Looking Under The Lid

TO WIT

August 15, 1993|By DAVE BARRY

As you are aware if you follow international events, over the past year I have written a number (two) of columns about the worldwide epidemic of snakes in toilets. As a result I have received many letters from people who have had personal toilet-snake encounters, to the point where I now consider it newsworthy when somebody reports not finding a snake in a toilet.

But now I am getting nervous. I say this because of a recent alarming incident wherein a woman, attempting to use her commode, was attacked in an intimate place -- specifically, Gwinnett, Ga. -- by a squirrel. I have here an article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, written by Gail Hagans and sent in by a number of alert readers. The headline -- a textbook example of clear journalism -- states: "Squirrel somehow makes way into commode, scratches Gwinnett woman's behind." I am not making this headline up.

The woman is quoted as follows: "I went to the bathroom and lifted the lid and sat down. That's when I felt something scratching my behind."

Following the recommended "Jump, Slam, Call and Tell" emergency procedure, she jumped up, slammed the lid down, called her husband at work and told him to come home immediately, which he of course did. We may live in an age of gender equality, but men have a protective instinct that dates back millions of years, to when they would have to defend their mates from such vicious predators as the saber-toothed tiger and the mastodon (toilets were much bigger in those days).

Unfortunately, by the time the husband got home, the squirrel had drowned, forcing us to once again ask when the failed Clinton administration will demand that all commodes be equipped with tiny life preservers. But that is not the issue at hand. The issue at hand is that the squirrel apparently got into the plumbing system via a roof vent, which means that if you, like so many people, have a roof, your toilet is vulnerable to any organism with a long narrow body, including (but not limited to) otters, weasels, dachshunds, squids and international fashion models.

But that is by no means the only major toilet development. There is also the Mystery Toilet in Texas that produces ballpoint pens. I am not making this up, either. According to a story in the Wichita Falls Times/Record News, written by Steve Clements and sent in by several alert readers, a man named David Garza of Henrietta, Texas, has fished 75 Papermate ballpoint pens out of his toilet over the past two years, sometimes as many as five pens per day. Garza has no idea where they're coming from, and neither do the local sewer authorities.

The story was accompanied by a photograph of Garza sitting on the bathtub next to the Mystery Toilet, holding a pen, looking like a successful angler. I called him immediately.

"What's the status of the toilet?" I asked.

"It's still a mystery," he said. He said he hadn't found any new pens since the newspaper story, but that he has become something of a celebrity. This is understandable. People naturally gravitate to a man who has a Mystery Toilet.

"Everywhere I go," he said, "people say to me, 'Hey, you got a pen?' "

I asked him if the pens still write, and he said they do.

"Papermate ought to make a commercial out of this," he said. "The slogan could be, 'We come from all over and write anywhere.' You know, like Coca-Cola, 'It's there when you need it.' "

Garza's statement got me to thinking about a possible breakthrough TV commercial wherein an athlete is standing in the locker room, sweating, thirsty as heck, and the toilet gurgles, and up pops a nice refreshing can of Coke. Yum! A commercial like that might be exactly what Coca-Cola needs to counteract all the free media attention Pepsi got recently with the syringe thing.

But the question is: Why are Papermate pens showing up in this toilet? There's only one logical explanation -- I'm sure you thought of it -- alien beings. David Garza's toilet is apparently connected to some kind of intergalactic sewage warp, through which aliens are trying to establish communication by sending Papermate pens (which are for sale everywhere). Probably they want us to write down our phone number on a piece of Charmin and flush it back to them.

Speaking of toilets and communication, you need to know about a TV-review column from the Daily Yomiuru, an English-language newspaper published in Japan. The column, sent in by alert reader Chris Graillat, states that there's a children's TV show in Japan called "Ugo Ugo Ruga," which features -- I am still not making this up -- "an animated character with heavy eyebrows called Dr. Puri Puri (Dr. Stinky), a piece of talking excrement that keeps popping up from the toilet bowl to express strange platitudes only an adult can fathom."

No, seriously, you're thinking that there are indeed some scary worldwide developments occurring in toilets, and the international authorities had better do something about it. And then they'd better wash their hands.

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