Yesterday I fixed the toilet.
The handle had been giving us trouble for a while; it used some antiquated metal contraption to connect to the flush valve. The handle bar was connected to the pull rod by Christmas ribbon. But finally the rod completely separated from the flush valve, leaving things awkward for a couple days.
I wasn’t sure if I knew what I was doing. My handiwork has been limited to cutting pieces of wood and putting nails into them. One time I cut some pipe for a home garden, though I’m pretty sure I just held the pipes so they wouldn’t fall to the ground. But the toilet was in need of assistance.
My girlfriend suggested we just tell the landlord and get him to fix it. “Nonsense,” I said, “it will be $20 at most, and we should figure out how it works anyways.” Translation: I should figure that out. But off I went to Home Depot, and found the flush valve assembly I needed for just over $5. Rather serendipitously, when I got home the City of Chicago had shut off water to our block because of a frozen pipe and burst main up the street. So the tank drained, I bent the existing assembly out of the way (having no pliers), and installed the new flapper.
When the water came back on eight hours later, I was finally able to test the repaired toilet. It worked! It was better than before, too; the handle never seemed to stick in the down position.
Whenever that toilet gets a flushed, I crack a little smile. I did this. Not the landlord, not my dad, not a friend – me. And that feeling, that sense of triumph and accomplishment – however fleeting – is something that has been conspicuously absent from my life. I would imagine it’s been absent from others’, as well.
I mean, how often do we get the chance to do anything that ends with tangible, visible results? When are we able to contribute, even in small fashion, to our everyday surroundings? We’re convinced, nay, compelled to sit back and let others do everything for us. To not assist bystanders in lieu of those with “professional” qualifications. To “vote” in elections where no one responds to us and nothing ever changes.
The agency has been revoked from our lives. For a brief moment I was able to improve one tiny aspect of my own. If only there was a way to exercise that power at all times.