the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Quest for the Toilet Seat (An Epic)


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.

Until now.

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.


  1. deezee

    Oddly enough, I have a strong opinion on toilet seats.

    Well, that’s a bit of an overstatement, but I do wish I could have pitched Fanya the soft close toilet seat, a real god send to anyone with a boy (man?) in the house or to anyone one who lives with a toilet seat slammer.

    And the line about the actress possibly thinking that you beat up Sophia totally cracked me up!

  2. Noel

    This ranks with Dickens and Jean Sheperd. An enduring holiday classic, to be read year after year, filling us all with the true spirit of Christmas. I’ve read nothing nearly so Christmas-y all millenium.

  3. better safe than sorry

    my first choice would have actually been home depot, we don’t have bed bath and bedlum, we have linen and things, but it’s way overpriced, but i stopped buying those soft ones, cuz after awhile, the seat starts to crack and pinch. ouch!

  4. Neil

    Deezee — I don’t understand how this one “prevents injury.” Is this the one where the cover goes down slowly.

    I do have a friend in NY who has the most expensive Toto brand — the one with the bidet. It even has a temperature control to heat up the seat. But he now complains that when guests come, they all go into the bathroom and just sit in there for hours.

  5. Blitz Krieg

    When we built out house, the master bathroom has what I call my reading room. A separate enclosed space inside the master where I ran speaker wires during the house frame out. The light has a dimmer to get the proper mood, a large magazine rack and a padded toilet seat with metal bolts and backing nuts. The builder did not supply this seat, but gave me a $7.50 credit for not having one installed. The key when using the metal connectors is not to over tighten and crack the porcelain.

  6. Dagny

    Well duh. If you had spent time hanging with my mother, who is very picky about her toilet seat, you would have known that Home Depot was the place. When I first started reading, I thought, “Well of course, they will head off to Home Depot.” In the future, please check with me before touring the various stores. Oh yeah. I was out of town at the time. But I was still reading email.

    By the way, this is coming from a chick who had to change out the inner workings of the toilets at her mother’s house a couple of summers ago. Because not only do I look cute but I’m handy as well. Something about a mom who likes to hang at Home Depot on weekends and a dad who insisted that his only child, a girl, really needed that motorized erector set.

  7. Non-Highlighted Heather

    As I started reading your story, all I could think to myself is “Why the hell is he going to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and not Home Depot?” Amateur.

  8. Non-Highlighted Heather

    Ha, Dagny. Great minds….

  9. deezee

    “Is this the one where the cover goes down slowly?”

    yup. and it’s just the coolest thing! who would have guessed a toilet seat could so improve life? (except your friend with the heated one. Now that’s an idea…not to mention an interesting party lure.)

  10. LisaBinDaCity

    I think Dagny and I think alike. I also immediately thought Home Depot. Great minds 😉

  11. LisaBinDaCity

    Oops and Non-Highlighted Heather as well!

  12. Tatyana

    Deezee, here’s your next one:

    [was that the one, Neil?]

    Funny, a few years ago I invited a non-designer friend to a trade presentation of this monument to human crap Neorest, and had a swell time watching his face while the rep quoted the price (materials only). Remote with cold/hot buttons – extra.

    Still can’t believe he refused the promotional gift: a 1/16th replica of the product, in patented porcelain and logo embossed…

  13. Postmodern Sass

    I will come back and write a more thoughtful comment just as soon as I stop laughing over the idea of going to BB&B for a toilet seat! Where do you go when you need, say, a reciprocating saw? Ikea?

  14. s@bd

    You know … there’s this book out called, ‘No One Cares What You Had For Lunch’ …

  15. Heather B.

    I already thought Dagny was brilliant, but yeah…Home Depot. Duh.

    also, this “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., made me laugh my ass off.

  16. Tom Bailey

    Very interesting blog. This is my first visit. At first I couldnt figure out why you were so stuck on needing metal screws and not being able to rig plastic ones.


  17. plain jane

    Ok I have you one better. I have to get a padded, ELONGATED toliet seat for my mom and they are more difficult to find. Of course I was intrigued with the “deluxe” model…nothing but the best for mom.

    Funny, funny Neil.

  18. liz elayne

    ok neil, this just totally cracked me up. i love every single part of this story. the way you wrote it…how it happened…what you said…what eveyrone else said…the final approval. thank you for this gafaw before i head to bed. it has put my mind in a much better place for sleeping.

  19. Bice

    This was like reading a Seinfeld episode.

    I’m amazed though that you actually found a padded toilet seat with metal screws. I had no idea they made such a beast, I’d never seen one.

