Since December is never busy enough, I attempted to remodel a dingy basement bathroom in the short weeks before my parents arrived for a Christmas visit. The Guest Suite is an equally dingy bedroom down there that hasn’t been touched since their last visit several years ago; I thought to atone for that with a shiny new space for the shower.
Whoever finished that space originally used fake-ceramic plastic tiles (hot items in the 1960s, along with glitter Formica vanities which, alas, have not yet become retro and trendy) and glued them to the walls with linoleum paste. Granted, that lasted 40 years or so — but when I hacked it off I realized that he glued them directly to the external concrete foundation, which is very crooked.
When there was a 1/2″ ridge, he just used extra globs of linoleum paste. So the space is impossible to tile the “right” way. I replaced sheet rock where I had to, but didn’t want to gut the whole room and start over. I decided to turn it into an art project — if you can’t do something conventionally, do it boldly.
My father would call this Putting Lipstick on a Pig — but a dark decrepit cellar bathroom can only benefit from some Revlon.
I finished the wall behind the toilet before the new toilet was installed, since working around such things is a pain in the butt. To cover the crappy crooked walls, I created an artful mosaic of small river rock. I was really rather proud of myself for sequencing my plans so efficiently.
I know I really ought not to use “butt” and “crappy” when toiling over a john article. I’m flushed with shame, and will endeavor to wipe the childish grin off my face.
Plumber came four days before the scheduled Parent Arrival. Toilet wouldn’t fit over the hole in the floor because the wall behind it was now one-half inch too thick.
I had to hack off all that stone, which I’d cemented on and then grouted. I’d done so carefully and thoroughly. It was to be a permanent installation, not a seasonal decorating whim.
Plumber assured me that Toilet would fit without the stone. He did not make any comments about silly stupid middle-aged women with weird decorating whims. He even made time in his week to come back later so that my mother would have a place to pee. I think he could tell I was ready to weep.
I thought about taking the whole wall out.
Toilet could then be enthroned in the open, with the furnace behind it. A little breezy, perhaps, but wet towels might just be thrown past the furnace toward the washer and dryer in the next room. I could paint all the water pipes a bright trendy color and hang towels on them. I envisioned a detailed and popular posting on Pinterest.
Instead, I hacked off all the stone and patched the poor wall (again). Plumber came back the day before the Parent Arrival. He plodded up the stairs after half an hour with a hang-dog look on his face. Toilet still wouldn’t fit. Plumber told me that the room needed a 10″ rough-in toilet rather than the standard 12″ one. Told me I’d probably have to special-order that size, and that it would take some shopping around.
I looked at him, tears of frustration welling in my eyes, and wailed, “But my mother needs a bathroom!” Alarmed, he patted me on the back and said he’d be happy to call his plumbing supply houses and see if anyone happened to have the right size in stock. Plumber asked me if I wanted “comfort height” or “elongated bowl” or “two-cycle flushing.”
I said, “I want something big and white you sit on, that flushes.”
By God, he found one and got it installed that afternoon. Best Christmas gift ever. None of the other holiday-houseguest stuff mattered after that – my parents could flush in the night.