One of the oldest literary plots is that of the quest, whether it be that of Jason and the Argonauts, The Search for the Holy Grail or The Lord of the Rings. But never in the history of Literature has there ever been a story about a Quest for a Toilet Seat.
Our story actually begins two weeks ago. Sophia’s mother, Fanya, noticed that the toilet seat in her bathroom was loose. She asked Vartan, her husband and Sophia’s step-father, to fix it. Vartan adjusted the plastic screw too tightly and the plastic holder that connects the seat to the toilet cracked in two. This made the entire toilet seat unstable because it slid off the rim.
Fanya and Vartan don’t drive, so they asked Sophia to buy them a new toilet seat. The instructions from Sophia’s mother were very specific:
1) Fanya only wanted a “soft” padded toilet seat.
2) She insisted that the toilet seat have metal screws and connectors, since metal makes the seat “sturdier” than the last seat, as well as giving the toilet a more sophisticated look.
Thus, the quest story would have began, if it didn’t get delayed by Sophia’s car accident and my mother arriving in Los Angeles for her holiday visit.
Days passed. Sophia began feeling better. With my mother in town, we decided to visit Fanya and Vartan on Christmas Day, then all go out for Chinese food.
“Have you gotten the toilet seat yet?” asked Sophia’s mother after we told her of our plans to visit. They had been using a broken seat for two weeks. Sophia promised that we would bring them a new one by the next day.
Now, the adventure begins.
The goal: A new toilet seat.
Obstacle One: It must be padded.
Obstacle Two: It must have metal, not plastic, screws and connectors.
Obstacle Three (the biggie): It is now the afternoon of December 24th — the day before Christmas!
Sophia, my mother, and I all headed for Bed, Bath, and Beyond, but the parking lot was so crowded with holiday shoppers that we decided to drive a few more blocks to a less frantic Bed, Bath, and Beyond wannabe called Linens and Things. We fought our way into the store and past the long lines at every register. We searched and searched until we found the toilet seats in the “bath” section. Sadly, there was only one padded toilet seat, an ugly green model, and it only had plastic screws. So, off we went — back to Bed, Bath, and Beyond.
Bed, Bath, and Beyond was a major disappointment. They also only had one soft seat, but it was sold out. The salesgirl said that “soft toilet seats” were out of fashion, and with her nose held high, recommended that we try Sears on the other side of the mall.
The mall was so jammed with annoying shoppers that it took us forever to walk from one side of the mall to the other. We even had to pass through the disgusting food court, filled with the rancid smell of “Cheesesteak ‘N Fries” and “Kong’s Mongolian BBQ.” Sears did not have ANY toilet seats at all, so we trudged back, so exhausted that we actually stopped for a heartburn-inducing snack at Kong’s Mongolian BBQ.
In case you actually care, the gimmick at Kong’s Mongolian BBQ is that you gather up your own meat and vegetables from some mini-buffet and then hand it into some “chef (more accurately, a Redondo Beach High School junior),” who grills it up for you. We quickly learned from these two girls in torn jeans standing in front of us that if you flatten the rolled up pieces of meat into your bowl, you can cheat the system and pile more food in before you hand it to the “chef.”
After being nourished by this fake Asian cuisine, we continued on our journey. We discussed buying it online, but Sophia was adamant about buying it today. Like Odyseuss, she would not give up. But the clock was ticking and some stores were closing early.
We drove to Target. The parking lot was a mess. Does everyone do their shopping at the very last minute? Our holiday spirit was getting so low that Sophia actually put up her middle finger to a Santa Claus who cut her off in his SUV.
Target was a bust. It ended up having NO padded toilet seats with metal screws. We went from store to store, all with the same result.
These stores had hard toilet seats with metal screws.
These stores had padded toilet seats with plastic screws.
But there were NO padded toilet seats WITH metal screws.
We drove to Kohl’s, mostly because none of us had actually ever been to a Kohl’s before. Just when we beginning to feel hopeful, our visit was quickly abandoned. Sophia saw some snotty actress she knew standing in front of the store, and Sophia, still with bruises around her eyes from the car accident, didn’t want the woman seeing her looking like this. So, off we went — back to the car.
“She’ll tell everyone that you beat me up.” Sophia told me.
“Yeah, like anyone would believe that.” I answered, trying to visualize a real fist-fight with Sophia where she doesn’t kick the shit out of me.
“Why don’t we try “The Home Store?” my mother asked, which Sophia and I understood to be my mother’s way of saying “The Home Depot.”
“They don’t have toilet seats.” I said with confidence. Later, I ate my words, because they DID have toilet seats.
Never underestimate the power of The Home Depot.
Imagine the look on our faces as entered The Home Depot and came face to face with the ONLY padded toilet seat with metal screws known to mankind.
The next day, we visited Fanya and Vartan. I gripped the padded toilet seat in my hands as if it was the most precious of cargos. As everyone chatted, I made a straight line for the bathroom and quickly installed the new toilet seat.
I stood there a moment and admired the seat. I have to admit — it was a really nice toilet seat — the “deluxe” model — soft, but sturdy. The screws and holder were shiny and silver, like something you would see in the bathroom of a fine hotel.
As in any “quest” story, the tale isn’t over until the hero wins the approval of the fair maiden.
“The toilet seat is ready,” I yelled triumphantly as I exited the bathroom.
Sophia translated this statement to her mother. Fanya looked at me with a distrustful expression, as if to say that SHE will be the one who decides if the toilet seat is ready.
Fanya grazed my shoulder, pushed her way into the bathroom, and closed the door behind her. We all turned to the the door, waiting. There was a silence, reminiscent of those old coffee commercials where the villagers waited for Juan Valdez to give his approval to the Columbian coffee.
The door opened. Fanya was smiling.
“Very nice,” she said in Russian.
We sighed. We went to a Chinese restaurant for Christmas.