Taking the plunge

I’ve had my fair share of (small) victories and (major) defeats around our new house (more on that in another post), and I’m learning – and re-learning and re-learning – that I need to be more patient.

It’s been a baptism by fire so far, and yesterday as water pooled around my feet in the basement bathroom, nearly just a baptism.

Allow me to explain. A couple of weeks ago we had some family and friends over and, at some point in the night, the toilet’s flushing mechanism broke. When I lifted the lid of the tank I was puzzled to see that the flush handle and toilet flapper (another term I’ve just recently learnt) had been attached by a flimsy piece of plastic, rather than a chain. And that piece of plastic had finally snapped.

I fashioned a solution by tying some string to the toilet flapper and leaving it to hang outside of the tank. Luckily, a family friend about 20 years my senior improved on that by tying the loose end around the handle leading to the toilet handle, mimicking a chain. And so, for a couple of weeks we had a toilet that was actually working on a shoe string.

Yesterday was the NFC Conference Championship game between the Packers and the Seahawks, but with two hours until kickoff, I decided I’d have plenty of time to repair it with the flush valve replacement kit my wife and I had purchased the weekend before.

If I had done my research before wading into this project, I’d have known that I could simply turn off the water, drain the tank, slip off the one flapper, separate the new flapper from the set we’d bought and put it on the flush valve (another term I had to Google). Instead, I followed the instructions on the back of the flush valve kit’s box – first turning off the water and draining it, then soaking up the remaining water before removing the nuts holding the tank to the bowl, disconnecting the pipe that runs water to the tank and lifting it off. Little pools of water formed with each move, but I was undeterred.

In fact I texted my wife, who was out at the time, to tell her how well things were going. And that’s when things started going poorly. The next instruction was for me to unscrew the large nut holding the toilet plunger in place. Crank as I might, it would not budge.

I checked my first YouTube video of the day and saw that I needed a pair of pliers much larger than what I had.

Since it was nearly time for the game to start, and I could go no further, I had to settle for replacing the toilet handle, which was slightly cracked, with a new one. I had to admit to my wife that this project was suspended indefinitely. She  shrugged and said we had gotten by with one toilet before so it would be OK for a while.

Fast forward to nearly 9 p.m. as I sat on the couch still trying to comprehend how the Packers had blown a 19-7 lead with just over two minutes to play, eventually losing in overtime. I was cursing Mike McCarthy, the coach of the Packers, for an overly conservative game plan that had allowed for the improbable defeat. But I guess we all have our faults. McCarthy was too conservative. I was too reckless in this case, calling a play without fully understanding what I was up against.

For some reason, I decided to check YouTube again, and came across a video (which I cannot, for the life of me, find now, which only adds to the frustration) of someone replacing the flapper, as I described above, in all of about 30 seconds.

Smiling wryly as I thought about the time I’d wasted taking the tank off but pleased thinking how I’d surprise my wife with it being fixed, I headed back to the bathroom.

Things went to plan and I put the tank back on, tightened the nuts on the screws holding the tank in place, and switched the water back on. I was admiring my handiwork when I noticed water seeping onto the floor. Checking under the bowl, I was looking at a leak from both screws spraying water from the tank. Next, I was dashing to the kitchen for a couple of bowls, calling for my wife, who I heard coming downstairs, to grab some towels, and with my pliers, desperately turning the nuts tighter.

Given the late hour on a work night, I could understand that my wife – who mopped up water with towels and later had to take a hair dryer to the damp shower curtain set – was less than impressed. We didn’t talk for a while.

She wasn’t critical, but I was already heaping enough criticism on myself for the both of us. Like the Packers, I’d taken an easy win and flushed it away. But I guess if we’re judged on results, I had accomplished the job in the end.