A Straight Flush: The Sequel

by Maria Theresa Maggi on March 9, 2018

"Toilet Innards," pastel sketch my Maria Theresa Maggi

“Toilet Innards,” pastel sketch my Maria Theresa Maggi

I am reporting in here to announce the jerry rigged toilet flapper has been replaced–by me. I want to thank everyone who commented on “A Straight Flush,” and encouraged me I could do it. There are two qualities that made my success possible: disobedience and patience.

First off, I had to make a decision to disobey the recommendations of the two plumbers and the plumbing supply sales person I talked to over the phone, all of whom insisted I remove the flapper currently in my toilet (which I now affectionately refer to as “Toity”) and bring it in to wherever I purchased a flapper in order to be sure to get the correct one. The guy at the plumbing supply place wouldn’t even look at a photo through e-mail. But after watching some “how to” videos on YouTube–by plumbers, no less–I realized that there are many universal models that seemed quite similar to the design of the one I had jerry-rigged.

Ordinarily I am a big fan of bringing the actual object I need replaced to the store with me. It’s often the only way I can explain what it is I need, since the vocabulary that hardware salespeople seem to want often eludes me, especially when there are sometimes dozens or even hundreds (as there are with screws) of alternatives. But this time that didn’t seem like the best thing to do, despite professional concensus. For one thing, the downstairs toilet would be out of operation completely until I returned. Getting a ride down the coast highway to make the purchase is an expenditure of energy in and of itself. What if by the time I got home my hands and eyes were too tired to replace the flapper? And besides, I would most assuredly need to pee the minute I walked back in the door.

There was another reason in my mind to be disobedient. In watching video after video about toilet flappers, I saw there were different versions of the kind I needed. I saw there was one that was all one piece, made of rubber and it could be easily stretched around the pegs it sat on, not requiring me to push and snap. I liked the ease of that concept a lot. But if I took in the exact model, I would end up with a hard plastic attachment, which, even before I tried to take it off, I knew would be hard for me to do, despite how “simple” it basically is.

So on an afternoon when a neighbor took me down the highway so the dogs could get their booster shots and a few other things, we stopped at the hardware store to pick up a toilet flapper. We went to the smaller one I am more familiar with–low ceilings and less like a warehouse. That helped me focus a lot. At first the clerk who guided us back to the plumbing, like the plumbers and the guy at the plumbing supply, was quite skeptical I could find what I needed without showing him what I needed. I told him what type it was and what size. I think he was taken aback by what I knew.  He watched me somewhat incredulously as I compared the two universal ones he showed me, checking for the all-one-rubber-piece option. As my readers and youtube videos had said, they were all in the $5-7 dollar range. No big deal if it turned out to be wrong. I only fell into my Mrs. Magoo mode when i had too many things in my hands. But my neighbor was there to help, and the clerk ended up being quite impressed that I knew what I wanted and why.

Now to that second integral quality in my recipe for success: patience–with myself and with the process. I knew after the appointment with the dogs that I would be too tired to come home and immeiately replace the jerry-rigged one. But I also knew I didn’t have to do it right away. It was still working pretty well, although it sometimes required a little tease or coax to get the seal right. So I would have time to wait until I had that feeling I was ready to try and tackle getting the hard plastic arms to snap off the pegs that attach them to the infill.

About a week after I purchased it, the flapper was giving me some extra trouble. In exasperation I thought the moment had come before I was quite ready. But I was determined. I took the new one out of its package and set to work trying to get the old one off. I couldn’t do it.

This didn’t bother me as much as it could have. For one thing, I knew I was coming at this from a left-handed perspective. And because of the way my toilet is situated it’s hard to get on the left side of it. I also know that often when I try to loosen or tighten something simple for the first time, my nervous system often “misses,” and doesn’t get it. So instead of pressing the matter, I sealed the new one back up in plastic, and coaxed the old one back into working order.  And I waited.

I knew something was going to come to me about how to approach this more successfully, though I didn’t know what that something was. A day or so later, it came to me: if I took the big abalone shell with soap in it off the edge of the bath tub that’s right next to the toilet and moved a few other things, I could actually sit right there and look at things from a left-handed point of view. So I waited a little more to be ready to do that. First I moved everything so the way would be clear when that perfect moment came.

