The following is a story from my past. I’ve always enjoyed telling this to those too slow to escape one of my tales and I still get a chuckle out of what turned from an easy fix into a porcelain disaster. Even more importantly, it’s a beautiful day outside and, with a little tweaking, this is ready to go. Since this happened, my daughter is now a married woman of 26 while I’m a divorced man of 62 who ironically is once more living with his daughter. Time flies.
Hearing this, I stopped short at the bathroom door. Peering in, I saw my two-year-old daughter pointing excitedly at the toilet. Upon seeing me, she grew more animated and jabbed her pudgy little finger toward the bowl.
Aw, wasn’t that cute? After what seemed like a lifetime of noxious diapers, pungent baby wipes, and soiled sheets, my little girl was starting to get that whole potty-training thing down.
NOTE: As I draw closer to my mid-60s, this may be her future as she takes care of me. And you thought life didn’t have a twisted sense of humor.
“That’s right, sweetie,” I smiled, “that’s where you go ‘poo’.”
Ignoring the bewildered look on my daughter’s face, I scooped her up and went off in search of my wife. “Honey!” I cried, “You can throw away those Pampers!”
Lost in my enthusiasm, I ignored my daughter’s continued cries.
The following week, while riveted by the fascinating “Origami Death Match” on ESPN, my wife stormed into the family room, a scowl crossing her face.
“Toilet’s still stopped up,” she declared. “You really have to do something about it this time.”
Reluctant to pull my eyes from the Chinese team’s truly stunning rendition of the Last Supper made from yellow stickies, I shot back, “What, again? I took care of it!”
“Jiggling the handle doesn’t count.”
Of course, I knew she was right. When it came to repairing things around the house, I wasn’t exactly Bob Vila. I was actually more like Lou Vila, the guy who lived with his collection of cans under the I-95 overpass.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m always willing to try. After all, there’s something primal about strapping on a tool belt and launching headlong into a challenging do-it-yourself project. My testosterone pumping at maximum levels, I pound my chest, secure in the knowledge that, with my bare hands, I could fix everything from a broken heart to the crack of dawn.
Or, with the same bare hands, dial the phone for an actual repairman.
Sadly, as much as I like to identify with my pioneering forebears, my forays into the world of the “Fix-It Man” usually ended in disaster and frenzied calls to an electrician, plumber, carpenter, or doctor.
Of course, determined to maintain my inviolability as a guy, I always complained that it was really my wife who so hopelessly screwed the whole thing up that we had to call for help.
Like barbecuing, bowling, golf, and auto repair, familiarity with tools and their uses are what separate men from the animals.
Well, those and recliners.
So, it was with no small amount of trepidation that I took on the task of fixing our only toilet. I knew that one small slip on my part would place the family’s entire lavatorial capability in the, no pun intended, dumper.
Desperately hoping to reenact my early success, I pulled the flush lever. Watching the water slowly swirl down the drain, I jiggled the handle a few more times, hoping for the best.
As I watched the water leave the bowl about as slowly as in-laws at Thanksgiving, I knew this was going to take much longer than I feared. I grabbed the Plumber’s Helper-hmmph! Some helper! Where’s the butt crack?-and began to violently plunge up and down like some manic Dutch milkmaid assaulting a butter churn.
Water went flying everywhere. I jammed the plunger in as far as it could go before yanking it free in the hope that whatever was impeding the water would be thrust out onto the floor. At the same time, though, I wasn’t all that keen about actually seeing what that clog was.
Out of breath, I ceased my exertions. Moving the plunger out of the way, I looked into the bowl to see what, if anything, I had dislodged. All I saw, though, were tiny, rusty flakes that no doubt had been ripped from the pipes by my efforts. Other than those, there was nothing in the water to indicate anything had been stopping up the flow.
Hmm, time to give my original trick another shot, I thought. Maybe the clog had been loosened somewhere down the line and all it needed was another flush…
This time, the water went nowhere. Frighteningly, it rose to the rim of the bowl, threatening to overflow onto the floor. Frantically grabbing towels, dirty laundry, or anything else I could lay my hands on-Oh, no! Not my Jokes for the John!-to sop up any overflow. Luckily, the water stopped just short of the rim before slowly receding to its normal level.
OK, that didn’t do a darned thing. At this point, I knew the problem couldn’t be resolved by an amateur. A clog of this nature cried out for an expert who was highly skilled in the plumbing arts. Yes, a professional was needed to get to the bottom-once more, no pun intended-of this situation before a family was left without any means to flush away their problems-ok, pun intended.
In other words, it was time for me to tinker around with it and see what I could do. I didn’t know much but, what I did know is that I’d have to remove the bowl.
Dutifully securing the valve which fed water into the tank, I checked to make sure what kind of wrench I’d need. Normally a vise grip or channel locks with a rubber band would do the trick but I knew that it was vitally important to use the right tool. A wrong wrench thingie could shatter the fragile porcelain into a million pieces.
Passing my wife on the way to the garage, I assured her that I was on top of things and there was nothing to fear.
“You mean unlike that time you cleaned the fireplace and set the house on fire?”
Ignoring her, I kept on going.
“Or the time our old furnace fell out of your truck and into the middle of Main Street?”
Finding what I needed, I strode back into the family room. “Completely different situation,” I said and headed toward our bathroom.
“Yeah, you’re right,” she called after me. “This time you’re working on our only toilet. Want me to call the plumber now?”
I frowned. What kind of respect is that, I thought. I mean, it’s not like I screw up all the time. After all, I installed a dimmer switch in the living room. No, wait, the insulation caught on fire…bad example.
No, I got it! I wallpapered the entire kitchen! And, you can barely tell I put it up upside down.
I gently removed the plastic caps which lay atop rusty anchor bolts. May have a little trouble getting them off, I reasoned, so I determined to go extra careful. My wife was right about one thing, at least. This was our only toilet.
I eased the correct sized wrench on one of the bolts and paused. Now, which was it again? Righty-Tighty or Lefty-Loosy?
Momentarily confused, I wanted to make sure I got it. All that razzing I got from my wife left me a little frazzled as I pondered which direction to turn the wrench.
I got it! If I’m looking down at a bolt, I have to go right to loosen a bolt!
Confident, I pulled at the nut. But, instead of watching it ease itself off its bolt, all I heard was a barely discernible cracking sound.
Half a second before the entire toilet bowl exploded into pieces, leaving me only with a rusty nut gripped firmly by a Sears Craftsman 1/2” combination wrench.
NOTE: “Rusty nut.” Feel free to insert a double entendre.
“What the heck was that?” I heard from the family room, shortly followed by the stumbling footsteps of my daughter as she came to investigate what had exploded in the bathroom.
Wanting to cry, I knew I’d done it again. I sat back on my knees and tried to figure out my next step. I realized I had contributed yet another chapter to the book of my shortcomings as a repairman who can’t even remember how to get his nut off.
NOTE: Another double entendre. Free of charge.
My daughter’s eyes grew wide as she took in the devastation that littered the floor, the walls, and in the bathtub where she kept her seemingly hundreds of Disney action figures (Disney action figures!?).
As I peered into the empty maw of the toilet outflow pipe, I at least saw the source of the clog. Nestled among the porcelain shards was a toothbrush, baby’s comb, half a wad of Kleenex, what looked like a bag of Twizzlers, and, grinning insanely up at me, a little plastic Winnie the…
My daughter clapped her hands and excitedly squealed, “Pooh!”
Yes, sometimes what comes out of the mouths of babes isn’t necessarily crap.