Wednesday, April 15, 2009

One Day This Will Be Funny

I was talking to my friend Mary today, telling her about my rather challenging weekend, and she told me I needed to write it down to remember later, as one day this story would be funny. I thought this was a good notion, because the adventures of the past weekend are probably worthy of special remembrance, with enough weight to hang around for a long time, growing and deepening, until the memory rightfully achieves the status of legend in the annals of home improvement here in Meowville. I can certainly see how telling it right could make it funny, and if I were Dave Barry or Bill Cosby, you would be clutching your sides already, holding back the chortles while you tried to focus your eyes through the streaming tears of laughter. Unfortunately for you, I am not Dave Barry, so I will simply relate the events as I remember them, and you can take your chances.

Saturday started out memorably for Ked and me for one clear reason. We had nothing on the calendar. Oh, we had lots of things we should be doing, and lots of places we needed to go, but the official events of the day had melted away one by one, so that we were left staring at a completely unstructured day, and complete freedom as to how to spend it. We wanted to watch The Passion of the Christ that night (since it was Easter Eve), but had a whole day to get something useful done!! It was liberating and terrifying all at the same time. I swallowed my guilt at not rushing over to the church to pick up work on the remodelling project which has languished there for the last month while Ked and I battled various illnesses, and together we decided to tackle a small-but-important task that has been needing attention here at home. For the last six months we have had a brand new toilet sitting in our garage, waiting patiently for the day to arrive when it would be officially installed into its new home. This was to be the final step in the bathroom overhaul which we started six months ago. The new tub, sink and most of the floor were in, and the toilet was the only major piece of the puzzle remaining unfinished.

We only have one bathroom, so we weren't willing to tackle this task without plenty of time to see the job through. We did not want to find ourselves with the project unfinished at the end of the day, and even though installing toilets is neither complicated, difficult, nor particularly time consuming, things can and do often go wrong in home improvement, and we didn't want to be taking any chances. So, the box stayed in the garage for all those many months until the moment finally arrive. We were excited. This was our chance!!

Oh, if only we had listened to ourselves about that "plenty of time to see the job through" thing. As the morning went on, and the phone kept ringing, and the hours crept past, we should have realized that this chance was rapidly slipping away. We even talked about it. "Oh gosh, the rest of the world is not cooperating. We've spent too much time on the phone, and responding to important emails. We better put this project off again." Did we listen to ourselves, though? No!! After deciding that we probably needed to delay the work, I made the choice to "just do a little of the prep work," and then Ked decided "just to bring the box in and have a look." Then we finally committed ourselves to lunacy, and at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, we jumped into the project full steam ahead, tore out the old toilet and tossed it, broken and bleeding, into our trailer to be carried away to porcelain heaven. It was a very old toilet, and we really did have to damage it to get it out of there, a circumstance which was to kick us a bit later, when we were down.

After the old unit came out, we spent some time replacing the last section of flooring and putting in some molding which was much easier to install with the giant porcelain barrier removed. Progress!! We were ready to move on to the main event. We very carefully followed the instructions which came in the big cardboard box. We made sure all the parts were there, and we gathered all the proper tools and materials. We successfully maneuvered our way through every step, and when we were done we were thrilled! It looked great, and felt solid. Now for the moment of truth! We flushed.

Oh, the joy! Oh, the triumph! Oh, the water gushing everywhere!! What had gone wrong? We tightened bolts, we examined connections. We took off the lid and poked and prodded. We inspected everyplace that could possibly be leaking. We came up with no clue why our meticulously installed toilet was making puddles on our new floor. Aargh!! This is why you do not start projects like this at 2 in the afternoon! We figured it was time to take the thing out and start over. We figured we must have messed up when we put on the wax seal. So, we knelt down to start the removal process, but decided to give it one last flush to see if the problem would reveal itself. That's when I saw it. As I lay on the floor in a position in which you almost never find yourself in relation to toilets (unless you are living in a college dorm), I saw it. It was a hole in the porcelain, right there where the bowl meets the pedestal. An honest-to-goodness, straight-from-the-factory chasm, through which poured more water than I could imagine coming from a hole which was not big enough to observe without close and desperate inspection, but which turned out to be plenty big enough to flood the area with H2O.

