Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Al Gore Toilet: An Example of What's Wrong With This World

We have Al Gore Toilets. Four of them. And we aren't happy.

The problem has become so great that my 7-year-old created a new and improved "out of order" sign that she fashioned from a pair of Post-Its and some Scotch tape. The innovation in her new design is in the two-fold mechanism. The top Post-It: "Not"; the bottom Post-It: "Out of Order." Simply fold or unfold, attach or detach, depending on the current state of the Al Gore Toilet. (See photos.)

The Nobel Prize should go to HER because this is a major step toward paper conservation. We've had as many as three toilets AT ONE TIME be out of commission, all requiring "out of order" (translation: Wait for Daddy to get home) signs. That's a staggering statistic, especially when you consider that ours is a six-person household.

Some background: In the earliest years of Al Gore's movement to stop global warming, he was on a rant to conserve all kinds of water. In 1994, he practically stood up and applauded for a law that would require new homes and buildings be equipped with low-flush toilets. (And guess whose home was built pretty much the following DAY? Mine.) What does "low-flush" mean? Exactly what it says. These babies just don't flush adequately. And all in the name of water conservation.

Here's the Inconvenient Truth, Mr. Gore: WE'RE GOING THROUGH PLUNGERS LIKE THEY'RE ... TOILET PAPER!!! How many trees were sacrificed to make these handles? How much rubber had to be manufactured to construct the plunger part? How many gallons of toxins were dumped into streams in the manufacturing of the rubber? Sure, we may be conserving water energy, but what about my BACK? Do you know how much energy I have to exert to unstop a toilet? Well, the answer is "none," because that's what husbands are for. And boy, are his arms tired.

Oh, how I wish Al Gore had been a dinner guest in my home the night that our then-5-year-old flushed and flushed and flushed until the Al Gore Toilet overflowed and practically flooded the basement below. It was like RAIN. How proud would he have been to see how many towels we used AND THEN WASHED IN THE WASHING MACHINE to clean up the mess from the Al Gore Toilet?

I'm not alone. The following comes from Leon Louw, executive director of the Free Market Foundation of Southern Africa, and adds further credibility to my complaint:

Using Gore's toilet can be the source of hours of perverse entertainment. Because they are water deprived, they often don't flush properly. Unsuspecting defecators do the obvious thing: a second flush. That this uses more water than a single old-fashioned pre-Gore flush, did not seem to strike the designers. The fact that neither of the two or more trickle-flushes needed provided enough thrust to flush a toilet effectively, means that the bowl fills and overflows. If you are doubly unfortunate, Al's toilet valve - the logic behind which I never established - doesn't close.

This explains why, when I used Walter and Connie Williams' Gore toilet at 5 a.m. in their Philadelphia home, I flooded their upstairs bathroom with a mess you don't want to know about!

Not wanting to wake them, I did my best. I opened the lid of Mr. Gore's anti-flush flusher, and eventually - grovelling around in sub zero water - stopped the flow. I placed their beloved guest towels across the door to stop flooding their hallway and stairs.

Being a typical American wood frame house, the floodwaters dripped through to the passage and room below. In this unfamiliar house, I eventually found buckets and tins to catch the dripping water. I found in their garage and garden (in the snow at night) whatever I could to try and unblock the toilet: a piece of garden hose, swimming pool chemicals, a coil spring, and more. Three hours later, after cleaning the mess as best I could, I capitulated, and left the toilet bowl filled to the brim with a view to calling a plumber at daybreak.

Happy NOW, Al Gore? Thanks to you, a business and economic leader from another continent was on his hands and knees cleaning up a toilet mess at 5 a.m. in Philadelphia, and a sweet little girl in Alabama is handcrafting "out of order" signs like she works in a child labor camp.

So, thank YOU, Al Gore for your hard work in saving this planet. Oh! And also for inventing the internet so that I can share my concerns with the whole world.

(Al Gore photo credit: BusinessWeek; Al Gore Toilet photo credit: David Prince)