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Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Toilet Whispererer

To Whom It May Concern,

Wish me luck as I venture out to the hardware store in my quest to fix the world’s first indoor toilet located in the bathroom of my ancient apartment in Spain. If you don’t hear from me again just know that I love you. I only regret that I won’t be around one day to bail my grandchildren out of jail.  I don’t have any children yet but with my DNA I have to be realistic about the vocational prospects of my would-be progeny.

Even here in Spain people make jokes about how much money plumbers make, so calling in a professional is out of the question. I’ve probably watched four or five seconds of dozens of home improvement shows before switching to something, anything more entertaining so how hard could fixing a toilet be? First I go to the variety store to buy the right size wrench. The owners of the shop are Chinese immigrants with limited Spanish and I don’t know the word for “box wrench” so I try to mime it. They think that I’m playing charades and start shouting out movie titles.  So as not to offend anyone I pretend that the woman has won with her guess of The Wizard of Oz and start looking for the wrench on my own.

From here I go to the hardware store to buy the part I need except I have no idea what it’s called, not in Spanish, not in English, not in any language. My Spanish is good enough to explain it to the woman at the hardware store although in my rather literary Spanish I’m sure that I must sound like the Archduke of Bilgewater. “Good morning, my good woman. I’m looking for a curious little apparatus that releases the cistern of water above my commode thus purging the porcelain seat and then refilling aforementioned cistern.” She gets the gist of my story and sells me the part. I tip my hat, bow gracefully, and exit.

If nothing else I gained a valuable lesson which is that I can cross “plumber” off my list of possible careers.  I think I would have been less of a failure performing open-heart surgery without any training than I was fixing the crapper. At least my patient would have died immediately and not suffered indefinitely while leaking fluids, making creepy gurgling noises, and always being on the verge of an even greater catastrophe.  And if I had extra parts left over after the open-heart job I could have fed them to the cats on the balcony below my apartment. 

There is a definite lack of any sense of accomplishment when you’ve just spent the last two hours fixing something that worked just fine yesterday. With that said I still have the urge to walk down the street and shout out to the world, “My toilet flushes!  It really, really works! Come take a look if you don’t believe me.”


  1. Oh yeah? You think that's rough? I got you beat. Just try going to the gynecologist with minimal Spanish. Talk about plumbing problems...

  2. Do the Chinese own all of the gynecologists in Spain?


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