Toilet replacements are unpredictable. Sometimes it is simple, take one out, put one in, no worries. Other times there are many more steps such as repairing the floor. Or fixing the flange. Or replacing the water shut off valve. All of these involve many extra steps and materials
Vernon, another CHRPA volunteer, and I embarked on a toilet replacement job one Thursday afternoon not knowing what we would find. Upon walking into the small bathroom, we were relieved to find that all seemed to be in good shape. This could be a simple replacement of the toilet, with no extra steps needed.
I detached the existing toilet while Vernon brought the new one in from the van. In no time, we had the old one out and the new one set in place. I knelt over it to tighten the bowl to the floor. The left bolt was tight and the right one was almost there. I thought to myself “2 more turns of the nut should get it tight” but on that second turn, I heard an unexpected sound. “POP!”
The bolt on the right side had come loose under the toilet… to fix that required removing the toilet bowl, re-securing the bolt, and putting the toilet back on, hoping it worked the second time. Vernon’s experience and ingenuity helped us. He secured the bolt that had come loose with an extra washer. We put the toilet back in place. Vernon tightened the pesky bolt on the right as we held our breath, hoping this time it would work. It did! But as he tightened the bolt on the left, we heard that same, unwanted sound… “POP!”
The bolt on the left had come loose.
By this point the small bathroom was hot. Every minute that passed I seemed to notice more of how tiny the space was. We had been in there about an hour and a half. We were tired after a long week of repairs and very ready for the weekend to begin.
But we couldn’t just leave it. So again we removed the toilet… Vernon put an extra washer on that bolt as well and we set the toilet back in its place for a third time.
Vernon tightened the bolts while I crossed my fingers and prayed it would stay secure. Luckily, the third time really was the charm. Feeling grateful for those extra bolts, we got everything hooked up and running.
As we cleaned up our tools, I felt frustrated by how long it took us to do that job. I was just happy it was done and I could get ice cream when I returned to the office, I grabbed the file out of the truck to get the client’s signature before leaving.
Inside the house, I told them about the mishaps we encountered and explained why I had needed to go in and out of the house about five times to grab more tools and supplies from the truck.
Our client laughed with me and then told me. “My 4 year old granddaughter who is playing in the other room saw you coming in and out. She said ‘how can a girl be fixing the toilet?’ with a confused look on her face. I told her that girls can do anything. That she can do anything. You are an example of that for her.”
I didn’t know how to respond. I was sweaty and tired, but those few sentences reminded me how life giving it is to do this work and how grateful I am to have wonderful people at CHRPA to teach me the tools of the trade. I felt grateful to all the women who have empowered me to do whatever I dream of, knowing that nothing will hold me back. I felt humbled to be this example for a child.
As we drove away, I still felt frustrated. I was still ready for my ice cream. But I also was smiling because I knew that that girl might just believe in herself and her dreams a little bit more, just from seeing me carry a toilet.