“How was your pandemic?” I ask the taxi driver. I’m returning home to country Victoria after six months away.
“Horrible, horrible,” says the taxi driver. “Winter, and everybody scared about the virus and businesses shut.”
We drive through town. The vegan cafe is gone, as is the drive-through bottle shop.
People have started going out again, he tells me. “The fear is going.”
Last Saturday night the taxi service was busy taking people to pubs and parties.
“You look like you’ve been somewhere nice,” says the driver. I have a tan. I wish I could tell him that I was somewhere nice for noble reasons: fruit picking or working in a PPE factory. But instead I’ve been in Sydney, working on a television show; the quintessential inessential worker.
I tell him about Sydney. Not many people wearing masks – well, they did for about two weeks in Ubers and on public transport but then just kind of gave up because it was slightly uncomfortable and wasn’t mandatory. What else? QR codes everywhere, small house parties, Covid marshalls telling you to sit down at the pub, limits of 10, limits of 15, limits of 20, limits of 30, the beach busy on a weekday with people “working from home”.
“Welcome home,” says the driver as he drops me at the front gate.
I feel a little choked up – but for all the wrong reasons. My garden. What has happened? Has someone come and napalmed it? How could it be so thoroughly and totally dead???
I splashed out on a gardener and spent the first lockdown planting a backyard garden – with everything from large trees to tiny flowers.
But now the grass is dry, bald in parts, the potted plants choked by thistles, and the small, tender plants that were placed so hopefully in their beds are gone – eradicated. It was like the garden never existed. Actually it was worse. The yard looked bestial, angry, raw.
I’m almost too scared to look inside the house.
Thankfully, all is normal … until I go to the bathroom.
What has happened to the toilet? It’s not the same toilet I left behind in June. The seat has been replaced – purchased by some panicked Airbnb guest perhaps, who had broken it. The only problem is the new seat doesn’t fit. Like a child’s potty seat, it’s over the bowl but with a large gap between the seat and the bowl.
My friend Erik who saw a picture of it, observes, “With the underbite, it kind of looks like Woody Harrelson.”
Every time I walk into the bathroom I have more questions: did the guests honestly think I wouldn’t notice a new, ill-fitting toilet seat? How did they break it? Where’s the old toilet seat? Why did they not just tell me it’s broken?
But now, until I work out how to get it fixed, I’m stuck with this undersized monstrosity, and an over-sized mystery.
There is a cannon of scatalogical mysteries that haunts this country. Eighteen years later people are still talking about the Coogee Bay hotel dessert mystery (one guest said there were faeces in her ice cream, the hotel denied it, a confidential settlement was reached).
Then there was the 2018 Brisbane “poo jogger”. The motivations of the – man, who “went” while on his run each day, outside the same block of flats, is also a mystery.
Could the case of the missing toilet seat be part of the cannon? Probably not. While there are unanswered questions, it lacks the true filthiness of the other mysterious excrement-related incidents.
Meanwhile, posting a photo of the weird toilet seat on Twitter, followers urge me to look on the bright side. At least the guests replaced the seat.
Others wonder about the circumstances – was the seat wrenched off in sheer rage? (But if you were enraged, would dismantling a toilet really be your go-to?) Or was it cracked after someone plonked down too hard? Or did it have stuff on it that was hard to clean off?
Some with plumbing expertise questioned if it was even a new seat, speculating that it might have just moved backwards.
“Pull it forward and tighten wing nuts under back of seat. Wash hands,” suggested Andy Barrow via Twitter.
There was even some discussion about whether toilet seats come in different shapes:
“Toilet seats only come in one size. There are two wing nuts behind the bowl (under the hinges). Loosen them a couple of turns, wiggle the seat into the right spot and then re-tighten,” advised “Cam O’Flage” on Twitter.
“Nope nope nope. I work in plumbing sales. Theres a lot of diversity with toilet pans these days and some have specific seats to suit,” replied “Daisy 88”.
As I visit my local hardware store to discover the diversity of toilet pans, I count my blessing that it’s just the toilet seat (and my garden) that are a bit off after so long away.
Consider what happened to “Tracy Trips” when she Airbnb’d her house:
“We recently had someone repaint a whole wall! A small wall, but a wall nonetheless. It was a pretty bad colour match and a botchy job around the edges”.
Maybe I should count myself lucky … Anyway, it feels good to be home.