From the Mouths of Babes
Back when I was in seminary, I remember having to drop something off for my friend, Doug. When he met me at the door, he was laughing so hard he could barely stand up straight. “What’s so funny?” I inquired. Gasping for breath he opened the door and motioned me inside. “Come here, you’ve got to see this. I’ve been rewinding it and watching it for the last 20 minutes.”
This was the late 80s so “rewinding” is the correct term. He was a big CNN fan and would daily record a particular show to watch later, usually taping over the previous day’s program for each new day’s addition. What had tickled his fancy on this particular day was the story of a little girl, maybe three, not more than four, who had saved her epileptic mother after a seizure that had left her unconscious by calling 911. A local journalist was interviewing the child, praising her for her quick thinking and gushing about how lucky her mother was to have such a smart and brave little girl. The child looked directly into the camera and, quite matter-of-factly and with guileless purity, stated, “I’m pretty proud of myself.” It was adorable, and delightful, and very funny, necessitating several more rewindings and viewings before I left.
I think about that little girl, and particularly her declaration, a LOT. “I’m pretty proud of myself” has been a tremendously helpful tool over the years. And not just for me. I’ve shared this with numerous friends, one of whom is a therapist who has shared it with several of her clients, who love to be able to begin a session with “I’m pretty proud of myself” before launching into whatever breakthrough occurred for them that week. Try it. “I’m pretty proud of myself.” Doesn’t that feel good?
I channeled this child the last few days as I’ve tackled a leaking toilet. Let me preface this story by saying that I am NOT handy when it comes to plumbing issues. I grew up with a dad who could fix anything (and I do mean anything) so I seriously never understood how people like plumbers, electricians, or carpenters made a living. Didn’t everyone’s dad know how to fix everything? Once I was launched and living several states away, I quickly learned how people like plumbers, electricians, and carpenters made a living. And it was the desire not to have to pay for a plumber for this toilet issue that summoned within me the little CNN girl from 35years ago.
I took the lid off the tank and saw that one side of the flapper seemed to be loose, perhaps having worn away just enough of the plastic to make fixing it impractical. So, off to the hardware store to buy a new flapper. Cheap enough. Good. And, installing it was easy, so easy, in fact, that it didn’t even warrant an “I’m pretty proud of myself” … especially when, in short order, it became clear that the tank was still leaking into the bowl, triggering the bobber to open the water valve to bring the water level in the tank back up to its proper level every 10 minutes or so. Damn.
Removing the lid to the tank once again, I pressed down on the flapper and the added pressure seemed to do the trick. But I obviously couldn’t keep standing there throughout the day pushing down on the toilet flapper so I duct-taped some foreign coins, unspent from various travels, to the center of the flapper. That didn’t work either. Hm … this new flapper was rubber, not hard plastic like the previous one. Maybe the added weight only to the center of it was causing the edges to bow up just enough to unseal the lip and let water escape. So I took off the coins and super glued decorative stones (the kinds used for glass bowl centerpieces) around the rim, while still keeping a few in the middle just for good measure. Still didn’t work. Damn!
I made my way back to the hardware store to ask for some advice and was told I probably needed to replace the whole flusher valve mechanism. Great … how much was that going to cost, and would I even be able to do this myself? “It’s really easy,” I was reassured, a sentiment echoed a few minutes later by a friend who had done this on one of her toilets at some point.
I checked a YouTube video, and it really did seem easy. So I drained the tank, sopping up the inch or so of water on the bottom with a towel, and carefully unscrewed everything and removed the tank. The rubber gasket connecting the tank to the stool had definitely seen better days. Ah … that’s probably the root of the problem. I should have this fixed in a jiff.
Well, it wasn’t fixed in a jiff! The new flusher valve I’d bought didn’t have a rubber gasket so I had to go back to the hardware store. I decided to take the tank with me just so they could see the size of everything I was working with. (This was no small feat considering I live on the third floor of a walk-up and my parking space is all the way around the connected rowhouse stretch of five buildings in the back and I drive a compact VW Beetle!) Turns out they hadn’t sold me the right sized flusher valve, so I swapped that out for one that was the proper size, one that also came with a rubber gasket, and returned home.
This time the rubber gasket didn’t seem to fit – it was too big, not resting flush (no pun intended) with the top of the porcelain stool. DAMMIT! So, back to the hardware store, armed with measurements of the hole. They said that the gasket I had was the only one they had that would work for me. I just needed to apply enough pressure to get it in there, perhaps rubbing a little dish soap around the outside to lubricate it.
I did all that … but was also very aware that the YouTube guy, the written instructions, and the hardware men had all firmly stated NOT to tighten things too much for fear of cracking the tank. I also know myself to be a bit of a bull in a China shop, so I was quite nervous about pushing the tank down too hard in order to force that gasket into the hole. I checked and double checked and concluded that this was simply a different style, and it wasn’t supposed to completely fit inside. This meant, however, that the tank would “float” a tad over the stool. Could that be right??
Only one way to find out. So I screwed in the two big screws, making sure they were snug without overdoing it, connected the water pipe to the clip, and attached the flapper chain to the handle. And guess what? It worked! Am I pretty proud of myself? I’m pretty DAMNED proud of myself!