Valentine Brkich officially earned his “Man Card” when he replaced the guts of his toilet–all by himself.
I’m not exactly the stereotypical man. Oh sure, I have all the required parts, and as I age I seem to be turning into a Sasquatch. But when it comes to traditional, manly-type qualities, I’ve always been somewhat lacking.
For example, when it comes to tools, I know how to use a hammer, and I can differentiate between a flat-head and Phillips-head screwdriver. But that’s about it. As for cars, I can put air in the tires and refill the window-washer-fluid thingy, but I couldn’t tell a carburetor from a carbohydrate.
I drink wine, not beer. I like the Indigo Girls. And I’m deathly afraid of spiders.
John Wayne I am not.
The other day, however, I officially earned my Man Card when I replaced the guts of my toilet—all by myself.
The thing had been leaking for a while (two months), and as the “man of the house”, it’s in my job description that I’m supposed to do something about it. Usually, this means calling someone a little higher up on the masculinity meter, i.e., any other man.
You see, I’ve never been a DIY type of guy. One time my father-in-law convinced me that I could save a lot of money by replacing my windows myself. He was right; I saved a ton of cash. Unfortunately it took about a year and a half to complete the job.
So when my toilet broke, I estimated it would probably take me around four or five months to fix it on my own. And honestly, I didn’t think my family members could hold it that long.
But just as I was about to call the plumber, an inner voice spoke to me: C’mon, Val—you can do this! You’re a man! Aren’t you?
Yes! I said to myself. I AM a man! And I’ve got the nosehairs to prove it!
So on the way home from work the next day, I stopped by the hardware store and purchased my first-ever toilet repair kit. It looked all shiny and new in its clear plastic container. What a shame it was going to spend its entire life inside a toilet.
That evening, as I climbed the stairs to the bathroom, large, never-before-used wrench in hand, I was brimming with confidence. After all, how hard could it be? Men have been repairing toilets for thousands of years. It’s embedded deep in our DNA. Surely my manly instincts would kick in—deeply embedded, though they may be.
After shutting off the water, I mentally prepared myself to touch the slime-covered innards. (Remember: I’m a writer.) Then I detached and extracted the various toilet parts: the float ball, the flapper, and the disturbingly named diaphragm-type ballcock. In between each extraction, I scrubbed my hands like a surgeon.
Next I had to figure out how to remove the new toilet kit from its impregnable plastic case. Luckily, this only took around 15 or 20 minutes.
Then it was time to install the new guts. Since this was my official initiation into Manly Arts, for the first time in my life I decided to read the directions. Surprisingly, they were of no help at all. I pretty much had to guess what went where, my girlishly smooth writer’s hands fumbling with foreign objects like washers, valves, and wrenches. The whole time I kept thinking that my head hadn’t been this close to a toilet since college.
Finally, nearly an hour later, I was ready to do the all-important leak test. After sopping up all the water on the floor, I realized I must have missed something. So I disassembled the whole thing and started again, this time making sure the ballcock was pressed firmly in place. (That just sounds wrong.)
Amazingly, when I did the leak test the second time, there wasn’t a drip to be found! I had done it! I really was a man after all! Who knew?
After that I went downstairs, poured myself a glass of wine and watched old reruns of “Friends” with my wife. ‘Cause that’s how we men roll.