Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Plumber's Crack

Home ownership equals plumber's crack.

Apparently things break. Murphy's Law says it will happen right when you buy a house or right when you pay your car off. Luckily Mr. Murphy started "lite" my first month into the new place. "He" cracked his whip at me as if to say, "Don't get too smug little girl. You are responsible now. There is no Handy Man at your beck and call." And ironically, when I rented and did have a handy man at my beck and call nothing ever broke - in 6 years.

However, Week #2 in my new place, the toilet went kerplunk. Well it didn't shut down completely. On Sunday afternoon it started "running." That is the short version that apparently the masses understand for what I was calling, "After-I-flush-the-toilet-it-flushes-properly-but-then-it-starts-dripping-not-literally-but-you-can-hear-it-and-when-you-look-in-the-tank-the-water-goes-down-and-when-it-reaches-a-certain-point-it-automatically-flushes-and-the-whole-process-starts-again-so-my-toilet-is-constantly-flushing-and-um-that-means-it's-not-working-right?"

And that is when I learned my first home improvement word of the day. Say it with me: F-L-A-P-P-E-R. Flapper.

My runny toilet was in need of a new flapper.

I learned this by calling my friend who lives in my building who has owned her place for probably about 3 years so I guess you learn a thing or two about home repairs as you go along. I called her to get the name of a handy man I could call and when I explained my drawn-out winded description of my runny toilet she cut me off immediately because she knew what my problem was and - best of all - she knew how to fix it!

Minutes later (this is Sunday evening) she was down at my door with her Home Depot book. Not for her. For me. And there is where I saw the interworkings of my toilet tank. Not much to it. Some chains. That ball-cock thing. And the flapper! Y'all? Chains? Ball cocks? Flappers? Is there a hose in there? This give new meaning to "plumber's crack" indeed. But I digress as usual.

So the flapper replacement. You might be thinking, "Silly girl, flapper replacement is so kindergarten. I can change that with my eyes closed."

Well good. I'm apparently passing Home Improvement Kindergarten because that is exactly how I - we - had to do it. You see - my tank is located directly underneath a vanity ledge so you can't see into the tank. In fact, you can barely fit your arm into the tank. I just measured my forearm and it is a little over 3 inches at the fatest part so that means that the opening is only 3 inches wide - barely. So I squeezed my arm in and now my arm has this big bruise right at the inside of my elbow. It looks like I have done a sufficient amount of shooting up.

Plumber's crack? Plumber's elbow.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. My friend, S (she is getting a name this weekend as she accompanies Mav and I at the beach - you can't escape the nickname), diagnosed the problem and put her arm in to feel around the flapper. She pushed it down to temporarily stop the leaking and came up with black goo all over her hand. And this is where I learned that black goo means one too many Chlorox bleach tablets dropped into the tank (which ironically I had just dropped one in that morning) which leads to corroded flappers.

And that corrosion of black gooey tar DOES NOT LEAVE. It is now imbedded in my nail beds. It is in every crevice and pore of my fingers now.

Plumber's crack? Plumber's dirty dirty hands. Hmm. My black hands reminds me of this post. (Digressions...)

So I spent the rest of the night trying to replicate her "fix" and the damn broken flapper would not seal for me.

Horse whispering? Flapper cursing!

So I had to get creative unless I wanted to listen to:

Flush - on repeat - ALL NIGHT LONG. I opened up my drawers of kitchen gadgets that are never used and settled on the knife sharpener as Band-Aid. And she worked! I was able to wedge it down onto the flapper and it fit flush right up against the vanity top.

The phantom flushing was not going to be going on all night long.

12:30 in bed and asleep.

The next morning I started to doubt my plumbing attempt. I stopped by to talk to our building manager and he gave me a flapper and assured me it was easy to replace. Another vote of confidence! This plumbing thing is a whole world I never knew anything about. Because apparently everyone knows about the flapper. I talked to Mav that morning and relayed the problems with "my can" and she too said, "Oh yeah, that's your flapper." The world is opening up.

That night, after I got home from speaking on tax resources at a conference in Baltimore, I went to work on the toilet. Public speaking? Plumber's crack? I'm not sure which I feared most at that point. But I wanted to be able to do this myself.

I put on my Magic Numbers CD (loooove) and, even though I was wearing a little sundress, I said, to no one in particular (because there is not even a cat to talk to now), "Don't mind my plumber's crack." It somehow seemed called-for. Or, rather, I'm that corny. I turned the water supply off. Took out the old flapper in its black gooey splendor and swapped in the new. With my eyes closed. The thing was easily snapped into place. Ta fucking da. I was proud of myself!

Until the flush. It won't flush. Damn. I took my plumber's crack self off the floor and rang up S. I needed the reinforcments after all. Thankfully she was to be home in an hour and would swing by my place to check out my handiwork. My apprenticeship was in question.

But not for long! Again, S knew the problem immediately. I just needed to adjust the chain length. The new flapper chain was too long and just like that....my can was fixed!


Morgan said...


Do you make house calls?

Original Me said...

for you morgan, of course!

Morgan said...

yes, but that is probably b/c you know you would be paid in some sort of alcohol currency :)

Mav said...

There is nothing wrong with that

Virginia Belle said...

you are my hero. i would have called the plumber, because i am a wuss. i am taking notes from this post in case i ever get around to buying a house.

very cool. you should give your friends a beer for helping you out. or at least let them try out the new flapper! ha!