A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster
I fixed the toilet. I know, I know, there are hundreds of guys and even women out there with the wherewithal to plunge right in to their elbows with wrenches, spanners and screwdrivers a-flailing. But for a klutz like me, repairing a leaky john is a feat on a par with a moon landing or circumcising the world in a rowboat.
As I have oft told you, I was not born with a handyman gene. In fact anything requiring mechanical ability is light years beyond my mental capacity to understand. Being short-changed at birth I’m afraid that is but a small part of my astonishing lack of skills. Surprisingly all my problems, be they psychological, sexual, or pertaining to the inside of a toilet, can be attributed to the failures of the Ontario Education System.
When I was but a lad of 10, I was deemed to be near genius by the teachers at R. H. McGregor Public School. Because of my uncanny ability to do sums without removing my shoes and a knack for memorising dirty limericks that even today is considered a marvel, I was promoted from Grade 4 to Grade 6 without having to spend a year in Grade 5 with the (dare I say it) slower children.
Unfortunately I found out later that certain subjects were taught that year that could have been useful to me today.
Apparently How to Repair a Toilet was on the curriculum in Grade 5, as was Boolean algebra, dental hygiene, basic carpentry, open-heart surgery and at least 6 pages of good pick-up lines – leaving me helpless in approaching members of the opposite sex. In fact, I was so undereducated in all matters sexual I didn’t know which sex was the opposite until I was 49. I was stunned as you may well imagine – although not half as stunned as my wife, Bruce.
Filled with a confidence that could only be described as asinine I decided to dive into the back of the toilet and plumb.
Some months ago we noticed the employees who made the valve thingy controlling the speed of the water filling the reservoir had gone on strike in sympathy with the Rectal Thermometers International Brotherhood – so you know how that turned out. I believe the company told them to take their thermometers and shove them.
Perhaps I should explain that our toilet is not one of the newer models seen at home shows or at the grand openings of luxury condominiums. Our john is one of the Renaissance models hopeful collectors drag off to the Antique Road Show for appraisal by people who can tell its age by simply sticking their head in and listening to it flush.
Our valve thingy is made of some early clay-like material with the name, John Crapper and Sons, Newcastle on Tyne, 1689, carved into the side. When I tried to describe it to the technicians at the hardware store, they looked at me like I was deranged and I noticed the cashier dialled 9-1 and kept her finger poised over the second ‘1’ in case I got violent.
Evidently, the last time this particular toilet design was used, it backed up on the Titanic and was actually thrown overboard before the ship rammed the iceberg.
I knew enough to shut the water off, but unfortunately the shut-off valve is downstairs behind a pile of junk we are saving to throw at the devil during the Battle of Armageddon. Right away one can see the handwriting on the floor. There is trouble afloat.
Once I unhooked everything, I discovered that although the threads were theoretically the same size, the new thingy wouldn’t screw on to the old thingy. So naturally I went at it with a monkey wrench. There is nothing like brute force to solve a problem.
It looked like it fit. It felt like it fit.
It didn’t fit.
By the time I got downstairs to turn the valve on, got back up to glory in my success, screamed and ran back downstairs to turn the damn thing off, the bath mat was floating out the back door.
It appears the type of inflow tube running from our ancient water pipes to the toilet was discontinued shortly after the Romans used it to build an aqueduct. I replaced it with a slightly newer model. Wonder of wonders, the toilet works. It now runs quite merrily. In fact it’s been running for several hours. But as long as I stand beside it with a dipper and the sink doesn’t back up, the toilet problem is licked. Tomorrow I will tackle the Ignite TV box if I can find my hammer.