Observations From The Littlest Room

Whatever happened to bars of soap? You know, those solid blocks that sat happily on one’s washbasin and could be lathered up with hot water and a swift rub between the hands?

All we seem to get today are plastic containers with a silly nozzle on top that squirt liquid gunge all over the worktop when you don’t want it, and when you do they just emit a noise reminiscent of a wet fart, and eject a few bubbles.

That’s the only way you know when they’re empty. At least with a decent bar of soap you have advance knowledge of when it needs replacing.

I’ve seen bars of soap on sale in Wal-Mart but nobody buys them. Why? Because there’s nowhere to put them anymore. Once, washbasins were constructed with nice soap-bar sized indentations next to the taps. It was quite an art-form, after washing the hands, to gently eject the soap so it slipped between the fingers, hit the top of the basin and slithered casually into its alloted place. Try that today and it would shoot straight off the washbasin and down the side of the toilet. By the time you got it back it would resemble a Scotsman’s sporran and no amount of immersion in hot water could shift the twenty-thousand short and curlies stubbornly adhering to its surface.

It’s just as bad in Britain. On the recent vacation we stayed at a couple of hotels. They have bars of soap, but they’re minute. No sooner is it out the wrapper than you’ve lost it. Usually in the shower. You grasp the bar in your hand, begin the body-lathering process, and next moment it’s gone – down into the bowels of the tub. And you can never find it because British hotel soap is generally a pale beige color, and for some strange reason hotel tubs are always exactly the same hue.

You peer down through the steam, feel blindly around with the toes, but the darned thing seems to have escaped down the plughole. Only it hasn’t. It’s lurking, waiting to pounce just at the moment you step forward to reach for the towel. Suddenly it’s right there, under your heel, and you’re doing the Skater’s Waltz down the tub until your foot hits the steep, slopey bit at the end and there’s nothing in the universe that can stop you going arse over tit into the bottom.

Back from vacation, we found another bathroom problem.

What is it with American toilets? The US must be the only country in the world that flushes with a flapper. Every other civilized nation uses a sophisticated siphon system to empty the cistern and propel the water into the toilet.

Well, apart from the French, who just use a hole in the ground.

American plumbing wisdom devised a rubber flapper to block up the orifice that lets the water out. Flushing is achieved with a bit of rusty chain that yanks the flapper out of the hole.

This, from the world’s greatest Superpower!

On arriving home I flushed the toilet to discover most of the water pouring out the bottom of the cistern and onto the floor. Apparently, there’s a rubber seal between it and the toilet.

(All this rubber in American toilets must surely indicate some sort of national fetish.)

Removing the cistern was a joy. The bolts were all rusted and liberal applications of penetrating gunk failed to budge them. In desperation, the ‘Mechanic Mike Super Shifter thousand pound torque wrench’ was called for. Wedged, head bent between the toilet and shower, I needed to maneuver just an inch nearer, whereupon my right knee squeezed onto the aerosol of penetrating gunk, firing a high pressure jet of oily gunge right between the eyes.

Blinded, I staggered back, concussed my head on the toilet, groped for the washbasin and found the hot water tap. Reaching forwards, my hands felt for the soap dispenser.

I pressed the plunger, and was rewarded with a wet fart and a few bubbles.

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6 Replies to “Observations From The Littlest Room”

  1. Nice one, RJ! Definitely worthy of a newspaper column a la (or le?)
    Keith Waterhouse.

    I have bathroom woes on a regular basis, especially during our frequent motel stay-overs. The plug mechanisms in hand-basin and tub hardly ever function. Why they did away with the good ol’ plug on the end of a chain in favour of these new-fangled thingies I cannot understand. After a few travellers have manhandled ’em they never work again, and are never, ever repaired. I’ve had to plug the drain holes with bits of plastic, drip mats, and anything I can lay my hands on.

    Another favourite bathroom woe, at home and away, is the silly way the basin and surrounding area are all of a piece, faux marble or whatever – water is spilled everywhere and never drains back into the basin – I like those old fashioned wash basins on a pedestal, and a loo with a chain to pull.
    But then I’m just an old fart. 😉

  2. Excellent rant, RJA.
    I’m a firm believer in them, helps the BP and the appetite. I just had an old fashioned washbasin installed, has those little dips and I actually found handmade soap here and ejected it on to them ;-).
    I hope your injuries are healing – both phsyical and psychic….
    XO
    WWW

  3. Twilight – oh, what would I give for an old-fashioned chain!

    Al – bless you.

    Anan – up pun my word, that was a great comment.

    TOB – still trying to work out how you got that photo of my bathroom.

    WWW – dammit! I should have emigrated to Canada.

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