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Happy Holidays to everybody.

Everyone loves a holiday tale that inspires, so why shouldn’t I write one?

Sitting here watching the news and ESPN, I have to wonder if sappy, inspirational stories of people overcoming adversity happen at other times of the year and not just late December. They all seem to show up now as filler because there is no hard news or sports to talk about. But no one will ever come to do a profile on what I’ve had to overcome in the past few weeks. It is nothing short of heroic and will bring a tear to your eye.

A few weeks back my toilet just decided to start randomly flushing whenever it felt like it. After trying to find the right keywords for this problem, I realized a “phantom flush” is the term they use, whoever “they” are, “they” know much more than I do. Water was leaking from the tank, not externally fortunately, causing the water to recede, causing the fill process to start over again, then stop with a thump. Not being educated in commode hydraulics, I tried to shine the flashlight in when it happened so maybe I could see what was happening. This is the equivalent to raising the hood of your car to “see what’s happening to make that clunking noise.” No idea what I’m even looking at, but it’s a fascinating observation in any event.

But I never could ever plan the observation at the exact right moment. So I was left befuddled on how to do this. So I of course turned to Google with search queries (and this is where all the Library and Information Science coursework comes in handy) of “toilet flushing when it feels like it,” “Toilet runs and then stops for about 10 seconds,” or to use Boolean logic “Toilet and bubbler or flush and spontaneous or intermittent or random.” Those didn’t find many results, so I just waited for Google to suggest things for me, so I queried something like “Toilet flushes then…” and Google suggested “stops.” But wait. Doesn’t every toilet do that? How does that explain anything? So then I tried “Toilet flushes on…” and Google suggested “its own.” And then I was led to the phantom flushing discussion. Damn, why didn’t I think of that?

This was an example of overcoming great obstacles. But the story goes on.

Now, what do I do? I came to realize it must be the seal has gone bad, and finding a frayed rubber ring, I decided that must be it. I moved the old thing around and made it worse. Now water didn’t stay in the tank at all unless I pressed down on the valve. So, now I went out to Home Depot to get a valve which didn’t fit. It was too wide. So I needed to go back. But then I wondered if I should fix the two other problems in the tank: the handle and the missing chain.

Like any sappy overcoming-the-odds story, we need a flashback:

This story goes back years. The ex and I couldn’t figure out how to fix the chain that had broken. If memory serves (where does that phrase come from anyway? It means I probably don’t remember anything the way it really happened), we could not re-attach a new chain. The problem is, this must be an old tank. The valve and flapper dapper are one piece- there is no rubber stopper. The valve has two looped openings which I guess is meant to hook the chain, but only one end of the chain has a hook- the other end…well…the other end is usually embedded into the rubber flapper. So how the hell was this to connect?

Commercial break to build suspense.

So we tried squeezing the end of that chain to get it connected to the handlebar, but it never could connect. So we gave up on the chain.

Tugs at your heart, doesn’t it?

The other problem was a loose handle which would not get bolted in no matter what the wrench did. We could get it just enough to be reasonable, but it wobbled. Then I realized I could take the arm from the handle, put it through the larger loop on the top of the valve, and bypass the chain altogether. This worked for a while until it would come out of the loop, after so many flushes. This lasted for years.

End of flashback.

Times have changed and now there is the problem of the seal, chain, flapper, and handle. And now, post-divorce, I am left on my own to deal with this adversity.

(Camera pans to a wide shot of a silhouette of me with a sunset in the background).

So another trip to Home Depot and a discussion with a nice gentleman, whose questions I could not answer, such as model type, whether it was a 2 inch or whatever. I just told him what things looked like, sort of like making grunts to your mechanic of what the car sounds like. So I came away with a new seal on the bottom, handle with arm, and flapper. Faced with these many challenges, I did one task at a time.

(Reporter is choking up as he narrates the piece).

I got the seal, and now water would stay in the tank. Basking in the glow of this major accomplishment, I took a few days off. I still had to manually operate this from the tank. So now I took out the new flapper and chain, and realized this was not going to be compatible with this design. So then I took the previously purchased chain that I couldn’t connect to the smaller loop at the bottom of the valve. (I tell you, I am getting this lingo down as I go). I thought maybe if I got a loop from a key chain, I should be able to connect the chain and the valve. It worked, but now the chain was too long, so I adjusted it at the top, then tightened the handle as much as I could.

And it worked. And several times more it still did. The handle is still a little loose, but it builds character, and was a reminder to the audience that despite these disabilities, we can never lose that winning, triumphant attitude, and as long as we don’t give up…blah blah blah blah.

So there is your holiday tale to warm your heart and inspire you to never give up. Tales like this should be shared all year round and not just at Christmas time. But then again, this did happen in December.

I may have a New Year’s inspiring story as well. The pilot light in the stove went out last week.

Happy Holidays.

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