"Why God Made Outhouses"

 

It started so simply. You know that little chrome handle you use to flush the toilet? Well, it's connected to a lever inside the tank. That lever has a chain on one end that's connected to a rubber whatchamacallit that looks kind of like a small mutated plumber's helper. When you push down on that chrome handle, it lifts that lever which pulls the chain that pulls the rubber whatchamacallit out of a hole in the bottom of the tank. This lets the water in the tank go rushing out, and presto you have a flush. Well, that little lever broke on my toilet. That's all. It broke. It had seen a few too many "in the tank" chlorine cleaners, and the plastic deteriorated. So, when I pushed the handle, nothing happened.

No big deal, I'd just buy a replacement lever at Walmart. (Trip #1). I did, and I replaced the lever. So, I pushed down on the handle. It lifted the lever which pulled the chain that pulled the rubber whatchamacallit out of the hole, and it flushed. The end . . . only, I noticed that afterwards, the water that refills the tank kept running, and it got so high in the tank that it overflowed into that vertical plastic tube-like thing standing in the middle of the tank. So naturally, I tried to adjust the flow control on the dohicky connected to that floaty bulbous thing in the tank that tells the water when to stop flowing. It broke.

No big deal, I'd just go to Walmart and buy one of those newer replacement thingies that don't have the floaty bulbous thing. (Trip #2). Well, they didn't have the replacement thingy like the one I had purchased once before. They had a new fangled replacement thingy that had all these cool floats and levers. Never one to pass up new technology, I bought it. It was fairly easy to replace the old unit with the new one, and I was finished, except that I noticed that the water kept flowing as before. The rubber whatchamacallit, that looks kind of like a small mutated plumber's helper, which plugs up the hole in the bottom of the tank after you've flushed, was leaking. When I touched it, it turned my fingers a permanent black. It disintegrated like a year-old cheese doodle. The rubber had also seen too many chlorine cleaners.

No big deal, I'd just run to Walmart and buy a replacement rubber whatchamacallit that looks kind of like a small mutated plumber's helper. (Trip #3). I did, and I discovered that this rubber whatchamacallit that looks kind of like a small mutated plumber's helper has a scientific name. It's called a "flapper". I replaced the old rubber whatchamacallit that looks kind of like a small mutated plumber's helper with a new flapper and everything was fixed, except that the flapper was kinda small, and if it didn't seat exactly right, it didn't completely cover the hole at the bottom of the tank, and water ran through it. This meant that the new fangled replacement thingy had to kick in and shoot water into the tank to replace the water which had leaked out. This increased my water bill, but more importantly, the new fangled replacement thingy was noisy and liked to do this replacement squirt ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT!

No big deal, I'd just run to Walmart and buy another replacement flapper that was bigger. (Trip #4). I did, and it was, and at last, everything was fixed. The toilet flushed, the flapper flapped, and the new fangled replacement thingy didn't run all night. Well, not all night. It ran every now and then, and there were the little pools of water collecting on the floor behind the toilet. Hum! Well, there were these black rubber washers that fit around the bolts at the bottom of the tank that hold the tank to the toilet bottom. They also turned my fingers permanently black and left little clouds of black water when touched. They must be leaking.

No big deal, I'd just run to Walmart . . . No, I'd run to a real hardware store and buy replacement washers. And while I was at it, I'd buy a replacement hose that connected the water supply to the new fangled replacement thingy, because I thought the old one might be leaking. (Trip #5). I found a selection of washers and a replacement hose, and tried my best to convince the helpful salesman at the hardware store (these guys always intimidate the daylights out of me) that I knew what I was doing. A little more work, the tank was loose, and I was ready to replace the washers. Only, I noticed that there was this big soggy spongy washer kinda thing that goes between the tank and the toilet and it was all wet. And I realized that the vertical plastic tube-like thing standing in the middle of the tank which is connected to the hole in the bottom that the flapper plugs up has its own black rubber seal that turns my fingers permanently black when touched. This tells me that the vertical plastic tube-like thing standing in the middle of the tank is probably leaking as well.

