Monday, March 10, 2003

I didn't sleep too well last night, woken by an evil foe in the small hours and forced into battle.

For the span of over an hour I was locked in mortal combat with my toilet. For the squeamish among you, I am not referring to anything untoward or involving poop. No, you won't be getting that easy sort of "potty" humor here at My Life As An American Gladiator (the site that sometimes capitalizes the small words™). In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I have been eating quite a lot of brussels sprouts lately, since it has been brought to my attention that you people out there aren't doing your part sprout-wise.

What happened was that a few days ago, the little chain inside the cistern (or "tank", as the unitiated might be tempted to call it) snapped for no reason at all other than to be irritating*. When I noticed that no flushing was happening, I immediately sprang into action and mentioned to my wife a mere two hours later that the toilet was broken. I rationalized that we do, after all, have another toilet, and it was statistically possible that a random current in the tank would reattach the chain, relieving me of further concern.

This, sadly, did not transpire.

Being the handy fix-it guy that I am**, I went in. Armed only with a paper clip and stark, wide-eyed fear, I lifted the lid from the cistern. In the interest of public service, I will describe the internal workings of my toilet. They may be different from yours. I don't know, never having looked in your toilet. In a toilet you have:

the handle for flushing purposes
the handle is connected to a chain
which pulls up a little flap, which looks a little like a plastic manhole cover. You can imagine tiny Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles clambering out of it, sputtering and giving you accusatory glances that suggest unkind things about your digestive tract.
There are a few other items in the cistern that frankly look a little superfluous to me. There's a big floating ball thing, for one, that looks totally unnecessary and is perhaps some sort of buoy for stranded mariners who have lost their way in your plumbing's inner workings.

Anyway, the chain was the problem here. I figured out, after gazing into the cistern for only about ten minutes, that the chain would have to be reattached with the help of the paperclip. This meant reaching into the toilet. Friends, I'm no nancy-boy, but I felt a little trepidation. I mean, it looked fairly clean in there, but how can you really tell for sure?

I reached into the depths, remembering at the last minute to remove my watch (a step even the most seasoned plumber will occasionally overlook). I pulled up on the part of the chain still hooked to the tiny manhole cover thing and attempted to reconnect it to rest of the chain. The water drained out around my submerged wrists, and then the full horror of my situation struck: a truly remarkable volume of water began jetting into the cistern as I struggled with this high-tech piece of office equipment that offered my only salvation: the mighty paperclip. My arms were being buffeted by a current akin to the Amazon. I was a giant steamship, helpless in its waters, and Klaus Kinski was playing opera music on my decks! It was like The Perfect Storm except without George Clooney and, you know, if there was a remote chance you might care even a little bit about the main characters!

Somehow, some way I managed to hook the chain back together. The tank filled up again, and I collapsed against the towel rack, spent but victorious. I had bested this demon wonder of technology, and it could no longer torment me.

Little did I know that the toilet was not beaten but was only resting, regrouping for another assault.

I lay in bed in the predawn hours, tranquilly slumbering beneath my yak-fur blanket, as is my custom, when I became aware of a hissing noise. "Great" I thought. "The cat is possessed again."

But no! It was the toilet, and it was angry.

So I spent an hour or so variously cursing, wailing and tightening and untightening things in a somewhat random fashion, until I was satisfied that the toilet would be quiet.

Of course, no-one can use the toilet now, but that's a small price to pay for a good night's sleep.

* I have noticed, in my time here on this crazy mixed-up world, that simple machines like this often break for no reason except to make me angry.
** This is blatantly untrue, just in case you were wondering. I have a deep desire to be the sort of person that can look at a garbage disposal and feel confident he could do something more meaningful than get a fork stuck in it or sever a number of major blood-throughways in my body, but I am resigned to this never happening. My wife likes to quietly giggle when I say that I am going to try to fix something, and I suspect she has a first-aid kit handy should I succeed in hurting myself in ways as yet undreamed of.


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