Few items are as necessary for modern day life than a functioning toilet. If you live in town and don’t have an outhouse your other options are pretty limited. Religion scholars tend to know quite a bit about what goes on in toilets, so I’ve repaired my fair share over the years. When we had a leak in a fill valve, I had to wait for a weekend to do the repair. I figured half an hour and thirty dollars at most. I left it for an afternoon project. Once I got the new fill valve installed, there was a problem. The tank wouldn’t fill with water. It had been clear that the faulty part was the fill valve, as it was hissing and sputtering and there were no leaks into the bowl. I made a late trip to Lowes for another valve, following the logic that the one I’d bought earlier must’ve been defective. It didn’t work either. We had to flush by buckets of water.
Sunday after church I rushed to Lowe’s since, logic dictates, it has to be the flush valve that was the problem. These are the only two parts inside a toilet tank that require repair. So I got the tank off, and after running to the hardware store to buy a specialized tool to get the nut of the valve off, I learned that “fits 99% percent of toilets” left that troubling 1 percent for a reason. Our toilet was special. The parts were not standard size and neither my local hardware store nor Lowes had the parts in stock. If we wanted a working toilet that day we would need to replace the entire thing. So we went toilet shopping. Hauling a toilet up the stairs is something I hope never to have to do again. By late Sunday afternoon my half-hour, thirty-dollar project had turned into a multi-day, three-hundred dollar project. I followed the installation instructions religiously, but, of course, it leaked.
I ended up having to call the local plumber we’ve got on speed-dial. We’re in our fourth year in our house and we had plumbers here at least six times. I picture their office assistant grimacing each time our number comes up on their caller ID. The plumber came and, apart from generating serious tool envy on my part, demonstrated how everything from the soil pipe up had been misinstalled by over-confident DIYers. I try not to cut corners with plumbing or electrical. Despite how easy it is to install, or even repair, a toilet, you have to have the correct foundation. And even scholars of religion need to admit when they’re in over their heads.