Brand building through storytelling

The toilet that ruled my life

It was our first bathroom renovation in our long-awaited first home, and my husband and I envisioned a throne room worthy of the name. No commonplace toilet for us! We chose a champagne-coloured British import whose generous proportions made your basic john feel kindergarten-size by comparison. On a Twyford toilet, you could complete the most challenging of crosswords in comfort.

We soon discovered that a toilet should not be too inviting when there’s only one in the house. And that when said toilet stops flushing, it had better not require exotic parts—specifically, the part I’d always called the gizmo that goes up and down. I didn’t learn what it’s really called until our plumber took one look inside our beautiful broken toilet and said, “Can’t help you. It’s a nonstandard ball cock. Where’d you get this thing, anyway?”

Back we went to the source: one of the biggest plumbing supply stores in Canada’s biggest city. Sorry, they weren’t carrying Twyford anymore. No, they didn’t have a Twyford ball cock gathering dust in the back room. So I embarked on a survey of every plumbing supply store in the Yellow Pages (this being the pre-Goggle era). The fellows in the parts department—about 279 parts departments, actually—had never even heard of Twyford but they sure appreciated a good belly laugh on a slow afternoon. “Hey, Joe!” I’d hear them guffaw. “Got a lady on the blower wants a ball cock for a Tywford toilet!” Joe never had what I needed, but sometimes he offered a witty riposte that I’ll leave to your imagination.

I eventually tracked down a Twyford supplier in a far-flung bedroom community. Because I don’t drive, I took the train and a cab to shop for ball cocks. One by one, they expired. And by this time no one in the province sold Twyford ball cocks.

I dreamed of a Twyford ball cock the way some people dream of Prada bags or Porsches. My idea of bathroom decor had never included a large plastic bucket in a particularly garish shade of yellow, but one had taken up residence beside our only toilet. You don’t need a ball cock to flush your toilet if you have a bucketful of water. But I guarantee you’d get tired of scurrying down two flights of stairs to fill your bucket in the basement washtub.

Thank goodness we were due to take our next vacation in England, where Twyford parts would surely be as plentiful as Royal Doulton figurines. Not so. Which is why we spent the best part of a day fighting traffic in a rainstorm, with a surly teenager in the back seat, en route to Twyford’s headquarters in Stoke-on-Trent, an industrial city you wouldn’t visit unless you had to.

The sights of England set our imaginations humming. The fabled dome of Saint Paul’s, with its panoramic view of London. The topiary maze at Hampton Court, scene of royal revelry in tudor days. The megaliths of Stonehenge, where the Druids performed their mysterious rites. But none of these linger in my memory like the dark window of the Twyford factory, where a notice announced, “Closed for inventory.” We hammered and shouted and leaned on the buzzer while our son pretended not to know us.

At last a kindly gentleman came to our rescue—the manager himself. Touched that we’d come all the way from Canada, he presented us with two Twyford ball cocks (no charge) that eclipsed all the other acquisitions of that trip. Who cares about Liberty textiles when the comfort of the loo is at stake?

When we sold that house, we had one precious Twyford ball cock to leave for the new owners, Tom and Sandra. “Take good care of this,” I said. It seemed best not to tell them that we’d spent a whole day of our vacation tracking down that ball cock. Years passed before I ran into Sandra on the street. They were loving our old house but I felt compelled to ask, “How’s the Twyford toilet holding up?” She looked at me quizzically. Wouldn’t you know, they hadn’t even unwrapped the spare ball cock. Some people have all the luck.

As for me, I’ve learned my lesson. For a toilet with class, you can’t beat an upscale hotel. The maids pleat the ends of the toilet paper into little fans. And someone else orders the ball cocks. Ah, luxury!

Posted by Rona

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