No big deal, I'd just return to the hardware store and exchange the small hose, (which was the wrong one, but don't tell the salesman), for the right one, and exchange the replacement-replacement flapper for a vertical plastic tube-like thing standing in the middle of the tank with a new seal and it's own flapper. (Trip #6)

OK, now I have put in the new fangled replacement thingy, a new flapper, a new vertical plastic tube-like thing standing in the middle of the tank, new washers for the hold-it-to-the-toilet bolts, a new hose, and of course the original replacement handle. (Did I mention that you can't buy a replacement lever, you have to buy the whole handle?) The only original pieces of equipment that I haven't replaced are the tank itself and the brass nuts and bolts that hold the tank to the toilet. So, now everything is hunky-dorry. Oh, there are those persistent little puddles of water collecting on the floor, but that's no big deal.

OK, it's a big deal. I decided that the water control faucet that I had been turning on and off was leaking. It probably had a washer inside it that would turn my fingers permanently black.

No big deal. Aha, fooled you. I didn't have to go to the store. I already had a supply of plumbing washers. So, I turned the water off outside, after thoroughly checking the dark damp hole under the lid for creepy crawlies. Then in just a few minutes I had the washer in the faucet replaced and the water turned back on. Well, not a few minutes. Maybe an hour or so. You see the shower in the other bathroom has had a slow leak, and I decided to fix it while the water was off. Except that when I got it all apart, I found that I didn't have the correct replacement washers for that type of faucet.

No big deal. . . yadda yadda yadda, (Trip #7). I fixed the shower and turned on the water, and there are no more leaks in the shower and no more leaks in the other bathroom. Well, only little leaks.

No big deal. OK, so the carpet outside the door did squish in the morning when I walked by, but that's not a problem. It's just a little leak. I'd track it down. I'm a seasoned veteran by now. I decided to put blue food coloring in the tank to see if the water on the floor was coming from the tank or from the faucet. One day and a much squishier carpet later, I saw blue water on the floor. Aha! . . . aha what? So the tank is leaking. . . from where??????? I'd replaced every dad-gummed thing there was to replace. As far as I could tell, the bolts that hold the tank to the toilet aren't leaking. So that left only the vertical plastic tube-like thing standing in the middle of the tank with its big soggy spongy washer kinda thing that goes between the tank and the toilet and the seal inside the tank. The only thing that made sense was that I hadn't tightened the huge plastic nut (that holds the vertical plastic tube-like thing standing in the middle of the tank) enough. Of course, to tighten it, I had to undo the brass bolts and the supply hose and spill water all over the floor and lift the whole tank out and find some really large water pump pliers and spill some more water and tighten the huge plastic nut and put the tank back on the toilet and bolt it back together and reattach the hose and mop up the floor with about forty towels and go get the steam cleaner to suck the water out of the squishy carpet and then turn the water control back on and see if the cursed thing still leaked. No big deal.

Well, after all of that and promising myself that I would never again take a toilet for granted if this one would just stop leaking, it stopped leaking. At least, as I write this, there is no leak. There is a very damp carpet, assorted wet rusting tools scattered everywhere and prehistoric-looking black hand prints on more walls that I care to mention, but there is no leak. Which just goes to show you that when modern man is confronted by rubber whatchamacallits, floaty bulbous dohickies, new fangled replacement thingies, and big soggy spongy washer kinda things, all it takes for him to prove his manhood is a professional-like knowledge of how things work, a Walmart within driving distance, and a wife who continuously walks by the battle scene shaking her head in silence.

As I look back on this whole thing, I wonder what I have learned. Well, first I have learned why God made outhouses. They have no moving parts, require no trips to Walmart, and the only thing that turns your fingers permanently black is the ink from the Sears and Roebuck catalog. Second, I have learned that the profession of plumber has moved very close to the top of the list of occupations that we encourage our three daughters to look for in a prospective husband. And third and most importantly, I have learned that if that little lever connected to the chrome flush handle ever breaks on your toilet, you should immediately call your realtor and move.

jack dow

1/27/97

 


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