"Use it up, wear it out;
Make it do, or do without."
--New England maxim
When you live in no-man's-land as I do, and the closest handyman is either too busy, too expensive, or too all-thumbs to fix what's wrong at your house, you learn to make do. Often that means you learn to do.
Though I've never changed a flat tire, changed my (car's) oil, or repaired a leaking roof, that doesn't mean I can't paint my own mailbox, trim a hedge or two, or do a mean plumber impersonation when the alternative is half a month's pay. Or so I thought recently when I tried to repair a malfunctioning toilet.
"Easy. Just use pliers ... then ... and...."
It still doesn't work. Corrosion prevented the pliers from getting a good enough grip to remove the old part so the replacement could be installed. Fortunately I was able to keep my compulsive personality in check and quit before I repeated a terrible experience my brother once had.
Since he and I are cut from the same compulsive, save-a-dollar cloth, I could understand why it happened, but I was sorry he didn't practice his trial-and-error plumbing at home before he visited that out-of-town church.
You see, the sermon was running kind of long and he needed to -- you know -- so he quietly left his seat and found the restroom just outside the sanctuary door.
When he noticed the water running as he entered the restroom, and still running when he prepared to leave, he decided to repair the run himself. But when he removed the tank top it slipped out of his hands and dropped straight down into and through the bottom of the tank. Not only did his potentially quiet good deed turn into a loud, worship-shattering bang, but the water began rushing out of the tank, out of the restroom, and straight down the slightly inclined sanctuary aisle.
He never did hear the end of the sermon, or visit that church again.
Though I've never plied my plumbing prowess on anyone's facilities except my own, I've had some success with things like flappers, flush handles and minor leaks. But I didn't even attempt that much until I received a $98 bill from a plumber for replacing less than $10 worth of parts in my malfunctioning commode. Time and labor he said -- from the time he left home, assessed the problem, went shopping for said parts, returned to my house and installed the new gear.
But my claim to fame is the garbage disposal. Ever since the thing stopped up during the rehearsal dinner for my son's wedding, I've never had to call a plumber to fix that appliance again. And being a kindly, do-unto-others person myself, I thought I would share my wisdom with you.
First, don't be so enamored with your time schedule that you don't spend the extra 17 seconds it takes to cut up your banana peels, celery stalks and other stringy produce before stuffing it into the disposal. Also, use the wastebasket and not the disposal for tea or coffee grounds, apple seeds and even the smallest of chicken bones. The time you use exercising a little care is nothing compared to being stuck without a disposal -- or the kitchen sink -- during your next party.
But if you've disobeyed the first rule and your drain begins to be sluggish -- key word "sluggish," not stopped completely -- you still might not need a plumber or a high-powered chemical that may damage the disposal and it still won't work. Just follow these simple steps:
With or without garbage in the disposal, fill your sink with water. Then, with the water still running, quickly pull the stopper out of the water, turn on the disposal, and listen to the giant whoosh as all that water clears the drain in less than 17 seconds.
As I used to tell my piano students when they complained that their music was too hard, I don't have a Mensa-level IQ, which means: if I can do it, it can be done.
However, considering my still corroded commode and the flat tire or two I've needed assistance to change, that's not necessarily the same as: if it can be done, I can do it.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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