When I moved to my own apartment for the first time after college, I didn’t have a functioning toilet.
The Saturday before I started my new job, my family and I drove my belongings from San Diego to LA. I’d received a job offer on Monday, signed a lease on Thursday, moved on Saturday and would start my job that Monday, exactly three months from the day that I graduated college.
Things were moving quickly. Everything, that is, except my toilet, which I couldn’t get to flush.
My new apartment was in located a very suburban, residential, nice area. From any vantage point in the neighborhood, skyscrapers loomed large on the outskirts of the neighborhood. It was the quintessential compromise, the sort of place that would perfectly suit an urbanite not quite ready to abandon city life for suburbia.
I had skyscrapers, I had suburbia – the only thing missing was a functional toilet.
After my parents and brother helped lug my belongings up the stairs and into my apartment on that Saturday, we headed to Universal Studios to celebrate my brother’s birthday. It was apparent to us before we left for the day that the toilet wasn’t working properly and I mentioned the issue to my landlord.
It was a sticky and uncomfortable day at Universal Studios. As I walked around the park, sweating, I contemplated my new job and my new apartment, my new city, my new life.
Change is not inherently bad, but I like routine. My comfort zone is a pretty nice place to be, in my opinion. But living at home for a few months post-graduation, unemployed, had been enough to motivate my typically over-achieving self to welcome the monumental changes brought about by my first post-college job. When it came to actually begin living that new life, the comfort-zone-loving part of me went into panic mode.
The day at Universal Studio passed in a hot, hazy blur. That night, my family stayed at a hotel close by, and I stayed in my new apartment.
The next day, they left.
It was mid-afternoon. My heart was beating a little faster than usual, as it has an obnoxious tendency to do when I’m anxious. I was unpacked, and as ready for my new job as I’d ever be. I had nothing to do.
I decided to walk to the nearby grocery store rather than drive there, solely to kill time. I discovered over the course of the day that my toilet was still not running very well, and contacted my landlord, who promised that she and her son would look at it.
I was slightly embarrassed to communicate my problems with the toilet to my landlord – I had just moved in, and didn’t want to seem ungrateful or demanding. And the fact that it was the toilet that wasn’t working properly – rather than, say, the microwave – compounded my awkwardness.
During my first few days at my new job, issues other than my toilet took priority in my consciousness. I had enough leftover anxiety in me, however, to notice that even after my landlord and her son had worked on the toilet, not much had changed.
Reluctantly, and at the urging of my more assertive parents, I communicated this fact to my landlord. She promised to have a plumber come look at the toilet as soon as possible.
When I got home the next night, I noticed that my toilet was flushing properly. I checked with my landlord to see if this was due to a visit from the plumber and discovered that yes, the plumber had fixed the toilet. He had done so by extracting a pair of electric nose-hair clippers from the pipes, apparently flushed accidentally by the previous tenant.
And just like that, I had learned my first lesson of living alone – don’t be afraid to assert your rights. And when in doubt, check the plumbing for nose-hair clippers.
By Kathleen Toohill