  20. Alexandra

    Hmm, I would’ve thought you’d be spending your Christmas at the Matzoh Ball.

  21. V-Grrrl

    Neil, kudos to you for LISTENING TO YOUR MOTHER.

    Honestly, y’all. Moms know it ALL.

  22. Lynnster

    Poor Neil, but yup, Home Depot is like the land of a bazillion toilet seats. Got one from there on the pot here, matter o’ fact.

  23. question girl

    am i the only one who knows that bed bath and beyond and linnens & things ARE THE SAME store?????

    however, i AM impressed with your handy work neil – especially after the closet incident

  24. steppingoverthejunk

    Through the first part of this post, I kept whispering in my head “go to Home Depot, Go to Home Depot” and thus, you did. I have to add, regarding the padded seats…I was somewhere that had one and the seam happened to be on the inside, therefore practically cutting into my bum and legs when I sat down. So be careful of the seam.

  25. sandra

    Two things:

    1. First, I adore the names of Sophia’s mom and step-dad.
    2. A soft seat? Really?

  26. ms. sizzle

    good lord that IS an epic! and for a soft seat toilet seat? those kinda creep out my bum.

    🙂 sizz

  27. margaret

    I admire your dilligence, I had you buying a soft seat with plastic screws and a hard seat with metal screws and swapping out the parts with super-glue…

  28. Non-Highlighted Heather


    I’m actually sitting on one right now.

  29. It's Me... Maven

    HALLELUIAH!! So many parallels here to the story of Cinderella! Only substitute a seat for the shoe!

    May she live to use that seat for a thousand years!

  30. It's Me... Maven

    PS: A blessing on your head… mazel tov, mazel tov!

  31. kapgar

    You are a good man, Neilochka. And why would you think Home Depot would not have toilet seats. You are a good man, but a silly one all the same.

    How’s Sophia doing?

  32. Churlita

    I love a man who is well aware that his wife could kick his ass.

    And I’m still grateful to you for your post letting me in on the Chinese food for Christmas Eve deal.

  33. orieyenta

    The door opened. Fanya was smiling.“Very nice,” she said in Russian.

    That must have gotten you some points with Sophia.

  34. The Cynical Girl

    I didn’t think that people on the coasts were allowed to shop at Kohl’s. Seems like a midwestern store to me – full of turtlenecks and embroidered sweatshirts.

  35. claire

    Kohl’s is pretty cool, though I doubt they have toilet seats. It wouldn’t even have occurred to me to try most of the places you did. Definitely seems more like a hardware store thing to me. Glad you found what you needed though.

    Sorry to hear about Sophia’s accident. I hope she’s feeling better!

  36. 2nd Pearl Past the Post

    How gratifying the approval of the throne!

    Wow, that you found it is so impressive. I’m glad you didn’t skimp and go for the green one.

  37. Postmodern Sass

    There you have it, Neil. The whole Internet knows that if you need a toilet seat, you go to a hardware store, not to a linens store, and that if you need a hardware store, you pretty much can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a Home Depot, so the fact that that was not your first and only stop in your quest for a new toilet seat leads me to make the following declaration, which declaration I make on behalf of the entire Internet, which also knows it to be true: “NEIL KRAMER HAS NEVER BEFORE SET FOOT INSIDE A HARDWARE STORE!”

  38. Dagny

    Thank you, Postmodern Sass. You have stated what clearly should have been obvious.

  39. Neil

    Ladies, I hate to use this type of language, but that is total bulls**t! I went to Home Depot just a few months ago to buy shelves for the closet that someone else installed.

  40. mckay

    ah, neil, i hate to berate you as others of the femme persuasion already have, but YES…home depot was all i could think as i read your post. i like shopping there way more than the shopping mall.

    i recently switched out the toilet seats in my home after my four year old boy hurt his…self when the seat fell too fast. now i have the slow lowering seats. am i a good momma, or what? just like you and sophia are good kids.

  41. mckay

    neil, i totally remember you shopping at home depot for the shelves. if i had seen you there, i would’ve flirted.

    or at least smiled ;0)

  42. Non-Highlighted Heather

    He may not know much about hardware but he certainly likes to play with his tool.

  43. Malnurtured Snay

    It’s all about the price, ain’t it?

  44. Dana

    I totally hate padded toilet seats! I mean, who’s going to be on one long enough to need the padding? Really. I’m just saying.

  45. Jack

    You could have gone for a as well. So very many possibilities. 😉

  46. Violet

    I’m still trying to get over the idea of a padded toilet seat. A toilet seat with padding?

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