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Slices of Life By: Jill Pertler-A tale of war, destruction, and toilets

January 4, 2013
Northern-Sun Print
Before reading any further, be forewarned: this is not a story for the weak of heart. It is filled with snakes, destruction, filth, war and loss. But every word is true. I know. I lived it. The other day my 8-year-old called me into the bathroom. With a frown, he pointed downward. My eyes followed his path to the toilet bowl, which was filled with yellow water and a bright red Matchbox car. When I asked how the car got in the toilet, he motioned toward his sweatshirt pocket – bulging with little metal cars – and I gave silent thanks that only one vehicle had made its way into the water. I wasn’t about to put my unprotected hand into the sea of yellow, so I left the room to grab my toilet-scooping tool. (Some of you may be thinking it’s a little weird to have a toilet-scooping tool. You’re probably right. However, you know what they say about necessity being the mother of invention – or boys with Matchbox cars in the bathroom.) The next few moments are a blur – one of those instances where events pan out in slow motion and you’re moving even slower. Sort of like a dream, but not a good one. Apparently the 4-year-old needed to use the restroom right then. I heard his distraught cries regarding the fact that a toy car was in the toilet. Before I could yell, “Mommy’s coming,” I heard the unmistakable sound of flushing. When I got to the bathroom, it was too late. “I flushed it down, Mama,” he said, pride overflowing in his voice. I looked into the toilet, and sure enough it was true. The car was gone. My scooping expertise no longer needed, I turned for help from the family toilet installation specialist – my husband. He entered the scene armed and ready for action with the plunger in his right hand. I got out of the way just in time. He began plunging like a man without morals. Water splashed out from the toilet in every direction, hitting the walls, sink and floor – without gain. The water was coming up and out, but it was not going down. The car clog remained intact. My husband dropped the plunger. He bent and examined and peered into the cavity where the car had disappeared. After several moments he declared, “We need a snake.” When one is referring to toilets, a “snake” isn’t a creepy crawly lizard without legs. It is a long, flexible tool used to dislodge objects from tight, wet, watery pipes. When you live in a house with small children, hundreds of Matchbox cars and one or more toilets, a snake is not an optional piece of equipment. It is a necessity. With the prowess of a near professional, my husband inched the snake down into the water and up through the winding pipe. He poked and prodded and did everything he could to hook the car and bring it back toward daylight. Nothing worked. With every move, the tiny car moved further into the abyss. After minutes that seemed like seconds, he put the snake down and stood, facing the toilet. His jaw clenched with raw determination. He would not let the toilet beat him. I knew this was war. He grabbed for his wrench, removed the toilet from its perch and within minutes was maneuvering and manipulating the metal snake once more. The battle continued for half an hour – man against porcelain – with neither side gaining any ground. Finally, he sighed, left the bathroom and grabbed his car keys. When I asked where he was going, I got a succinct, five-word response, “To get a new toilet.” That’s what he did. The new model installed easily and quickly, and it wasn’t long before the kids noticed the new piece of porcelain gleaming in the bathroom. The three boys all wanted to be the first to use it. “Go ahead,” I said to no one in particular. They started to make a group entrance. “Wait a minute,” my husband called out. “Before anyone goes in there, empty your pockets!” Follow Slices of Life on Facebook and hit Like (please). Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, playwright and author of “The Do-It-Yourselfer’s Guide to Self-Syndication” Email her at; or visit her website at This is a classic column first published in 2006.

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