Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Path to Wisdom

It’s summer, and I know what you're thinking; you're thinking you would like to do some home renovations. And you’d probably like to renovate the bathroom. Well, don't even think about it. For one thing, you can't afford it. That quote you got from the contractor is underestimated by about twice your yearly salary. This not the contractor's fault, you understand. It’s just that you just asked for an estimate to renovate your bathroom, not rebuild your entire house, which is what you will have to do if you start tinkering with the pipes and drains in your home.
The trouble with bathroom renovations is that the process involves water. Not many people realize just how tricky water is, nor do they realize that in spite of what scientists say, water is actually thinner than air. You can take a length of plastic pipe, join it properly to another length with lots of pipe goop, check it for leaks by blowing compressed air into it until no air escapes, and think you have a water-tight seal. But run water through it, and it will drip. Water will drip through wood floors, linoleum, solid concrete and bullet-proof glass.
But it’s important to note that this dripping will not start until after the drywall has been put up and painted or wallpapered. Water knows this. You can leave the drywall off as long as you like. As long as you have direct access to the pipes and drains, they will not leak. But the minute the drywallers and painters have packed up and left, you will wake up in the middle of the night to the nerve-shredding sound of water dripping somewhere in the walls of your home.
And don't get me started on toilets. Do you have any idea what is involved in attaching a toilet to the house drain? Well, let me just say that it involves wax rings; that should give you some idea of what kind of trouble you are in for here. If you think about it for a minute, you'll see what I mean. Here you have a large water container with a hole in the bottom, right in the middle of your house, a container capable of pushing hundreds of litres of water through your floor every day. If that is not a recipe for disaster, I don't know what is.
And if you are planning on putting a commode in the basement, just keep in mind what your grade six science teacher told you: water does NOT flow uphill! I don't care what the evidence may be, nobody can tell me that when you flush that thing the water is flowing up to the sewer line at street level. And I don't want to know where it’s really going.
So what’s the answer? Live with that mildewed and cracked old bathroom you've got now? Not at all. Renovate by all means, but do it right. Do it outside. The only leak-proof, fool-proof and totally benign kind of washroom ever invented is the Great Canadian Outhouse. No septic tanks, to chemical toilets, no exploding water pipes in the middle of winter or after the drywallers have presented you with their bill.
The outhouse has a long and honourable history in this great country of ours, and it is time the tradition of walking the path to the backyard House of Quiet Contemplation was revived. Renovating the outhouse involves no greater expense than a coat of paint and possibly new curtains. Every decade or so, you can have the pleasure of digging a new hole and shifting the building over a few yards for a different view. If you plant Petunias where the outhouse used to be, you’d be surprised how well they’ll do.
So not only will the construction of one of these pioneer privies save you a bundle in renovation cash, and quite possibly a nervous breakdown, you will have the added pleasure of knowing that you are also contributing to the back-to-the-earth movement.
Ready to follow the path to wisdom… I’m Otte Rosenkrantz.
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