Several years ago, my brother-in-law, Jim, mentioned a peculiar discovery he had made in a house he had just bought.He was doing his business when he noticed that his toilet was plugged into an outlet.Upon further examination, he discovered that the wires led to a heating element in the tank.Someone had installed this special toilet in order to prevent the water from freezing.

Now that may be all good and well if Jim lived near the arctic circle, you know, Fairbanks, or Nome, or one of those places.But we live in Western Washington where it gets below freezing maybe five days a year.It’s only hit zero once in my entire life, and that was in 1950 — -(it left an indelible impression on me because all of the kids went to see the remnants of Bobby Fowler’s tongue stuck to the shinny pole in the playground).

But the point of all of this is that someone, for some reason, decided to install and electric-heated toilet in Olympia, Washington.For years, the little robot chugged happily along, heating water that didn’t need to be heated.

Some time later, I came to realize that this was a very useful image — -a device that uses electricity to perform a function that absolutely did not need to be performed. An Electric Toilet! The essence of the concept of wasted energy!

That got me started thinking.Do I have any electric toilets in my house?Of course not.What do you think I am, stupid?

Then, a little later, I grabbed my battery-powered 24V mega electric drill and headed for the front screen door to tighten a screw.It didn’t work because the battery had gone dead.But no problema!I keep a spare plugged in for just such an emergency.I pulled the fully charged battery out of the charger and dropped the dead one back in its place. That’s when I felt the new battery — -it was warm.But I hadn’t used it in six months.Do you mean to tell me that it just keeps on charging even when it’s fully charged!?

That’s when it hit me, Holy Ole, Patron Saint of Norway! I own an electric toilet!

Then I looked over at the other chargers lined up in a neat row:the Sawsall, the Mansfield Swivel-Top-Do-Two-Things-at-Once Drill (not sold in any stores!), and my Duwalt everything kit.Four electric toilets all neatly plugged into a surge-protector strip with its own bright red L.E.D. lighting up the corner of the work bench like a Yule tree.And to think, it all started with a loose screw I could have just tightened with one of those old…what were those things called?

With some trepidation, I began to walk around the house with a new pair of glasses on — -what was that dreadful movie where some guy put on a pair of sun glasses and suddenly he could see that there were aliens everywhere masquerading as humans?Well, there were electric toilets everywhere!The electric knife was plugged into the surge strip next to the coffee maker with its little twinkle light and clock.I never use that clock, because the one on the stove is easier to read, or the one above the sink, or the one built into the fridge.I looked down at my watch—aha!Saved by the bell!My watch is a Sieko kinetic — -it winds itself with this little weight that swings around each time I blow my nose.(Actually, I was crushed to find out later that there’s a battery in there somewhere.)

I didn’t dare go up to the computer room.That jungle of wires all leads to surge strips — -a bunch of ‘em.Despondent, I slinked off to the couch and picked up the remote to the plasma screen and turned on the news.I think Al Gore was getting his Nobel Prize that night, but I didn’t pay any attention.I had just learned I was living in a toilet!

Since that night, I have seen electric toilets everywhere.Our entire way of life is filled with them.I’m not going to list all of the dozens I have discovered in my own house.I think I will leave this site open for whoever reads this to add their own toilets to the list.


I will leave this section with the latest alien to show up in my glasses.

We keep a six-pack of bottled water in the car.If we’re thirsty or need to take a pill or something, you just grab one.“Crack!”We’ve all heard the plastic cap break open.Guzzle, guzzle, guzzle!Ahhh!

Then it dawned on me.Why am I drinking water from a plastic bottle!?When did we decide that our filtered tap water wasn’t getting it done.Somehow, almost all of us have accepted the proposition that it makes some kind of sense to have someone on the other side of the planet take their tap water, run it through a filter, shove it into a carbonized plastic bottle using an electric powered bottling machine, load it onto a pallet which is picked up by a gas-spewing forklift and dropped into a gas-spewing semi, shipped to a waiting gas-spewing ship in a harbor, where its carried half way around the world to have the process repeated until it reaches the shelf of my neighborhood Safeway.




The truth is that it doesn’t make sense.In a very real sense, it’s nearly a crime.We use carbon to make plastic bottles, to bottle up water, and ship it all over the world to places where people have their own very acceptable drinking water.It only makes sense to an economic system that reduces the matter to a single question: “Can I make money doing it?”Obviously, that question is answered in the affirmative or else the water wouldn’t be on the grocery shelf.But that equation should and must be subjected to a carbon veto.And so should many other products that spew carbon dioxide into the air just to perform a function that doesn’t really need to be performed.

It is part of what we need to change as a species.We have wandered down a carbon brick road until the very existence of all life on this planet is in peril.We need to see the electric toilets for what they are, and we need to accept the responsibility not to use them any more.

I have to say, the best turkey I ever ate was the one my Grandpa cut with a hand-sharpened knife that sub-freezing January day in 1950.

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