Janet Combs

Janet Combs

Once you have grown accustomed to the new high-efficiency toilets and their vigorous flush, you cannot help but look at the older model toilets as a little, um, wasteful.

Our upstairs floor has two such toilets which did not work at all until we cleaned them up and replaced all the mechanisms inside their tanks, returning them to their original state as functional low-riders. Infrequently used, these toilets have operated adequately, even if each flush used the same amount of water as a small load of laundry. I actually looked forward to cleaning them each week; the 45-second whirlpool of swirling water had a hypnotic, relaxing effect.

We decided we didn’t need to replace them right away; our guests would just have to conduct their business at the “children’s table” of toilets up there for the first year or so, until we got around to replacing the flooring, which would necessitate pulling up the toilets.

Can I just say a word about the 25-year-old carpeting up there? Actually, could I just text you something?


Overall, there was more square footage stained than unstained. And the original carpet was a plush off-white, so there was no hiding the evidence. Some stains were easily identifiable — expanding rings near most of the windows and down the hallway indicated long-term roof leaks. In one bedroom there was an explosion of craft paint in a vivid purple. And coffee in the stairwell—that’s to be expected. Though our mugs have grown bigger over the years, most of us still can’t ascend a staircase and walk into our home office without leaving telltale drips.

Other stains were CSI-worthy, and best not reflected upon at length. I don’t really want to know what happened. I just want them gone.

This week the carpet and flooring were scheduled to be replaced up there, which means the toilets had to be pulled up and then lugged downstairs and taken to the dump, which is poetic justice as their final resting place, if you ask me.

We tackled the job together one evening after I returned home from work; Rich had spent the day rewiring a section of his workshop. It is important to note this because it’s not like we jumped into the project bright and early after a full night’s sleep. Both of us had already addressed many challenging situations that day, and we greeted the evening’s activity somewhat less than flush with enthusiasm.

After determining that there was no window large enough nor expanse of ground below safe enough for us to toss the toilets down from the second floor, we emptied a large plastic bin and heaved the first toilet in it. Then, we dragged it down the hall and bumped it down the old carpeted stairs step by step, not caring if considerable eau de toilette trailed behind us.

We directed each other every step of the way, because each of us mistakenly thinks we are in charge. One or the other of us was always accused of moving too fast or too slow. 

After the first toilet, we took a brief bathroom break, standing outside and listening to the ocean. In just a few minutes, we were refreshed and ready to go for number two. Thankfully, this elimination went much more smoothly. Once we realized you can never force any toilet issues, we worked together beautifully.

All week, the toilets remained downstairs, outside, turned over on their bowls in the sand—odd porcelain monuments to our intestinal fortitude when it comes to home improvement. On Saturday morning, we broke them into smaller, more manageable pieces we could lift while standing in the bed of our truck at our local recycling center. And together, we tanked the toilets, hurling them over the high sides of the container into their final, appropriate burial ground: the bulk waste bin.

Janet Combs is a freelance writer living in Georgetown County. Her column is published regularly in the Georgetown Times. Contact her at https://janetfrickecombs.wordpress.com.