Life imitates art imitates life

Late year, while fixing a toilet, I got an idea for the final scene of Honest And For True.

Two scenes, actually, because in order to have the main character fixing a toilet in the final scene, I should have a toilet-fixing scene earlier in the book (under less hilarious and skin-drenching circumstances) establishing that she knows how to do such a thing. During that scene, she says to her niece, “One of the best things a woman can do for herself is learn how to fix a toilet.”

And so art imitated life, as I made two relatively straight-forward fixes on two of our toilets within about a week of each other, and in the interim looked up more complicated toilet fixes and inserted them into the novel. The second scene, though — the second took place on an overrunning toilet with no water shutoff valve, water cascading down the top of the tank, and my main character needing to disconnect a gushing water supply while the water was on full-blast.

And so on Thursday, life imitated art as I beheld one of our toilets which actually has a shutoff valve, but which shutoff valve did not want to move.

I considered forcing the valve to turn, then imagined that valve cracking off at the stem and water blasting all over our upstairs bathroom, flooding it and my bedroom, then slowly saturating the floor, which inconveniently enough happens also to be the ceiling of the floor below. Yet I had to do something, as the flapper valve (the part that lets water out of the tank and into the toilet) was broken. Oh dilemma.

What does this have to do with knitting? Everything, because I took a knitting needle and managed to stick it in just the right place to turn off the water for three days until I could buy a replacement flapper valve.

And lo, it worked, and once again I saved $100 on a repair call. One of the best things a woman can do for herself, I repeat (or rather, I quote my character) is learn how to fix a toilet.

Life imitates art. In this case, though, I much preferred dry and sober to soaking and hilarious.


  1. cricketB

    I’ve dragged many unsuspecting girls through it in many public toilets. (Yes, I’m that sort of person. If the kid is freaking because they don’t know what to do, the problem is they don’t know what to do. Solve the problem. Besides, chances are the young city-raised teen is the cause of the plugged toilet, so it’s her responsibility to at least reduce the damage.)

    May I recommend acquaintance with the house cut-off? Close that and open several taps on floors below the problem toilet to reduce the pressure fast. Not as good a story as the knitting needle, but less fiddly and you can involve the kids.

    Replacing the house cut-off is a story in itself. It fails the “Will my sanity survive if it’s more difficult than it looks and it’s apart for a week?” test, so I hired a plumber for two hours. He contacted the city to turn off the valve in the front yard. It was February. The tap in the front yard was seized. Three months later, when it was warmer, the city dug up and replaced that valve. A month after that the plumber and city came to fix the main cut-off.

    Yes, replacing a cut-off is simple enough in theory, and Dad made me do a few, but they’re usually in awkward places with a hot blowtorch, and it takes about 10 joints before you’re confident, so I payed the plumber for an extra hour to deal with them.

    1. Jane

      I know where the house shutoff is located because we’re on a well, so all I need to do is turn that off. We do that when we replace the well filters.

      I’ve now drenched the valve in WD 40 in hopes that this will solve the problem.

  2. Ciara Knight

    I fixed a microwave. Does that count? LOL. Toilets scare me, not sure I could fix one of those. 🙂

    1. philangelus

      You win! I would die of fright before touching the interior of the microwave. I understand water and sewage. Toilets are all about gravity, and gravity I understand. Radiation confounds me.

      Even fixing the door latch would make me nervous because I wouldn’t want to mess with the thing standing between me and the microwaves. LOL! Your next assignment is to write a short story during which the MC needs to fix a microwave.

  3. Lucy

    You rock.

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