I was going to try to write a nice Christmas column but decided to write about toilets instead. 

I know that right here — at this point in this column — my wife Christina, who has veto power over what material I write actually runs in the papers (which is why the last two columns remain unpublished) has stopped reading and moved on to something else, something important and more worth her time. But that is another column. 

I told a friend the other day that we are living in “the time of broke,” as in everything is breaking — our beach from a hurricane, California from fires, the eastern seaboard and much of middle America from floods, The EPA, and “truth” just about anywhere it used to be found.  And, oh yes, I almost forgot, my toilet.

We’ve been fixing a lot these days.  I really can’t remember a time when “fixing stuff” was more the order of the day. 

Let me tell you about my toilet. At our newspaper office, we started getting leaks in the ceiling — in the kitchen/break room, one of the bathrooms, and in the conference room.  We’ve always tried to keep the roof maintained and it’s really not very old. But it started leaking and then it really started leaking.  

So I started getting quotes to patch the couple small areas in the roof right over where I was seeing water inside. What could a couple patches cost anyway?  

We ended up deciding that patching didn’t make sense (it still made sense to me). We were quoted somewhere close to $15,000 for a brand new roof. Hummmm, I thought, that’s a lot of fixing. But we now have this amazing awesome looking architectural shingled roof, right? 

“Come on, loosen up”” I said to myself. “Be happy. “

With the roof fixed, we could paint all those wet spots and stains in the inside ceilings. But, the problem with that is now the new painted areas will stand out from the old painted areas. So, we thought, maybe it’s time to paint the interior, you know, freshen it up. Yes, we decided we’ll paint too.

Just before we called our favorite painter, Harry, (see the end of the column for his contact information because he is the best I’ve ever seen but not the cheapest), we noticed that the floors were starting to look long in the tooth, and if we painted the interior and the floors looked not so good, it would make the nice newly painted insides look bad. What could a simple flooring replacement cost anyway — added to the interior paint job? 

Did you know that putting laminate on top of old hardwood floors can be a challenge when one side of the room is 2-3 inches higher than the opposite side — in almost every room? And did you know that if you don’t seal an old hardwood floor before you put leveler on it to compensate for the unevenness, the floor will absorb the leveling material so that what you thought was level is not, the next morning — when you then have to go out and buy more leveling material and hope that it is not absorbed into the floor — which it is? And have you ever heard the foreman of your flooring company say that “We’ve never done a job where so much leveling was required?” 

If you ever hear that, be scared.  

So we arrived at a new beautiful roof; new beautiful freshly painted interior walls and ceilings and doors; a stunningly beautiful, modern, and trendy sort of gray laminated floor, which, by the way, cost let’s guess $12,000 more in overage than the original estimate because, of course, you know that when the crew installing the floor spends an unbudgeted week pouring leveling compound on the old hardwood floors that keeps being absorbed into the floors that it is going to cost more. 

But, of course, it is the “time of broke,” and we know there are always unanticipated things in life and we all just need to deal with it. Right? 

So as Ricky-Bobby used to say, “Shake and bake” baby. 

Our new office has everyone smiling. It feels, well, so digital now… just like the smell of 1’s and 0’s in the morning. 

Then I feel something — a drop. Then another. Drip, drop. Drip. Drop. 

“Did the flooring guys re-install the toilets” my bride asks me “or “did you?” 

“Well I did and we saved a bucket of cash,” I reply. 

“Really?” she says. 

“I installed all four,” I say. 

I’m one hell of a toilet installer now, I think to myself.  “Shake it and bake it, baby.” Why doesn’t she smile? I thought I was pretty funny at this point. 

My office is directly beneath one of the upstairs bathrooms. My ceiling is dripping — slow, single resolute drops. A water ring is slowly spreading on the ceiling above my head — on our brand sparkling new, white, crisp, digital ceiling and onto our new suave gray laminate floor. Drip, shake it and bake it baby, drop. 

I know when to cut my losses. I find a plumber. Wes, Wes the plumber. 

He kills it. Out, out, damned (water) spot! The leak is no more — gone. And Wes refuses my offer of a bucket to drain the water from the toilet so he can lift it up and reset the seal. Instead he pours a magic powder* into the toilet and, in an instant, the water turns to gel — before my eyes. And he lifts the toilet up; replaces the seal; puts the toilet down on the wax; and bolts it down. Then he turns the water back on into the toilet. The gel converts back to water.  He flushes it before my disbelieving eyes. I just wish Ricky-Bobby could have been there to see it.  

Shake it and bake it, baby.  

_ _ _ 

“The story is true. Wes does exist and is wonderful. Finally I found a plumber — Wes Temples, 404-557-2332. Harry the painter is real and walks on water — 678-468-8827. Tell him I sent you.  Maybe he’ll take it easy on me next time. 

The flooring guys I will not give you their names.  They use too much leveler. 

Nor will I mention the new gutters installed or the installer or the gutter guard company. After all, if you have a new roof, new floors and paint, new toilets, and the leak is fixed, how much could new gutters cost anyway? And finally, yes, that magic powder is real — “LiquiLock” by a company called Oatey. Costs about $3 bucks. Never drain a toilet again by hand. Turns the water to gel and back again. 

Promise. Its magic.

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