A few weeks back I broke my toilet seat. Not really sure how that happened nor does it seem like a thing that should happen given the tendency of toilet seats to be sturdy But I guess it was old and the hinges were rusty because when I went to set the lid down on what, for Morgan, is a highly interesting water bowl, the lid went skittering across the floor. So it was off to the toilet seat store for me!
I quickly identified a likely candidate and took it to the cash register. I am planning on redoing my bathroom soon and I was pleased to find a lovely little number in a shade of red that would go well with my planned color scheme. “Oh signora,” said the girl behind the counter. “Are you quite sure that the seat you have chosen is the correct size?”
Before I continue, let me explain about shop assistants in Italy. These fall into three categories: the disaffected, the officious and the dedicated. The disaffected really couldn’t care less whether you buy anything or not. They can’t be bothered to offer you any help (that might just encourage you to stay in the shop longer) and are mostly just annoyed that you are interrupting their cellphone conversation. The officious are — I suspect — actually a subcategory of the disaffected. They don’t seem to be much concerned with making a sale either. But where the disaffected chase you off through lack of interest, the officious win the day through intimidation. “DICA!!!” They shout at you the moment you walk in the door, which roughly translates as “WHADDAYA WANT??” If, God forbid, you just want to browse they will follow you everywhere you go in the store, walking about a half pace behind, breathing hot, clammy breath on your neck and staring daggers into the back of your head. They are the worst.
The third type of shop assistant wants to make a sale but it has to be the right sale. They take pride in their work and they will not be satisfied until they have found the item that perfectly fits your needs. The toilet seat shop assistant apparently fell into that third category. She carefully explained that the store sold over 30 different sizes of toilet seats. It was critically important that the seat I procured be the right size (and shape) for my toilet back home or it would be uncomfortable and slide around and I don’t know what else; I stopped listening at that point. I do remember her saying that I must go home and measure the toilet carefully. Sadly I put back my lovely red seat and trudged off to find a measuring tape.
At this point, I pulled in the Upstairs Vegetarian because I am not very good at practical things (as I am forever being told) like measuring and she was just going to tell me I had done it all wrong anyway. The UV took lots of measurements and even did a little drawing. We went back to the toilet seat store, only to be told that we’d measured the wrong bits. WHAT? It’s not like there are that many bits to measure on a toilet and how come she didn’t impart this information in the first place? She suggested that we sketch an outline of the seat on some newspaper and bring that in later.
Now, drawing an outline of a toilet seat is easier said than done, requiring masking tape, at least two people and a writing instrument that is visible through newsprint and won’t break through said newsprint when it is basically sketching around a big hole. Anyway, we got it done and took a photo for good measure. And off we went, back to the toilet seat store.
Finally satisfied that we could be trusted with a responsible toilet seat purchase, our dedicated shop assistant pulled out her Big Book o’Toilet Seats. There were indeed at least 30 in there, drawn to scale and each sporting a different name: the Antonio, the Olivier, the Patrizia. She looked in vain for my perfect match and then got up saying, ”I think I have something in the back.” She brought out a toilet seat (this one sadly un-named and sadder still, un-red), I bought it and took it home. But I’ll never know whether she had the measurements of every single stock item memorized so that when she saw our sketch she instantly knew where to turn, or whether she was as bored with the whole escapade as we were and just grabbed a random seat when my specifications didn’t show up in the book, figuring it would fit well enough, which it did. Was she a disaffected masquerading as a dedicated?