Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Leaky Toilets and Well Designed Bathrooms in Sweden

My toilet is leaking. Bad. Every time I flush water spews out from the tank. At first it was just a bit of water. So little that I thought it was just coming from the bottom of the toilet. I wasn’t all that concerned. The next day it was a bit worse so I sent in a fault report to my building maintenance guy. In the meantime I kept doing my business. A little water on the floor wasn’t going to stop me.

I’ve learned a lot from this leaky toilet. In my opinion, anything that can’t be learned on a toilet or from a toilet just isn’t worth learning. And this particular toilet has reiterated two very important things about Sweden. The first one being that Swedes are damn good at designing bathrooms.

Most bathrooms in private residences that I have ever used have a glorious design. There is a large drain incorporated into the floor. And the floor slants towards that drain ever so slightly. Just enough to convince the water to head that way.

I think the good Dr. David Knightfish, who sometimes comments here, would agree that as an exchange student in Uppsala, after nights of possibly having had too much to drink, being able to rinse whatever may have ended up on the floor down the drain was a god send.

And now, in my old age (or lack of social life), when nights of heavy drinking are few and far between, I enjoy the drain for different reasons. That is to say when water ends up on the floor because of a leaky toilet I don’t have to use towels to clean anything up. I just let the slanty floor do its job. And so when I flush and the water leaks out, down the drain it goes. I don’t have to do a thing. I can live my life as if my toilet wasn’t leaking copious amounts of water.

The second thing that my leaky toilet has reiterated is the beauty of Swedish service. Or the lack thereof. Because a couple of days after having notified my maintenance guy I received a couple of mysterious messages on my phone. You know the ones where someone just says “Hello” over and over as if you have chosen to answer the phone but not talk to them. Anyway, as a general rule I don’t really respond to missed calls unless someone leaves a message. But I figured this person left some sort of message, regardless of its worthlessness. So I called them back yesterday. Turns out it was the plumber. Of course it was.

The regular maintenance guy was on vacation so he was filling in. And he was not pleased with me. It seemed like I was some sort of bother to him. To be honest, he was an ass. And he told me how he didn’t have any time to fix my toilet now. The only opportunity he really had was on Friday. Last Friday. The very same day he had left his two mysterious messages. If I had responded then he would have had time. But now? No way. Instead I would just have to wait until Monday the 20th.

I told him that the toilet was in fact leaking a good bit of water and any help before Monday would be appreciated. He reminded me again that he really only had time last Friday with some grunting and groaning as if to remind me just how busy and important he truly was. In the end, my boyish charm won him over and he agreed to call me back. I hung up the phone amazed at the guilt trip I had just endured. Somehow, I felt like it was my fault.

Now granted, I didn’t call the number back right away. But as it was, due to the lack of any credible message, I had no idea who was calling. So I’ll take a bit of blame. My no-call back policy bit me in the ass. But come on now. I have a toilet that is pissing water. Toilets are supposed to be passive in the act of pissing, not active pissers themselves.

Luckily, despite the lack of initial service and overall grumpiness the plumber called me back. And he will be coming on Friday. But can’t give me any specific time. Sometime in the morning he said. Sometime.

From my understanding though, this kind of attitude isn’t unique to Sweden, except for the fact that this was a Swedish plumber. Apparently plumbers the world over hold sway over the common man. Perhaps because of the fact that they can be counted on to keep a toilet from spewing sewage everywhere. I suppose it’s a good skill to have. But Mr. Plumber, I must remind you that with great power comes great responsibility. So don’t be an ass. And please fix my toilet.

Welcome to Sweden.

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  1. Your blog continues to be a must read for me every day - it has everything my Swedish mom never told me! So at this point, I'm either never moving to Sweden and will be okay with that because of the great insight you have provided (e.g. have taken the mystery/mystique away). Or I'm still moving, because I need to experience for myself all the quirks you have described.

  2. you describe the joys of dealing with Swedish tradesmen to a T - we should be ever so grateful that they exist and that they can even consider giving us the time of day....

  3. I was astonished to read that the plumber actually called you back. In Finland that would never happen! Plumbers are the emperors of the world there, electricians are second-in-command and then come all other house repairmen. Leaving IT people in the bottom of hierarchy, because they are supposed to earn easy money and a lot of it. Actually plumbers earn much more - maybe that's why indeed they are emperors! LOL!

    I laughed at the 'active pisser' part, it was hilarious, or Hillaryous in your case, TIC!

  4. @anonymous - glad to hear it... but I would suggest at least giving it a shot. because bathrooms with drains right in the middle of the floor need to be experienced first hand.

    @nic - if anything I should probably provide coffee and cookies for the plumber when he shows up.

    @smek - its funny that you mention electricians because I was talking to someone else about this and electrians also came up. clearly I am in the wrong branch when it comes to working.

  5. you'll have to forgive my tardiness on this one. I concure, Hairy. The ability to wash all the bad down the giant drain hole was outstanding. Although I can't say that I remember using it--something wonderful about Sweden made me able to hold my liquor. I've never figured out why, but it seems to be the case with nearly everyone I've talked to. Any thoughts?

  6. its because the booze is stronger, the nights longer, the winters colder, and the average can of beer bigger. oh and the fact that we were all exchange students and didn't have to go to class very often and instead entertained us in other ways increasing our tolerance. for better or worse.

    but I definitely remember one night of using the drain. and it was amazing.