This Column Is in the Toilet
Cindy, my lovely wife, was on the warpath the other day.
“TIM!” she shrieked, “I don’t care what it costs, you’ve got to replace the toilet in the mud room. That confounded thing plugs every time!”
She didn’t actually use the adjective “confounded.” I took some editorial license and inserted that in favor of the more colorful term she did use, which is inappropriate for this highly professional column.
Because she started with, “I don’t care what it costs…” my laser-pointed attention was wrenched from my favorite educational TV program, “SpongeBob Squarepants,” to this sudden emergency.
“Tut tut,” I tried to sooth her. “We’ve been through this before. It only plugs when Corey (our 10-year-old) uses it.”
“Tell that to the plunger,” she roared. “I just spent the last 10 minutes wearing it out on that [goll-darned] toilet.”
There was a nugget of truth to her complaint, I must admit. This issue has been plaguing us for about seven years now. Many men might feel embarrassed to admit such a thing. I mean, who wants to be known as the large-turd family? “Say, there goes the Garrisons; the ones who are always plugging their toilet. Ha ha.”
But is it really a matter of jumbo excrement, or is some other sinister mechanism at work? Seven years ago we built a carriage home above our garage as temporary living quarters until the Real-House-Adjacent could be built. It was to be a two-year stint, max. Or so I convinced Cindy. Being temporary quarters, we saved money wherever we could and, boy, wasn’t I proud of the $79 toilet I bagged at Eagle Hardware!
I’m pretty sure that toilet was designed and made in Lilliput for Lilliputians because it couldn’t pass a 1-cent tootsie roll without plugging. I became an expert at plunging and can now tell you which variety of plungers work and which are a complete waste of money. (Go for the old-fashioned thick rubber ones with the street lamp-shaped end. The newfangled billows design is worthless).
Cindy hounded me relentlessly about our toilet problem for two years. Since I hadn’t even started the design of the Real-House-Adjacent yet, I figured I’d placate her with the gift of a brand-spanking-new commode for her birthday. I went all out and purchased a $129 model, made in the USA for USA-sized people with commodiously-sized poops. Yep, I sure do know how to thrill my gal!
Replacing the old Lilliput model was an experience. Apparently, all that plunging had rammed toilet water out of the soil pipe so frequently it had saturated the wood floor and had also rusted the mounting bolts, transforming the keen Lilliputian steel to approximately the consistency of canned dog food. Canned dog food has very little shear strength and so after I buggered off the edges of the nuts so that a wrench would no longer work, I cranked my vise grips on what was left, promptly snapping the bolts off like mechanical pencil leads extended too far out. But the Lilliputian toilet flange designers had already thought of this and made it impossible to extract the bolt stubs, thereby railroading me into the purchase of an entirely new flange. Fifteen trips to the hardware store later, the spanking-new $189 USA model toilet was proudly in place. I awarded Cindy first use.
My two boys and I awaited eagerly just outside the door, our breath held in pregnant expectation. She plugged it. Her cries of anguish were surpassed only by the slapping sound of my hands on my forehead.
“It’s got to be a freak turd,” I explained, barging in, my sons hustling past to carefully examine the aftermath.
“I do NOT have freak turds,” she hollered.
Sensing her distress, I tried to console her: “This USA toilet is supposed to be able to pass a four-pound russet potato and not even burp.”
“This cull couldn’t pass a four-inch piece of cooked spaghetti! I want another toilet!” She rushed out muttering and gesturing extravagantly.
Somehow I convinced her to give the toilet another try. Two years and several thousand plunges later I became suspicious that something was indeed wrong with the USA model because the ceiling in the garage directly beneath it was harboring an ominous orange fungus. It started as a hairy film, then slowly progressed to a billowing, leafy, brilliantly colored floral arrangement. And water dripped from it all the time, which annoyed me because my workbench is located directly below and the water was rusting my tools and causing me to work in a rain slicker.
By this time I had actually started the design of the Real-House-Adjacent and had convinced Cindy to hang on with the USA model a little longer; that we’d replace it when we went to phase-two construction. She said okay, but with the provisio that I would remove the floral arrangement, which I did, along with half of the saturated drywall ceiling. I also solved the rain slicker problem with a few strategically positioned buckets bailing wired to the ceiling. Cindy, for some odd reason, did not appreciate this stroke of Yankee Ingenuity and nitpicked that she might prefer having the floral arrangement instead. This irritated me no end. For crying out loud, women can be so indecisive.
(To be continued next week)
Tim Garrison of ConstructionCalc.com, is a professional engineer, author, and software producer for the building industry. Check out his new book, "Cracks, Sags, and Dimwits — Lessons To Build On," available at www.lulu.com, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Send e-mail to email@example.com. Tim reads every one.
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