Get used to the word Aargh!! We used it a lot that day. Out came the brand new toilet. Into the box it went. We knew we had a receipt somewhere, but it was now going on four hours that we had been without a toilet (did I mention we only have one bathroom?), and we were feeling pretty strongly inclined to remedy this situation, so off we went to Home Depot. We knew they would be good about the receipt. All we wanted was to exchange the unit for one which came without pre-fabbed extra holes, and besides, this could be classed as something of a plumbing emergency, right?

Home Depot was, as we knew they would be, really great about it. The helpful cashier wrote down the brand info for us, so that we could go hunt down another toilet, while he got the return taken care of at his end. We went back into the bowels of the store (sorry, I couldn't resist), only to find that they didn't have any more of this unit. As it turned out, they had never had any of this unit! It had been six months since we bought it, and we had forgotten that we had been at Lowe's when we made the purchase. Terrific. We waved goodbye to the uselessly helpful Home Depot employee and made our way out to Gresham. It only took us about half an hour to make the trip. What's half an hour when you have all day? Oh wait--we didn't have all day. By this point, it was nearly seven. We made the exchange at Lowe's, after a little more fuss from them about the lack of receipt than we had experienced from the Depot, but eventually we found the identical toilet, put it in the back of our car and started what seemed to us to be a very long drive home. We stopped for a quick burger along the way, since home improvement never goes well on an empty stomach, and we didn't want tempers to start flaring. We made it home by about 9.

Eagerly, we lugged the big heavy box in the house, plopped it down in the dining room and cut the tape which sealed the container at every conceivable fold, joint and seam. Out came the tank. Out came the bowl. No holes. We're ahead of the game! Out came the seat, and then out came... nothing. There was no hardware in that box. As taped up as that box had been, we didn't notice that the unit had been opened and returned by a previous customer, who had neglected to include everything which came with his purchase when he sealed things up again. I can't even begin to tell you how frustrated we were. It's nearly nine-thirty. We have no toilet. The stores close at ten, and we can't even put the old toilet back in to get us by for awhile, because we broke it when we took it out! Get ready for it--Aargh!! (Although, I must admit, the language had gotten a bit less printable than that at this point.)

Out we trudged to Gresham again, just beating the store closing. This time we inspected every box, and discovered that ALL the toilets of that brand had boxes that appeared to have been previously opened. This did not bode well for future installation, so we decided to move on to a different option. Of course, when we looked, there was this reason why we couldn't get that affordable toilet, and that reason why we couldn't get another, and by the time we were done, we ended up spending another $180, on top of the money that we already had invested in the ticking time bomb that sat in our garage for six months, waiting to pounce on our unsuspecting and hopeful Saturday. By this point we didn't even care. We just wanted to get home and get the blasted thing installed. Ked had to be up at six in the morning to make it to worship rehearsal for Easter Sunday service. This toilet promised "40% faster installation." We plunked down our money and headed home.

It is with great gratitude that I report that the extra-spendy toilet really did install 40% faster than the gusher did. We finally had a working bathroom by approximately eleven o'clock that night. We heaved a deep sigh of relief. (Actually, I coughed a deep sigh of relief. I am still recovering from the worst flu bug Ked or I have ever had during the whole course of our 22-year marriage. To say I was tired at this point would be an understatement of very large proportions.) Anyway, our movie time was trashed, but we would not have to knock on the neighbor's door at two in the morning begging to use their facilities. We had survived!

There is one little addendum to this tale of woe. As we were inspecting the toilet during the initial gushing fiasco, we had to remove the lid. We placed it on the vanity, miscalculated the distance, and dropped it in our new porcelain sink. That sink did not survive. The toilet top punched a five inch hole in the bottom of the sink, reducing our once-functional bathroom temporarily to nothing but a tub. We tore the rest of the bowl out on Monday and plan to replace it sometime over the course of the next few days. Yes, we currently have no bathroom sink, and are brushing our teeth in the kitchen these days. The saga continues. Oh well. At least we have a toilet, and a story to tell. Someday, we may even laugh at it. Wish Dave Barry were here.