So, I’m entering this blog post in the Writing Contest: You Deserve to be Inspired, hosted by Positive Writer and I’m posting a bit early to give those folks time to process. Obviously, I’ve been asked to be inspiring, so I’d like to motivate you readers to work on your personal relationships and make them shine. To do this, I thought I’d elaborate on how I bulk up my relationships by using my lame superpower, touched on previously in Witchcraft, Corporate American and the Subverting Introvert. To recap, I have an almost supernatural ability to fix toilets.
I did not train to become good at this skill. It is something that developed organically, out of pure need and as a way to strengthen the relationships with the important people in my life. So, if you manage to wedge yourself into the short, introvert-limited list of people who really matter to me, you might be able to save on some plumbing bills.
Plumbing problems are rarely just isolated mechanical defects. Just as the best doctors treat the whole patient and not just the symptoms, a good plumber should come equipped with a Freudian understanding of deep psychological issues related to the plumbing deficit. I’ve come to realize that problems with the pipes are highly integrated with the emotional well-being of the homeowner.
If you’ve never experienced a water hammer noise, count yourself lucky. The noise has been described as sounding like a jet plane or a jack hammer, shaking both the pipes and the toilet that it serves. My mom lives alone and has no mechanical ability. This was stuff my dad, an engineer by training, used to deal with. When he passed away, my mom was left to fend for herself. The noise from the water hammer became so unbearable that she ended up shutting off the water flow and declaring this particular porcelain fixture unusable. She’d get around to hiring a plumber eventually, but this wasn’t the way things used to get fixed in the house. There used to be a family self-reliance and no need to bring in outsiders to solve home maintenance issues. By delving into the psychoanalysis of the plumbing problem, I realized that the horrendous noise from the pipes was really a constant reminder that my dad wasn’t around anymore. Shutting off the toilet wasn’t going to solve the issue of being cut off from someone my mom relied upon for so many things. Since my dad passed away, I’ve discovered that I’ve inherited his ability to just look at a system and understand how it should function. I could fix the damn thing and keep it in the family, giving my mom a renewed sense of security. And all it took was replacing the washer on the fill valve. And so it began.
My husband is an overworked college professor (4/4 load for those in the know). He is constantly working, either grading (while grumbling loudly that he most definitely taught this material – how could they not be able to answer this question?), preparing lectures, creating online material to supplement and reinforce the in-person lectures, meeting with students to re-reinforce the teaching, doing service in committees, running a research program, writing grants for said research, reviewing other researchers’ papers from around the globe to determine worthiness to be published in scientific journals, and making appearances at weekend recruiting events for the college. And that doesn’t cover getting called out in the middle of the night to find lost people as a search and rescue volunteer.
When a toilet in the house started running constantly, he laid claim to the repair and kept saying he’d get to it. I was more than happy to relinquish responsibility because, hey, I’ve got other household duties, blog posts to write, a book on the market that I desperately need to promote (Soul Search available on Amazon!) and another one in progress that I desperately need to finish (Soul Scent, the sequel, coming this summer!). When the water bill came in and it was clear that we were wasting water, he said he would get to it, but now looked a little more anxious about the problem. Shortly after this maintenance issue, there arose a mighty vibrating noise in the dining room. When we hunted down the root cause, it was revealed that the other upstairs toilet was constantly running to the point where the pipes began resonating with the water flow. These plumbing problems were putting a strain on his time and, vis a vis, a strain on our domestic relationship.
There are a ton of articles and blog posts out there that try to inspire people to renew and maintain their relationships with their partners. Most of the advice centers around going out on date nights and lighting a lot of candles.
Expert Tip #1: Introverts don’t like sitting around making small talk, even if there is food involved. Candles don’t help.
I also see many, many Facebook posts where one person publicly appreciates the other person in a relationship.
Expert Tip #2: Talk is cheap, people. Fixing a toilet is work.
The honest truth about forging a strong relationship with your significant other is to support each other in ways that only you are uniquely qualified to do. Enter my lame superpower. I fixed both toilets. The problem with the first upstairs toilet was resolved by replacing the flapper. Over time, the rubbery material had hardened and then degraded, resulting in a constant leak of water into the bowl. The second toilet had a defective fill valve that caused the toilet to fill to the point where the overflow mechanism would kick in and start emptying the tank. I completely gutted this toilet, replacing all the fixtures (since it was old enough that something else was likely to break in the near future) and solved the problem. A true labor of love.
Bonus Expert Tip #3: I should also mention that I keep the bar well-stocked with good, single malt scotch, for when he finishes his grading.
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