Plumbing 101 / Painting 101


The nightmare started when the toilet overflowed. In fact, that’s how every nightmare starts. I’m going to make a horror movie. Instead of creaking floorboards or strange noises at the window, the protagonist will first be alarmed when all they hear is the toilet still running. It’s still running. Longer than usual. Why could that be? They go up the stairs to inspect, slowly opening the bathroom door…and OH MY GOD.

Here’s the extent of my toilet knowledge: 1. The plunger absolves all sins, whether it’s eating Taco Bell or using too much toilet paper. The plunger absolves us all. 2. If all else fails, the little rubber things under the lid make things happen.

I’m actually very proud of this vast toilet knowledge I have, because at least it’s better than the wife’s working knowledge, which is the old tried-and-true Dad aphorism, 3. “you gotta jiggle the handle.”

But between these three pieces of information, it’s true, you can solve 99% of toilet problems. For the other 1% of problems, you should probably seek out the lowest room in your house and work on creating the most mass between you and the pending nuclear fallout.

But first, you should take the following steps:

1. Point fingers. Start ill-advised argument with wife over whose fault this is. Remember, it’s not as important that the toilet has overflowed, flooded the bathroom, seeped into the adjoining wall closet, and dripped downstairs into the living room. It’s really more important to get to the bottom of who blew it up in the first place.

2. Bullheadedly decide that you can fix the toilet. Plunge it. Take the lid off and fiddle with the insides. Flush the toilet again.

3. Repeat the step where everything floods again.

4. Call a plumber.

The plumber will fix the toilet for the price of “more money than that can possibly be worth.” Then again, your only other option is: toilet water pool party!

I imagine the invitations will look like this:


Bring your bathing suit! Potato chips, hot dogs, and Lysol wipes will be provided.

Now that I’ve taught you everything I know about plumbing, the next lesson will be house painting. The plumbing incident left a brown stain on our ceiling in the living room. I had to paint it.

I recently came across a quote about writing that I liked, that “[writing] is like being in the woods with a pencil flashlight between your teeth illuminating about three feet ahead of you…You never know what you are going to write until you start writing.”

Painting is not like that though.

I don’t think ahead. I grab the first paint can in the basement that says “white.” I pour it in the tray and start painting. Apparently, all paint starts out as white. You have to look at the lid to see the actual color inside. But I’ll only realize this after I’ve painted the patch of ceiling a slight shade of beige.

And because I don’t think ahead, I have precisely one paint tray and one paint brush. Fair enough. I’ll just wash them out before switching colors.

But because I don’t think ahead, I don’t make sure my tray and brush aren’t dripping before I take them outside to rinse.

And I really didn’t think ahead that laying down two drop cloths would be necessary. And that’s how I got paint on the carpet.

And I didn’t think ahead about going outside, so I didn’t have shoes on. As a creative person, I tend to grab at whatever is at my immediate disposal, whether it’s words fluttering down to my brain, or my wife’s shoes, which just happen to be the closest foot-shielding thing nearest the door, and I have my hands full of paint shit, so I’ll just squeeze my feet into these temporarily.

I wasn’t thinking ahead, so I didn’t have paper towels handy. So I just pulled the roller off with my bare hands, and that’s how I got paint all over my hands.

And because I didn’t think that when you aim a hose blast of water at a curved tray, it becomes a waterfountain—that’s how I got paint all over my clothes.

And wife’s shoes.


And because I don’t think ahead, possibly ever considering that a brown stain might need priming or two coats of paint, the stain is still there.

And that’s everything I know about painting. That I should probably not attempt to do it ever again. Or that I should take Ritalin first.

In a few weeks, I’ll be starting the nursery. Nursery 101 should be a good post.

7 thoughts on “Plumbing 101 / Painting 101

  1. “Point fingers. Start ill-advised argument with wife over whose fault this is.”

    You guys all have a top secret handbook you pass around, don’t you? Even the dang plumber has read the thing, he’s quite sure all our toilet troubles come from me suggesting we jiggle the handle.

  2. I’m here to help, even when it’s too late, so I’ll offer you a #4 for the future, which is, “turn the water off”. There should be a valve between the toilet and the wall – just remember leftie=loosie, rightie=tightie, and Robert’s your mother’s brother.
    Also, #3 is pretty much #2 without taking the lid off.
    I don’t find much mystery with plumbing, though plenty of frustration. It’s electrical that I don’t mess around with.

  3. Plumbing 101 is pretty spot on and if it isn’t already, I’d like to see it as the definitive “How-To” guide for toilet plumbing found on the internet.
    Painting 101 is more of a high speed train carrying radioactive waste that gets derailed into an orphanage for blind puppies, as it only gets absurdly catastrophically worse. Looking forward to Nursery 101 =)

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