ERNIE AND ERNESTINA: Searching
Book Two, Chapter 222: A Toilet Seat
Lots of times this past month I’ve entered the tiny studio condo I own — showing it to rental prospects after my former lessee, Steve, moved out — but only today do I notice that the bathroom’s white toilet seat is chipped. That won’t do for Anya, the new lessee who’ll be here in two days, so I head to Lowe’s to buy a replacement.
A friendly sales clerk leads me to four rows of seats on display. “They come in two sizes: round and oval. They’re either wood or plastic. The hinges are either metal or plastic. The metal is either shiny or brushed.”
Because the studio’s bathroom has vintage tile with black trim, I want a black seat. Years ago I saw one in an Open House Ernie and I went to, and it’s stayed in my mind.
“I can special-order one in black,” the clerk says.
She goes to her catalogue and finds what I want. It’s sixty dollars — forty more than a standard white one, but I sign off on it and pay at the door.
Five days later an oblong cardboard box is delivered to me. I open it. Out comes the seat plus directions plus a bag of parts — two nuts and two bolts. Do I ask Joshua to install it? But how hard can it be with only two nuts and two bolts?
First I need to remove the current seat. I take a screw driver to the plastic screw on its left hinge. The screw moves, and the seat comes up but won’t come off. I keep trying to unscrew it, but I’m mashing the screw. I need to call Joshua.
I’m headed upstairs to my phone when I run into Cameron, a staff member. I tell him my problem. He follows me into the bathroom, then reaches under the seat to the nut holding the bolt in place.
“Oh, that’s how the seat comes undone. Thanks, Cameron.”
I remove the old seat, drop new bolts through holes and position the black seat, then tighten a nut onto the left bolt. Hey, this is going good!
I switch to the right side. Only enough room between toilet and wall to feel, not see, the bolt. I attempt to screw the nut up the bolt. It slips out. I try again. It slips again. I keep trying for five, ten minutes.
Suddenly I remember the Twelve-Step definition of insanity: keep repeating what I’m doing while expecting a different result.
Am I screwing it the wrong way? I try the other way. The nut climbs up the bolt.
I tell this story to Peggy, for whom I do copy-editing work. Peggy has long, beautifully polished nails and wears a diamond-circled watch and looks as if she’s never even lifted a toilet seat. She says: “You need to remember that old saying.”
“What old saying?”
“Righty-tighty. Lefty loosie.”
Later I ask Joshua if he knows this saying.
“Oh, yeah. But I’ve run into left-handed threads on some of the cars I’ve worked on. And, if I’m working upside down — ”
“Please, Joshua, don’t confuse me.”
I’m pleased with myself. I installed a toilet seat!