Ecuadorian Toilet Design and Maintenance Manual

Shawna’s mentioned some of the quirks of the plumbing in our apartment already, but after our water supply was sorted we had some more fun.

Not even a week into the apartment, we (I) managed to clog the toilet.  Having only one toilet, and a pittance of spanish words to relate the issue to anyone, the situation quickly became critical.  The last time I tried to ask the handy man if I could use the toilet before he started working on it, I ended up having to use gestures and it turned into some kind of perverse version of charades.

The toilet we have is a little different than the ones we’re used to in Canada.  The most notable difference is the absence of the water tank above and behind the bowl – see the photo.  This may seem like a interesting aesthetic choice, but more importantly, this presents a couple “inconveniences”.

Silly Toilet.

Inconvenience #1:  If you’re the lean back and relax type, you’re out of luck.

Inconvenience #2:  This one is critical.  The point of having a tank above the bowl is to facilitate easy movement of the water from the tank to the bowl thanks to gravity.  This works well in the regular operational case for this toilet.  See Figure 1.

Figure 1: Happy toilet

First problem:  No plunger.  Shawna and I scoured the apartment, and could not find a plunger.  Alright, what do we try next?  Well, the tank is running and some water is clearly getting through the clog, so maybe some more water would help force the issue.  The bowl is HUGE so we should be able to get some good pressure by adding enough water.

Luckily I’ve got a giant bucket of water handy from the ‘no running water’ situation, so I go ahead and just dump it into the bowl.  No problem.  It all fits, under the rim even.  At this point I’m giving it a 50/50 chance that the additional water pressure will push things through, and get us back to normal.  This of course is in my professionally amateur plumber opinion.  We wait.

Sadly, after a few hours, there’s no change.  I decide to take a look in the tank again and see if there’s maybe some dohicky in the tank that might help force the issue.  I definitely found something…  Bonus points for those who saw this coming.

Given the low location of the tank relative to the upper part of the bowl, it becomes clear in Figure 2 that it is possible for the water in the bowl to flow back into the tank if the water level gets high enough.

Figure 2: Sad, sad toilet.

Normally this wouldn’t happen, but Captain Bucket over here just threw that idea out the window.  Yes, the tank is now the same consistency as the bowl.  Awesome.

And of course the toilet is still clogged.  My kingdom for a plunger.  Of course we’re not going through this exercise at an hour when we can go buy one.

Alright, now what?  Shove something down the hole?  Sure!  What are we going to use?  How about a coat hanger?  Hmmm, only plastic ones…  not ideal, but cheap and cuttable.  So I fashion a 2 foot length of plastic coat hanger to probe the depths of the hole in hopes that the clog is within reach.  I even have enough length and angle to not need to touch the bowl contents.

In goes the end of the coat hanger.  Probe, probe, stuck, wiggle, probe, get a bit further, probe, blocked, but feels smooth, maybe just a turn in the drain, probe, probe, SNAP.

Perfect.  Now not only is there a clog somewhere in the drain, but there’s also a 8 inch length of plastic coat hanger in the mix to make it interesting.

At this point, I’m in full Mike-Fix-It-Rage, so I make the call – I’m going in.  I roll up my sleve, the hand goes into the slough.  I start probing for the lost length of coat hanger.  Find it.  Alright, might as well feel around and see if there’s anything else to be discovered blockage wise.

So I’m probing the various holes at the bottom of the bowl.  I’m hunkered over about elbow deep in the mess, and this gives me a view of the washroom at a different angle.  Something bright green grabs my attention from the toilet born disaster at hand, and I look over to the bottom shelf under the sink.  What the heck is that?

Eye spy with my little eye something green.

That is really weird.  Some kind of futuristic hand bell?  a joystick?  a giant chess piece?

It's all about perspective.

a plunger maybe?!?

SALVATION.

Mike out.

Hey Quito, what’s up? No I don’t speak Spanish.

We landed in Quito late last night under the cover of dark.  I guess it was the old airport because it was a clusterfrak, but on the bright side, all of our luggage made it safely, and we didn’t get automagically selected for customs screening.

Finding our ride to the apartment was easy.  A tiny old man with a sign bearing Shawna’s name was the sign that we were almost home.  Unfortunately our driver had no idea where the apartment was.  We insisted that we had no idea what he was saying, let alone where the apartment was.  I assume he replied with the same.

He was persistent though. He asked a bunch of security gaurds in the general area, at one point dissappearing around a corner, leaving us in the rickety van with our Russian van mates, and came sprinting back around the corner.  I thought for sure he had just got mugged, but luckily, he was just pumped that he found our place.

The apartment is awesome, even though it’s dry – as in no water – but that’s apparently being fixed today.

Anyways, we just had some awesome lunch; a sandwich with fresh mango smoothie, and  amazing coffee so I’m starting to feel a bit more human.   Shawna’s just going through her orientation right now, and we’ve got Spanish classes scheduled for bright and early Monday morning.

If we can survive the weekend, I think we’ll do just fine.

Mike out.