Homemaking: No flush of victory in this battle
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This past weekend, my wife asked me to complete just one chore around the house: replacing the toilet seat in the powder room next to our kitchen. When I heard her request, I almost got up from my own seat and walked out the door.
We call it a powder room, but it's really just the landing going down to our basement. Maybe 70 years ago, someone thought it would be a good idea to take the little spot where you turn around and go down to the cellar and install a toilet and tiny sink. The result was a bathroom slightly smaller than the one you find on commercial airliners and not nearly as convenient. Picture going to the bathroom in a phone booth. (No, actually, don't. I just pictured it for you, and it was disturbing.)
The toilet on the way to the basement has caused a number of problems over the years, not the least of which is that people are always trying to go either in or out of the basement when you are trying to go. I stopped using the powder room somewhere around 1996. It causes at least one major incident every time we have a party.
Our son, however, does use it, and as a result, the toilet seat needs to be changed every few years. (If you have raised boys, you're already picturing it, so there's really no need to go into more detail than I have, is there?) Because it is such a cramped little space, it's almost impossible to get a wrench behind the toilet to loosen the bolts. I have to squeeze my head and one shoulder into the space beside the toilet, usually resting my cheek on the edge of the bowl, all the while cursing and groaning, and every once in a while I get stuck, my feet sticking out into the kitchen, legs flopping about wildly. (See? There's something just as disturbing to picture, and we didn't even need the phone booth!)
The biggest problem, however, is that a year or so ago, my wife declared that the old toilet seat was an embarrassment to the family whenever we had guests, and she asked me to replace it. I dutifully went out and bought a new seat, but when I tried to remove the old seat, I found the nuts and the bolts holding it on had welded themselves together into one piece of decayed metal. The only way to get them off was to try and saw them apart with a hacksaw. I spent the next three hours hunched over the toilet, sawing and cursing.
My hacksaw blade eventually broke in two, I cut my knuckles, and I gave up, but not before kicking the toilet. (Note to Chuck, our plumber: Yes, I did know our toilet was cracked. Thanks for pointing it out to me, though.) For the past year, we've had a toilet seat that was not only ruined, but also half-loosened and kind of wobbly. It's enough to make you long for a nice phone booth.
This weekend, and at my wife's prodding, I decided it was time for a showdown. It was me or the toilet seat. I went in the basement and got my electric power cutting tool and screwed on the metal cutting blade.
What I found was that a metal cutting blade, if not sharp enough, will begin to vibrate and work itself loose from a power tool. And when one uses a metal cutting blade on a power tool over an open toilet, and the blade works itself loose, the blade has a tendency to plop into the toilet water ... over and over again. I swore a lot but also swore I would not back down. I bore down even harder, watching as metal powder and the occasional spark came spraying out from the metal hinges.
It took an hour, a lot of swearing, and once or twice, an almost electrocution, but finally, the second bolt snapped in two. I was able to stand over the toilet in the cramped little powder room/basement landing, holding the ruined seat over my head, chanting, "Oh, yeah! Who's the boss now, toilet? HUH?"
It wasn't until after I got the new seat attached that I noticed the back of the toilet. The crack from last year's battle, aggravated by all the vibrations from the power tool, had widened enough so that the toilet was now leaking. In a battle between a mortal man and a god, even a porcelain god, man loses.
If you don't mind, I have to go now and put in a call to Chuck the plumber.
First Published March 31, 2012 12:00 am