Right now, if you wanted to flush my toilet, you would have to fill a bucket from the tub and dump water into the tank a couple of times, because the “fluidmaster”” just spits and fizzes water, so it takes hours for the tank to fill up.
For months, my toilet was randomly flushing on its own. I knew exactly nothing about what happens behind the toilet bowl and I sensed something was not quite right with all the flushing. So, I asked my father.
He took the lid off the tank and jiggled some things inside.
“Your seal is leaking a little bit, but it doesn’t appear to be coming through the tank, right?”
I stared at him. He tried again. “Does water get on the floor?”
“Do you pay for water?”
“No, it’s in the condo fee.”
“Then, I wouldn’t worry about it.”
So, I didn’t worry about it and learned to appreciate the phantom flushing as a funny quirk: a loud roaring rapid gushing into my condo a couple of times a day.
Until today, when the toilet went from flushing too much to not flushing at all.
I should have seen this coming. Weeks ago, I noticed that it was starting to take several minutes for the tank to fill up. But the lever continued to work, and that was all I really cared about. The waiting was a minor annoyance, but still well within the bounds of tolerance and therefore easily ignored.
I took the lid off the tank and peered in. Unfamiliar as I was with the inside of toilet tanks, I figured there should be more water in there. So I grabbed an empty Deer Park water bottle, filled it up from one of my two bathroom sinks, and began pouring water.
I kept thinking about that scene in Zack and Miri Make a Porno when the Seth Rogen character uses water from the tank to rinse the shampoo from Elizabeth Banks’s hair. If my water were cut off mid-shower, I would have to go around with shampoo on my head because I would never, ever rinse my hair with this toilet tank stuff.
Soon, it flushed. Problem solved!
The next time I had to flush, it became apparent that the problem was not solved. I needed a short-term fix to be able to flush the toilet. The alternative was probably in the top 5 on my list of Worst Nightmares Ever.
The Deer Park bottle with its tiny neck was becoming a drag. I cut the top off, and it was still too small. Finally, I resorted to the 10-quart bucket, one of the items my grandfather bought for me because he insisted I would need it, though at the time I couldn’t imagine what for. It’s since been my go-to item for mouse catching, furniture cleaning, and, now, toilet operating.
A couple of pivots from the bathtub to the toilet filled the tank up enough for flushing, but this was exhausting and totally putting me off going to the bathroom.
I hated to bug my father about every little home maintenance thing. Since living on my own, I had tried to fix most things myself and was successful about half the time, which is 50%, which is an F.
I felt totally unequal to the toilet, with all of its gizmos and the potential for gushing water (also in my top 5 Worst Nightmares Ever). Thank god for the internet! It introduced me to the fluidmaster, ballcock, pipe, rod, tube, and flapper. No wonder toilet jobs were usually considered men’s work: the inside of a toilet tank sounds like a strip club.
I turned to YouTube for guidance, and some guys had helpfully posted videos of themselves poking around their tanks and solving problems. I decided to try taking the inside apart and flushing it out, because that worked for one of the DIY handymen.
I then proceeded to do exactly what the videos said not to, which is to snap the cap off. Oh well. I thought. I’m probably going to need to replace the entire bathroom at this point anyway.
I’m glad I paid attention to the part where he said to turn the water off, because I wasn’t caught off guard when I removed the cap without turning the water off and water then began gushing up and splashing everywhere, including directly into my face.
I removed, took apart, and rinsed off everything I dared to. With my bucket, I poured gallon after gallon all over the tank.
Then, I turned the water back on and watched as the tank filled up with water.
I flushed again.
I flushed again.
Hiss and fizz as the fluidmaster spit and sputtered.
Clearly, this is a job for Dad.