I NEEDED TO buy a toilet—two toilets, really—and it was not going well. There are well-reported supply-chain problems in the home-improvement sector because so many people wore out either the physical equipment of their living spaces or their emotional ability to live in those spaces, and they all decided to change things at once. And so things that you assume are inherently available turn out not to be available, or places you assume would always have everything in stock do not have everything in stock.
We pretty quickly gave up on having a strong aesthetic plan about what the toilets should look like. If you want to be fussy about the visual design of your bathroom fixtures in the spring/summer of 2021, you have to be entirely unfussy about when you might actually get those fixtures, which is not easy to do, given the purpose of the fixtures.
But that didn't make the shopping that much simpler! There were still specifications that had to be met: We'd picked a particular brand, because we knew their toilets worked. The rough-in distance from the wall had to fit the bathrooms. We didn't want a looming tall toilet or a space-crowding elongated bowl—just normal height, normal shape. Normal white, not some "biscuit" or "ivory." And we wanted to make sure to get a 1.6 gallon tank, because one issue on which I do basically agree with the previous president of the United States is the inadequacy of weak-flushing water-saving toilets. An ordinary, functional toilet that would fit where it was supposed to go and could be trusted to do its job.
Home Depot did not have any available toilets that fit the specs. The manufacturer's website did not have anything available that fit the specs either. The Lowe's website allowed me to put two toilets that seemed right in the shopping cart, but it went into a failure loop when I tried to check out. So I decided to look for toilets on Amazon.
I try to use Amazon only as a last resort, but it's a little precious to try to hold on to any ethical limits when you're already shopping at Home Depot. I needed a particular thing by a certain time, and I couldn't figure out where else to get it. Why not the Everything Store?
Here's why not: I couldn't get Amazon to show me, out of its inventory of Everything, the toilet I wanted. I had run into this problem before on Amazon without quite consciously recognizing it. Amazon's vision of dominating retail is based on not simply meeting the customer's desires, but on anticipating the desires before the customer has even had them.
What this meant, in this case, was that Amazon would not listen to what I was trying to tell it. When I typed my exact toilet needs into the Amazon search bar—12-inch rough-in, 1.6 gallons, white, round, regular height—Amazon made its own proprietary algorithmic choices about which features it would emphasize, which features it would ignore, and which ones it would bring in based on other people's toilet searches. Browsing the listings was like doing a spot-the-differences puzzle: this one had all the specs but was "right height" rather than normal; this one was regular height but had an elongated bowl; this one was 1.28 gallons; this one was "bone"-colored instead of white. None them was precisely what I was asking for.
I could not tell a machine what I wanted, even though I knew what it was. Finally I gave up and called Lowe's and talked to a human being, who located the right toilets and worked around the computer failure loop by telling the system to ship two toilets to New Jersey, then separately telling it to ship those toilets to New York. In the end, they sent four toilets.
Another Week, Another HMM WEEKLY
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SANDWICH RECIPES DEP’T.
WE PRESENT recipes for sandwiches from Salads, Sandwiches and Chafing Dish Recipes, Copyright 1916, now in the public domain for the delectation of all, written by Marion Harris Neil, M.C.A., former Cookery Editor, The Ladies’ Home Journal, author of How to Cook in Casserole Dishes, Candies and Bonbons and How to Make Them, Canning, Preserving and Pickling, and The Something-Different Dish.
MARMALADE AND NUT SANDWICHES
24 blanched and chopped almonds
24 blanched and chopped English walnut meats
1 pint (2 cups) orange or grapefruit marmalade
White or Graham bread
Mix the nuts with the marmalade and spread on thisn slices of buttered white or Graham bread.
Buttered white or brown bread
Red currant jelly
Butter some thin slices of white or brown bread. Beat up the white of an egg and with it thin some almond paste. Spread between the slices of bread. Decorate the top of with the red currant jelly, putting it through a small bag and tube, small pieces of glacé fruits, and leaves of angelica. Cut into finger-shaped pieces.
8 large sprigs mint
1/2 pint (1 cup) boiling water
1 pint (2 cups) whipped cream
4 tablespoonfuls cold water
1 oz. (3 tablespoonfuls) powdered gelatine
Chop the mint, put it into a saucepan with the boiling water, and simmer for thirty minutes. Soak the gelatine in the cold water and add to mint, and after this dissolves, strain. When nearly cold, add the whipped cream and mix well. When cold, spread on bread.
Another Method.—To four tablespoonfuls of finely chopped mint add four tablespoonfuls chopped parsley, four teaspoonfuls of chopped chives, paprika to taste, and enough mayonnaise dressing to mix. Spread upon thin slices of fine-grained white bread
If you decide to prepare and enjoy any of these sandwiches, kindly send a picture to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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