It's not the fanciest or the biggest house, but I like it just fine. It's well-made, sturdy, has survived hurricanes, termites, and Florida's incessant heat and humidity. Of course, a 30 year old house includes things that are 30 years old, such as the toilet in the master bathroom.
I also like my 30 year old toilet. It was made in the U.S. of A. long before Al Gore felt the spirit move him to legislate our toilet water usage. Its mechanism is simple and reliable: no electronic reporting of my flushing habits to the NSA (I think), no bluetooth connection to integrate with my iPhone, no sensor to automatically flush when I get up. It's got just the basics, the same design we've been using since we got rid of the little wooden building out back.
Like most things that get used daily, it finally started showing some wear. Its wooden seat was fashioned I'm sure from the most stately of oak trees felled by two large, flannel-wearing Marlboro-smoking Americans who drove Ford pickups and wielded a hand saw. But after 30 years of serving its country as my throne, it finally gave up the ghost. Actually, the enamel paint just finally wore off and my wife complained enough that I finally did something about it.
Like many red-blooded Americans, one weekend I headed to the local home improvement mega-store to rectify the situation. I soon found a replacement seat in the correct color (beige) and size (American). On top of that, it was only $17! How do the myriad of toilet-seat making Asian companies stay in business?
Well, I'll tell you how. The new seat had a single technological advancement that is the key to the continued profitability of these companies. Attaching the seat to the toilet is a newfangled quick-release hinge system made of plastic - US Patent US6070295A invented by Mr. Randy K. Hulsebus and assigned to the Bemis Manufacturing Company. A quick turn of Mr. Hulsebus' plastic latches disengages the latch members allowing quick and easy removal of the toilet seat to clean... er... spillage. What a wonderful technological breakthrough!
Except in practice it isn't. Because in practice, sitting on the toilet seat exerts forces in numerous directions on those little plastic latches, and within a couple of weeks they work themselves loose. Then off comes the toilet seat, sometimes with the king in the process of utilizing his throne. While this would be comical once, each time it happens those little plastic hinges get a little looser, until soon it's not every couple of weeks, it's every week, then every time. Suddenly something that I didn't have to think about for 30 years now requires daily maintenance.
If you are in the business of marketing and selling replacement toilet seats, I can sympathize because there aren't a whole lot of ways to grow your business. With toilet seats lasting for decades, at $17 each that's about 57 cents per year per customer you can expect to make. A whole lot of advertising probably isn't going to make much difference to consumers that only think about their toilet seats every decade or three. But this new technological breakthrough just increased sales 30-fold. Because there's no way to just replace the worn-out plastic latches, they are formed integral to the toilet seat, so the only solution is to buy a whole new one every year or so.
Dealing with things like this has turned me into a non-consumer. I try to make things last as long as possible, because I know the replacement is going to be inferior and require more of my time for maintenance. It's funny that people started to complain about built-in obsolescence in the 60's and 70's, but I have a chest freezer and a wheelbarrow my parents bought in the mid-70's that I still use. I have cheap electric hedge trimmers from the mid-80's that still work perfectly. I have furniture anywhere from over 100 years old to less than a year, and the old stuff will easily outlast the new.
In hindsight, I should've just painted that old seat, but can you even buy real enamel paint these days? According to one source, "The oil paint manufactured today does not have the same thickness compared to versions made decades ago. Formulas changed to comply with environmentally friendly requirements." I doubt you can buy a paint as good as that used on my 30-year-old toilet seat, which means with today's less capable paint, I would be stuck repainting the old seat once a year. That's better than the inane hinges -- seriously, was toilet attachment cleanliness that big of a problem in the first place? I'm just glad I didn't spring the extra $60 for the whisper-quiet closing feature that "eliminates slamming and pinched fingers." But I'm guessing that it won't be long before our regulators in Washington declare them mandatory -- for toilet safety.