The evening before Thanksgiving, when all plumbers have gone home for the holidays and can’t be reached for the next week, and we are expecting guests, of course our upstairs toilet decides to break.
What’s the big deal, you ask? Just go to Lowes, you say, and get a fill valve and flapper kit and fix it yourself. But you don’t understand.
I’ve never had success when it comes to plumbing. Actually I should include all home repairs. An example of my home maintenance prowess is the time I did a small repair on our toilet and I tightened a screw too tight and cracked the toilet. When my wife heard me let loose the despair filled “Arggghhhhhhh” in the bathroom, she came in and asked my favorite question in moments like that: “Did you pray about it before you started?” To which I replied, “No, and I’m not going to pray about it now either.” Which led to a 2-hour discussion about whether I was truly born again, and if so, had I possibly lost my salvation. Eventually I did repent and finally asked God to help me fix the toilet, which I was able to do by going out and buying a new one.
It’s not just toilets, either. A few years ago, our kitchen sink was dripping. How hard can it be, I asked myself, to stop a sink from dripping? I’ll just get a couple of those rubber things with the holes in them and stick them in there and wrap the whole thing in plumber’s tape, then wrap the whole thing 35 times in duct tape, then slather silicone sealer over the whole thing. No big deal.
When I open the cabinet doors below the sink I discover that a hoarder has been storing stuff under there since the Reagan administration. I have to have an intervention before I can even get to the sink pipes, so I pull out old dried up sponges, toothbrushes, 3 vases that flowers came in 5 years ago, a solid block of dishwasher detergent from 1976, empty ant traps, crystallized dog food, the original manuscript of the Constitution, and the shriveled up body of my former plumber who hasn’t returned my calls for the last 8 years.
Finally, I get on my back, slide my upper body under the sink, turn off the water, and take a look at the pipes. A smile breaks across my face as think, yeah, this is what it means to be a man. Manly wrench in hand. Fixing your sink. Taking dominion. Mike Rowe from “Dirty Jobs” would be proud of me. In fact, he probably wouldn’t even tackle this one.
All goes fine in the disassembly stage. I don’t break anything. I disconnect the pipes. No water gushing anywhere. I look up through the drain at the ceiling I painted with my own two hands last summer. I start humming “I’m a Man” by the Yardbirds.
I go to Lowes and head to the plumbing section. Once there I discover that all the sink parts are labeled in a foreign language only plumbers know, for example, “For the Kohler X-38765abcdef1812 inverted double handle slant faucet.” Fortunately, I’ve brought my own sink part along with me, so I take it out of my pocket and compare it to every one of the 5,000 parts on the wall. After about 45 minutes, I can’t find an exact match, so I grab a part that looks kind of like mine. “Close enough for rock ‘n roll,” I say to myself, and leave whistling “Takin’ Care of Business.”
Back home I insert myself under the sink again and connect the new part. Of course it doesn’t fit quite perfectly, but after banging it with the wrench and wrapping it in plumber’s and duct tape, I’m confident it will do the trick. The moment of truth – I turn on the water. No water drips from the faucet! I high five myself several times and do a little Riverdance step in the kitchen, secure in my manhood because I just fixed the sink. Then I turn on the hot water. Only one slight problem – no hot water comes out. In fact no water comes out. I try the cold water. No water from that one either. But I fixed the leak! I don’t have any water, but at least I don’t have a leak.
I’m happy to say that 3 days later, the sink was fixed. Both spigots worked fine and there was no more leak. And the plumber only charged me $75.00.
So tomorrow, I’m going upstairs to that broken toilet and do the manly thing – call my plumber.
photo by ghirson