I have come to the firm conclusion that it was the fault of the women’s liberation movement that my toilet blew up. It used to be when something went wrong with the plumbing you screamed for the nearest male, be he husband or hapless passing neighbor or, in our house, my father. And, if he had any sense, he called the plumber. Now, thanks to the modern image of the independent woman, we gals are expected not only to hold down a job but run the household and know how to repair it. Luckily, my father did not believe in helpless females and, at an early age, I was initiated into the mysteries of wiring switches and lamps, drilling holes, sawing tree limbs, and hammering nails albeit not always straight. But, whenever faucet washers needed changing, I politely watched my father for a few minutes, then quietly slipped away, the echoes of his frequent expletives fading behind me.
When the toilet mechanism in my house started emitting spits and hisses instead of flowing water, my first thought was to call the plumber. But, at ten o’clock at night, I contented myself with using one of my father’s best plumbing curses and filling the tank by bucket. My first big mistake was relating the incident at the office the next day. “That’s simple to fix…no need to waste money on a plumber…etc”. My second mistake was to believe that. If it were so simple, certainly I, the very image of modern independent, career woman, could easily handle the problem.
On Saturday, I gathered my tools, fetched a bucket ans sponge, and proceeded to empty the tank. So far, so good…except that the water cutoff valve was frozen even after a liberal application of liquid lubricant and I had to trek to the basement to shut off the whole house. That should have been my clue right then and there.
I couldn’t see how to take the toilet mechanism apart so I opted for replacement. The instructions said “screw in, screw out”. Great, except that I had the increasing feeling that the mechanism wasn’t the only thing about to get screwed. I couldn’t make anything budge without it looking like something was going to rip apart. Creeping doubts gave way to uneasy fear and I decided the wiser course was to retreat and put it back the way it was. So I did.
Back to the basement. When I turned on the water I could hear the roar as it flowed full force into the tank. Whatever I’d done, it must have fixed the problem. Or so I thought. But did the cutoff valve on the toilet mechanism work? I didn’t need an overflowing tank. I hurried upstairs and lifted the lever. Gulp! It did not work. I swallowed panic and began to diddle with the mechanism. That was my third mistake.
The instructions never mentioned that the bloody thing came apart if you twisted it the wrong way. I saw the rise of the Yellowstone geyser just in time to duck. That’s when I set the neighborhood record for the twenty meter water cutoff dash.
As I crept back up the stairs nursing skinned knuckles and a stubbed toe, I noticed that the dog had taken refuge on the high ground of my bed. I cautiously stuck my head inside the bathroom and entered the combined worlds of South American rain forest and Great Dismal Swamp. Water dripped steadily from the ceiling onto a sodden carpet and the wallpaper was already starting to curl. Cry? No…laugh…hysterically! The dog prudently departed the bed and slunk away to hide under a table.
The next Monday the plumber arrived, fixed the toilet in fifteen minutes, and charged me for an hour. It was worth it. I will go on being a liberated woman who rewires her own sockets, lays her own kitchen tile, and services her own car but, when it comes to plumbing, I don’t care if I’m seen as liberated just as long as my toilet works.