I knew something was amiss as soon as I stepped into the bathroom at work. It took me a moment to realize what it was. There was a steamy, oppresive heat in the air. A few minutes investigation revealed that the source of the heat was the water in the row of toilets. The water simmered at a temperature just below boiling. For no apparent reason, it had reached a temperature suitable for poaching eggs. Not that I was tempted to do so.

I called the head of maintenance to report it, and he explained to me (in plumbers’ terminology, and I don’t speak the plumb-ese language) why that was not possible. Hmm. Maybe I could solve the mystery myself. I’ve long been an admirer of the skills of fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, who solved many mysteries through his impressive powers of observation and deductive reasoning.

“It’s elementary, my dear Watson,” he’d say. “The buttonholes of Worthington’s vest are slightly worn on the underside, proving the finger he uses to fasten them is arthritic, and thus too weak to pull the rusty trigger of a German Luger. Therefore, he is not guilty.”

Surely I’d learned something from years of reading about Holmes’ exploits. So focused was my brain on the mystery of the hot porcelain bowls that wisps of smoke (like those emanating from the toilets) began to waft from my ears.

I knew the building was served by a geo-thermal system of heating and cooling. Therefore, I deduced that the building must be sitting atop a now-active volcano. Just because there’d never been a reported volcano in Kentucky didn’t mean it couldn’t happen.

This lent an element of danger to an otherwise mundane experience. What if, just as I lowered myself to the toasty warm seat (which is probably rather nice by the way, as long as the person doesn’t sustain third-degree burns), Mt. Porcelain violently erupted, spewing lava and covering everything and everybody in its path?

Remember the fate of the city of Pompeii, whose residents were unearthed from the ashes centuries later, their bodies locked in the positions of everyday living. I could conceivably spend eternity in a toilet stall, guarded by a red velvet rope, forever frozen in my seated position, being gawked at by camera-toting tourists.

How might I prevent a catastrophic eruption? As a fan of old movies, I knew there was only one solution: to appease the gods, I must sacrifice a virgin. This could prove to be a problem in the current day and age. I certainly didn’t qualify, since I’d given birth, and it didn’t involve a manger, three wise men on camels, and a star in the east. In the office next door, I was able to find one woman rumored to have high moral standards. She put up quite a fight when I tried to flush her down the toilet, and I had to abandon the idea.

Perhaps I’d have to learn to accept the super-heated toilets as a luxury usually reserved for wealthy patrons of exclusive health spas. The heat was a welcome relief from the usually frigid conditions in the office, where frostbite remained a very real danger. I kept a windshield scraper hanging from my computer’s monitor to scrape off the frost. We considered renting out a corner of the office to a local meat-processor. On my way to the file cabinets, I’d have to dodge sides of beef and whole pork loins dangling from ceiling hooks, but maybe I could make a deal with the meat processor and make a few bucks, or at least get a discount on sirloin steaks.

That’s when the head of maintenance decided to take a look for himself. He discovered I was right and arranged for a repair. Drat. My plans for fame and fortune just went down the drain.


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