Back in the day, when a kid had his bar mitzvah, he was often given a fountain pen as a present. Therefore, the joke ran, when the kid in question got up before his parents’ congregation, he would announce, “Today, I am a fountain pen.”
Well, it’s my dubious honor to announce that after the experience I had on Monday, I can firmly state the unflushable fact—Today I am a toilet.
Picture it…a single gal, living on her own. She’s smart, most of the time. But occasionally, there are these moments of shining stupidity when everything seems to be happening in slow-motion, and yet, she’s still powerless to stop it. Simply put, as I was flushing the toilet, a small cosmetics bottle tumbles from its tenuous perch atop my sink, and is sucked down into the bowl. Our heroine, Superfreelancer, thinking and reacting quickly, pushes her sleeve up to her elbow and plunges her hand into the toilet, grasping desperately for the bottle.
But alas, her lightning reflexes are not sufficient to prevent the tragedy. The bottle of Max Factor makeup remover is gone, along with the chance of easily removing her Lipfinity lipstick, which if painted on a Twinkie, would help it to survive a nuclear holocaust.
Soon, it becomes clear to our genius heroine that, with a small bottle blocking the pipes of the toilet, waste disposal is going to become a problem. Yuck. She had no training as a plumber. So she called her super for help. I mean after all, she did tip him every year for just being there. About time he actually helped her with something. Finally, the super arrived and gave her the news: since the bottle could not be accessed, the toilet would probably have to be replaced, incurring a cost of $500-600 for a new toilet and $100/hour for the plumber’s labor.
Superfreelancer almost began to cry. Instead she explained to the super that she has been mostly unemployed for the past eon and didn’t have that kind of money to replace a toilet that otherwise worked—we know what’s wrong, why can’t we just stick something down there and jostle the obstruction until it is dislodged? The super sighed and said he’d come back later to help. Superfreelancer is left with her thoughts, and has waking nightmares of having to find an extra $700 to replace a toilet…tears begin to flow as she bemoans her fate…she calls her brother and makes arrangements to stay there that night in case her toilet remains nonfunctional…
On return, the super instructs Superfreelancer to lay out newspaper on the floor of her bathroom. Together, the two were going to detach the toilet from the floor and turn it over, hopefully dislodging the obstruction in the process. Now, Superfreelancer is no princess, but this was something she had never done. But if the alternative is $700, you’d be surprised how much of a motivator that can be.
The rest exists in blips of memory, as a list of instructions, as the project proceeded…Turn off water supply. Flush toilet until tank’s water supply is reduced as much as possible. Unscrew screws connecting toilet to floor. Lift the toilet off its base, dumping remainder of contents into a wide bowl and onto the newspaper-covered floor. Jiggling the toilet as we suspend it in midair. Whittling away at a plastic hanger with a kitchen knife, creating a tool. Using the tool to reach into the fixture from both ends, trying to jostle the obstruction loose. Hearing the bottle plop onto the wet newspaper tarmac in my bathroom, and feeling no relief yet. “We still have to reattach the toilet,” the super said, holding his back and complaining about how his wife says he’s not supposed to lift things.
Then, it became “Operation Toilet Removal,” but in reverse, as we righted the fixture, tried to find and reuse the screws in the appropriate manner. Success! The toilet was reconnected and operational, if a little crooked. Yes, I said crooked. There’s a slight slant to it that I didn’t remember from before. But it was operational, which was something. I thanked the super, who never actually said “you’re welcome,” but instead lobbed a couple of more comments like“I’m just glad my back didn’t give out” that were as clear a hint for tipping as an outstretched palm would have been. With no cash at my disposal, I thanked him again and showed him out. (Don't worry, I'll tip him, eventually...)
Alone again, I looked at the grime on my hands (uggh…) and then felt an odd sense of achievement. Superfreelancer had achieved an adulthood of sorts. She had gotten down and dirrrty (extra R's courtesy of Nelly and Christina Aguilera); she had unconnected and reconnected her first toilet.
Today, she was a toilet. Even though she had been living alone for several years, it was this milestone, unacknowledged by Hallmark, that marked the beginning of a real independence.