If you were to present me with a choice of getting some extensive dental work or doing some minor plumbing home repair, I would need to get back to you after a lot of thought on which to choose.
Of all of the home repair things that can face a homeowner, plumbing is by far my least favorite of all tasks. Dealing with anything electrical would be at the top of the list, but since my wife has already made it very clear there is no need for me to ever even attempt such repairs, I don’t even have to consider that an option.
But when plumbing repairs present themselves, I can’t plead, “I might set the house on fire so we better call someone.” Such was the case recently when the toilet in our bathroom broke. It was fairly easy to detect that something was broken, because generally when you flush a toilet, you should not be holding the handle free of the tank.
Alas, that was how we found ourselves, when the handle snapped clean off. I did the sensible thing, which was to turn off the water to the toilet, place the tank lid on top of the closed seat, and tell the rest of the family, “Sorry, folks, but we no longer have a functioning toilet in our bathroom.”
Apparently this was not an acceptable decision. (Granted, I did manage to kick the can down the road for two days, which, quite frankly, I consider quite the accomplishment.)
I went to the home improvement store to pick out a new handle. To my surprise, I found out that they could be bought for a mere $2. When I returned home, I put the new handle in, connected the chain, and quickly found out why it cost a mere $2, when it immediately snapped. Chalk that up to a $2 lesson in the pitfalls of frugality.
Prior to heading back to the store, I noticed that the little plug thingee that keeps the water in the tank was looking a little ragged. Might as well fix that as well, I thought. Because when you are doing something you hate, it’s always good to double up the effort.
I went back to the store and grabbed a slightly hardier handle. When I went to get the plug thingee, I glanced at the options hanging on the wall. Some said they were for particular brands of toilet. I am like most people on the planet and have no idea what kind of toilet I have. However, I did see one choice that read, “Universal stopper. Fits all toilet brands.” Winner, winner. Or so I thought.
When I got home, I went to install the stopper. And I quickly saw that it was not fully plugging the hole in the bottom of the tank, which pretty much defeats the whole purpose. I returned to the store to exchange the item. When I went back to the Wall o’ Stoppers, I noticed that the first “universal” one I got was the two inch model whereas what I needed was the three inch version, which also marketed itself as being “universal.” Cue my inner Inigo Montoya. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
I brought the two new repair parts home and set to doing my home plumbing. First, I put the three inch universal stopper in, which I was surprised to see actually worked, because I am cursed at home improvement and I expect everything I do, in particular with regards to plumbing, to result in more problems.
I connected the handle, and then linked the chain to the handle. I cut the water back on, fully expecting a full-on geyser to erupt in my bathroom. The tank filled. I flushed. And it … worked. Just as it was supposed to.
Perhaps I have somehow exorcised my demons of the most basic plumbing tasks that present themselves. Maybe I have finally conquered that mountain. Maybe it’s time to branch out and see what else I can do. Except anything involving electrical stuff. I feel pretty certain my wife won’t budge on that edict.
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.