Potty Mouth

Rise of the female fluidmaster

Last month our toilet succumbed to old age. I drew on my lifetime experience in toilet repair and jiggled the handle. No luck. Old Reliable kept refilling. Normally I’d rather pay a professional than pursue unnecessary intimacy with our commode. If I could fix it myself I’d not only save the expense of a house call — but also earn lavatory-repair bragging rights. Every household needs at least one toilet-butch.

I felt pretty macho lifting off the tank lid to see if the chain was stuck, which it wasn’t. The water was still running.

I reached down behind the tank to turn off the water supply, but the valve wouldn’t budge. I’d have to get down there and wrench the corroded nut loose. I grabbed the appropriate tool, flopped onto my back and scooched in.

Ever notice how much funk can accumulate behind a toilet bowl? I’m sure it’s worse when there’s a man in the house. Not to stereotype, but aim is not really a factor for the seated.

It wasn’t so bad once I moved the plunger, brush and basket of sudoku books and Lesbian Connection magazines out of the way. I wish I could say I wielded that pipe wrench like a pro, but lefty loosey, righty tighty isn’t as simple as it sounds when you’re upside down and coming at it from behind. My arm ached. I anticipated the pain if I were to drop the cast iron wrench onto my face. I’ll forever hold a special place in my heart for the brave souls who do this for a living. Eventually the old nut gave way, and I turned off the valve.

At least the water stopped running. But now what?

Under the pressure of life’s never-ending quiz show, I phoned a friend.

The part I needed was — get this — a Fluidmaster ballcock. No lie. Can you imagine? Me asking some store clerk for THAT? Not that I’m a prude, but Fluidmaster ballcock was not a phrase likely to roll off my tongue.

Oh, I know gay men and gutsy women who’d be thrilled to sashay up the aisle of their local hardware store and request the resident studmuffin’s help finding a Fluidmaster ballcock. Luckily, I located the part before I had to utter a word.

I returned home, extruded the new gizmo from its package and read the illustrated instructions, which were not unlike the little booklet that comes with tampons. I’d mastered that particular plumbing skill; surely I could manage this insertion.

Following the step-by-step guide, I lifted, pressed, twisted, wrenched, loosened, and eventually removed the disintegrating old part at the top of the fill valve. By now I was feeling downright virile. I hummed the Rocky victory soundtrack whole time I lifted, pressed, twisted, wrenched, tightened and installed the brand new — I can say it proud now — Fluidmaster ballcock.

The water supply is back on. Hear that? No running water — the sound of a repaired toilet. I’ve taken my place the pantheon of home maintenance and domestic goddess-liness. You may call me “Fluidmaster.”

Award-winning writer Sally Sheklow (sally@sallyheklow.com) masters the fluids at her home in Eugene.