked, a moment later a newly arrived Vietnamese refugee/immigrant would walk out. I guess your response kinda sorta fills in some portion of the rest of the story.

  1. solberg73

    Problems that 3/4 of the world’s population only wish they had, kneeling there peering through the plate-glass, nose frozen to the pane,tears running down their hollow cheeks.
    I bitch that i can’t navigate my browser and some African agrees ‘Ja, me too.,Hard to get the village cow to stay out of the cess-pool since the drought.
    You did, however hit the whole gamut nicely, including whether or not to adopt each new catch-phrase. Or just ‘throw it under the bus’. At least we have buses.
    I replace my ‘toilet’ once every two weeks in cold weather, or weekly during the summer. Drywall buckets these days: the lids never re-seal well. But no water-use, and not as uncomfortable as you might imagine.I know, TWP +TMI

    1. happierheathen Post author

      πŸ˜€ As a rule of thumb I avoid catchphrases until they stand the test of time.

      You’ve just managed to make me even gladder to live near the headwaters. Though we’re told we ought to, no one hereabouts really worries about water conservation inside the home. It all ends up flowing downstream to be used again anyway — a thought that was never far from my mind when living downstream with Lake Mead flowing out of the taps. It’s an entirely different view of the concept, knowing some of the people whose excretions are in your drinking water.

        1. happierheathen Post author

          It’s the handling of the vessels and proximity to their contents that I’m glad to be without. I do, though, applaud your system and see the value and morality of it in our increasingly overburdened world. It’s a perfect system you’ve got: It doesn’t inconvenience me! πŸ™‚

  2. promisesunshine

    doofus probably doesn’t even know what a first world problem is. which, in itself, is a first world problem.
    i hate fixing toilets too. then again, fixing is never as satisfying as making something new.

  3. cagey

    after having the innards of two toilets replaced four times this year by two different repair men and one attempt at a self-fix.. i’ve come to the conclusion they just don’t make toilet innards like they used to… I give up on it. I’ll forever be doomed to hold the handle down until all the water flushes out of the tank. If you think this is a problem though… try having a clogged toilet in europe and finding out there’s no such thing as a plunger. ;P

    1. happierheathen Post author

      The original kit had that same problem. If it were upstairs where guests used it more often I’d have repaired it long ago rather than often call attention to my laziness. The new kit works great, just push the handle down and forget all about it. It’s even easily adjustable for flush duration, so I’ve got it set so it’s neither too short to do the job properly nor so long that it wastes water. It feels luxurious!

  4. ordinarybutloud

    I hate the expression “first world problems,” although I’m compelled to use it myself from time to time. I use it when I’m greeted with dour judgmental faces while I’m telling a story about something annoying or unlikely that’s happened to me, usually a story I’m intending as a funny story, to head off the unspoken assumption that *I don’t get it’s based on a triviality.* Yeah, I get it! I do! It’s a trivial, first world problem…it’s a non-problem…but it’s funny! And sometimes not even funny, haha, but funny like, “isn’t that just how the world goes.” So for me, “first world problems” means lighten up, dour person with no sense of humor. I’m not pretending my problems are BAD. I’m just laughing my way through the little aggravations of life.

    1. happierheathen Post author

      πŸ™‚ It’s important to laugh at life’s little aggravations, and most of its big aggravations, too. The only alternative is addiction to mind altering substances that should be reserved for recreational use only.

  5. whyzat

    I hate most of the phrases that become popular because they are heard on TV shows so much.
    “24/7” “no problem.”….anything containing the word “literally” used incorrectly. They just invade our language because people are lazy and suggestible (my cynical opinion).
    We have replace an untold number of toilet guts. Recently we found out that our water pressure was exceedingly high. Since we got that fixed, we havent’ had to do any t-work. I hate it when we have to take one out. For some reason, that wax ring stuff scares me. Weird.

    1. happierheathen Post author

      I’m with ya. The one television we have has no connection to the outside world, and we aim to keep it that way even though it often leaves us bewildered by the words and phrases others use.

      I don’t know how cynical an opinion that is, though, about people being mentally lazy and suggestible — it just seems like acceptance of the fact that we’re members of a gregarious species. Most of the people I know spend more of their free time watching the people in the box than they do interacting with the people around them, and spend their indentured time with others who do the same. It’s only natural that they’d seek to strengthen their social bonds by parroting the box that is their only sure commonality. It’s pathetic, sure, and dangerous, too, because it gives the social power to the greedy bastards who control the programming, but it’s understandable and not really cynical at all to recognize it. I think it unwise and a dereliction of responsibility to fail to recognize it, in fact — it’s through the media that those in power convince us to act counter to our own interests and to support immoral acts of the state. We’ll do almost anything, most of us, to avoid straining or breaking our social bonds.

      I’d almost rather move to a new house than take the toilet base up from the floor.


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