Thursday, January 16, 2014

Joe Vs. The Toilet

My wife is inspirational.

On Thanksgiving she was doing some laundry and discovered that the washing machine was no longer agitating. The fact that the agitator was not agitating was aggravating and agitating to both The Wife and myself. The washer is more than ten years old, and we've had a repairman come to the house on two earlier occasions to replace a broken part in the agitator.

We discussed the situation and thought it might be time to get a new washing machine. It's old and not really worth another $125 for the repairman to come out and fix it again. This posed several problems:

1) If you get a brand new washing machine, you pretty much have to get a new dryer, too. Our current dryer still works. Not great, but it still works. But, it is also old, and you usually get a better deal when you buy them as a set.

That leads to, 2) A new washer and dryer cost money. Lots of money. We do not have a mason jar full of let's-get-a-new-washer-and-dryer cash buried in our back yard. (Unless the previous home owners left us some unknown hidden treasures.)

C) If we did get a new washer/dryer, that would mean going to the store to make that purchase. Did I mention this happened on Thanksgiving? That would mean we would have to go to the store on Black Friday to shop for the washer. I don't intend to go Black Friday shopping again any time soon. (See: Black Friday Shopping.) The thought of fighting those crowds was even less enticing than the thought of spending that much money.

That's when The Wife decided to think outside the box and do something I never would have thought to do. She decided to try to fix it herself! Her thinking was, "We have nothing to lose." Either she would fix it, and all would be well, or she would not fix it and we would have to buy a new washing machine, which is what we would have to do anyway if she didn't try.

So, she ripped apart the washer and found the part that was broken in the agitator. (I think it was between the widget arm and the flux capacitor.) She then looked it up on the interwebs and ordered a new part from The cost? $4.

Certainly worth more than $4.

Thanks to Amazon Prime's* 2-day shipping, the part arrived on Monday. The Wife took the part downstairs and got the washing machine fixed up lickety-split! (Or is that "lickety-spit?") (And what does that even mean, anyway?)

[*No promotional considerations were given to me by Amazon Prime for this free plug. But I'd be willing to field offers.]

My wife is amazing! With just a little bit of gumption and effort she was able to save us hundreds of dollars! We once again have a working washing machine!


A few weeks later, I had an argument with the toilet.

For a couple of months the toilet in our guest/kid's bathroom had been acting unruly. Sometimes it would hiss uncontrollably. Sometimes it would take two or three flushes to get everything down. Sometimes I would have to hold the handle down for five seconds to get it to flush. Sometimes jiggling the handle would make the hissing stop. Sometimes it wouldn't.

The problem was I could find no reasonable rhyme as to when or why it would do any of these things. There was no discernible pattern as to why those things were happening or how exactly I could make them stop.

That toilet was my nemesis.

My nemesis! (Don't let its calm demeanor fool you. This was a mean, nasty toilet!)

One day, while The Wife was at work and I was home with the kids, the toilet wouldn't stop hissing. I took the lid off to see if I could jiggle, jangle, or otherwise coerce a cease to the hiss. I was seriously thinking about getting The Wife a new toilet for Christmas. (Nothing says "love" like a new toilet!)

That's when  I saw that the floaty ball was full of water. Now, I'm not a plumber (despite what you might think from that gap between the top of my pants and the bottom of my shirt), and I'm about as far from being "Mr. Fix-It" as you can get (See: Joe Fix-It Strikes Out), but even I know that the toilet floaty ball is not supposed to be full of water!

It was then that I used my wife as inspiration: Instead of buying a whole new toilet, maybe I could actually fix the darn thing! And if I couldn't? Well, I guess I could use the money (that we didn't have) that we saved from not buying a new washing machine to buy a new toilet. I had nothing to lose.

So, I went to a strange, foreign place: the hardware store. Unfortunately, they didn't sell just the floaty ball, so I had to buy an entire set of toilet innards. And then it was time to try to actually fix the toilet.

It ended up being much easier than I thought. The hardest part turned out to be extricating the floaty ball from the plastic packaging in which the toilet innards had been encased. I got the floaty ball in place, and it actually floated! No more hissing! No more jiggling! No more jangling! (Although I'll still jangle every once in a while, just for the fun of it.)  Sure, it was three times more expensive than The Wife's fix ($12 for toilet innards compared to $4 for agitator parts), but it was certainly worth it!

Lesson learned? If something is broken down and not working right, instead of throwing it out and buying a new one, maybe you should try to fix it. You've got nothing to lose!

(Hmm...I wonder if this approach would work for Congress?)

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