When it did come, sitting there staring at it did allow me to see better how it had been hooked onto the peg and how it might snap off. But I still couldn’t get it off the first try. So I stopped and looked again, and then I felt it again, feeling for that place it might lift up and snap off. And I felt it. And off it came.

The rest was pretty easy. As I had intuited, the all rubber replacement was a breeze to put on. It’s working like a charm.

These two qualities, disobedience and patience, serve me well in all areas of maintaining my health and choosing a path of action that is right for me. I’m just happy I was able to see clearly enough how to apply them in this situation.

As fun as it was to draw my “toity” inside and out, I would feel remiss if I didn’t combine the ridiculous with a little sublime. So here’s a memory sketch of what the ocean reflected a couple of days ago in the huge and ever changing sky, because it’s as important to look up and out as it is to peer down into the innards of a toilet tank.

"Three Skies on the Ocean,' pastel memory sketch, by Maria Theresa . Maggi

“Three Skies on the Ocean,’ pastel memory sketch, by Maria Theresa . Maggi

Maria (moonwatcher)



Leave a Comment

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 LeAnn March 9, 2018 at 1:32 pm

You have a knack for making the most mundane tasks sound like so much fun.
I laughed out loud at your fearlessness and sense of adventure.
And— Three Skies on the Ocean is breathtaking. Thanks.


2 Maria Theresa Maggi March 9, 2018 at 1:40 pm

Thanks so much, LeAnn!! I laughed out loud with delight that you laughed out loud!! Wonderful. And so appreciate your kind words about Three Skies on the Ocean.


3 Nicole O'Shea March 9, 2018 at 6:05 pm

Maria! Only you can find wisdom in a broken toilet! Love you.

Three Skies on the Ocean is GORGEOUS. Your memory sketches are so so beautiful


4 Maria Theresa Maggi March 9, 2018 at 6:31 pm

Oh Nicole, you made me laugh at my funny self!! Thank you!! So glad you enjoyed the post. And I’m SO honored by what you think of Three Skies on the Ocean and my memory sketches in general. love you too.


5 Gloria March 10, 2018 at 12:12 pm

Congratulations…I’m so happy that you took the bull by the horns, or, in this case, the flap by the ears…and made the repair. Feels good doesn’t it


6 Maria Theresa Maggi March 10, 2018 at 4:24 pm

Thanks, Gloria, for this wonderful comment–“the flap by the ears”–hahahahaha–and for your prior comment of encouragement–yes, it feels great– Yay!!


7 Debra Maslov March 11, 2018 at 9:49 am

I love all your adventures Maria! Your ingenuity with perseverance is extremely admirable. It was such a pleasure following along as you gained oodles of confidence – & outwitted the plumbers who have much vested in hoping you do nothing but hire them. Your toity paintings are the best!


8 Maria Theresa Maggi March 11, 2018 at 12:44 pm

Thank you so much, Debra! I am delighted by your words here, and I laughed with further delight that you think my toity paintings are the best! I sure had fun.


9 Veronica March 13, 2018 at 5:47 pm

Hahaha congrats!!!! Disobedience can be so wonderful sometimes. 🙂 Patience is a bit harder, but does usually pay off. I’m glad it all worked out and you found the confidence you needed to do what you totally could do all along. 🙂 xoxo


10 Maria Theresa Maggi March 14, 2018 at 8:36 am

Thanks Veronica! Glad I made you “hahaha”! Yes, disobedience CAN be wonderful, and so, I have learned and am still learning, can patience. 🙂 Thanks for the wonderful vote of confidence too!! 🙂 xoxo


11 Anne Wagner March 19, 2018 at 7:00 pm

Thanks Maria. Too tired tonight to be articulate about how much I appreciated your description of your day. Thanks for expending your energy on writing the blog. Reading it was very helpful to me.


12 Maria Theresa Maggi March 19, 2018 at 7:19 pm

Thank you so much, Anne. You absolutely made me evening with this comment. I am honored.


13 Lee March 24, 2018 at 4:15 am

Congrats on Toity working like a charm! Isn’t it funny how something “little” can be a major victory? (Especially toilet repairs–surprisingly empowering, lol!) You go, girl!


14 Maria Theresa Maggi March 24, 2018 at 9:01 am

Thanks Lee! Yes, as I’ve written about before, the little things make a BIG difference! 🙂


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