Edwin spent most of the day of the roof. He had put off cleaning the gutters to the point that foliage found life in them. As if weeding around the house weren’t enough, he was now literally weeding on the house. It’s funny how weeds tend to find their way in virtually every crevice of neglect in our minds, even what’s above our heads, literally and metaphorically speaking.

The shingles were also due to be replaced, but this would have to wait. At least another two years.

Today’s focus would be the poorly installed gutter that was pitching the wrong way, causing rainwater to pool up at the center of the back of the house. He had intended to fix this for three years now, since the day they moved in. The runoff was causing the lower roof to pull away from the house, opening itself to intrusive bugs and pests and further headaches. Never mind the unsightly mold building up along the exposed foundation wall.

The truth is, he never really intended to fix the gutter: he would have much preferred to have never had the problem in the first place. But such wishes are pointless when it comes to home ownership. When it comes to home ownership, one can pretty much expect all the wishes–hopes and dreams–to vanish, along with the ability to ever completely relax again. A new problem arises every day, whether expected or unexpected, and fixing it intended or unintended.

The other problem at the moment was the upstairs toilet. It had been a recurring one for the past two months. The original fill valve needed to be a replaced, a simple enough job, but upon inspection, it became apparent the flapper was also due for a new one.

So naturally, he made the monotonous trip to Home Depot (or Lowe’s, he didn’t really think of them as different entities at this point. Besides, the latter is merely owned by the former’s ex-wife–it was probably created to appease her during their divorce settlement), and purchased the required parts: a fill valve and universal flapper (Korky, mind you. This information may matter to you). Then, he would go home and replace said parts. Which seemed like the obvious thing to do. Only, he knew there would be more to it than this, because this wasn’t his first time attempting to fix a malfunctioning toilet. The downstairs toilet had started acting up only a few months earlier, in what turned out to be a highly involved and frustrating job that resulted in replacing the toilet altogether. Needless to say, he wasn’t optimistic about the impending outcome.

(the current situation, because he was beginning to ponder the credibility of the entire American toilet industry at this point.)

When he got home that day, he did what needed to be done: he replaced the fill valve and flapper, ensuring the chain was set to the correct length and the fill valve positioned at the correct height. Then, he turned the water nozzle back on and watched as the toilet tank filled itself. He replaced the top lid, content with the job he had done. Moments later, as he was cleaning up, he could hearing the toilet running.

Which meant there was a leak.

Which meant his job was not done. Even though he was sure he had done it correctly.

Immediately, he called the aforementioned company’s hotline and began accusing the customer service lady of being in on a toilet industry-wide conspiracy in which the manufacturers intentionally design faulty components, such that innocent consumers are left no choice but to eventually invest in a whole new toilets. He knew something was amiss because he had already experienced similar problems after installing his downstairs toilet and also pulled up an article about a class-action lawsuit against Flowmaster from 2015 regarding something or other about malfunctioning replacement parts.

He demanded answers.

Instead, she offered to send two replacement flappers express delivery so he could be reimbursed by Home Depot for his troubles. While this didn’t convince him otherwise of his suspicions, he knew had no choice but to accept their offer seeing that she wouldn’t divulge any details during his interrogation.

Two months later, he still has yet to see the flappers arrive in the mail.

Meanwhile, he did learn from a follow-up call that he should turn the water flow off so he determine the cause of the leak. Which he did. And which led him to discover the culprit was, in fact, the flapper.

“Universal, pfft… yeah right. Over my dad body.”

But wait, what’s this? Ah yes, little did he know, there were installation guidelines pertaining to the universal flapper and he neglected to read them. Typical male approach. If at first he don’t succeed, it’s probably because he failed to read the instructions.

Here, Edwin had the flapper setting aligned all wrong; he had it set at one when it should have been set at eight. And he was supposed to insert the extra plastic weight in the bottom hole. He had wondered why that was included in the package.

There, now that should solve the problem. So it was his fault after all. Perhaps he should give that lady at a Korky a call back apology. There was no need to be so hostile to her. She probably deals with aggravated customers everyday who could relieve their frustration by merely spending three minutes reading the back of the packaging.

After reattaching the chain, he turned the water back on and breathed a sigh of relief. He could finally say he fixed a toilet without further mishaps. When the water hit the top fill mark, he waited a moment and replaced the lid. Content his problem was solved, he went about his day.

When he returned that evening, he discovered the toilet was running again. He began to curse Korky and the customer service lady and entire toilet industry and everything they stood for.

“God damn scam artists! Why can’t they just make parts that work? Japan’s got toilets that talk to you when you enter the bathroom and wash your ass before your leave. Our country intentionally doesn’t even make that flushes right because the mob owns the whole toilet industry. No wonder we’ll always be behind economically! This is bullshit man.”

(Side note: why do bulls get such a bad rap for their fecal matter? I mean, I’m sure it’s bad, but to the point that it’s a question of the animal’s integrity? I mean, I suppose a bull can’t really be trusted. They are generally gung ho on goring a man, but only because we instigate them. Given the evil men do, like intentionally manufacturing broken toilet parts, can you really blame the bull?)

Upon removing the tank lid and re-reassessing the situation again, he discovered yet again, there was a fallacy on his part: according to the instructions the chain should be connected to the third hole, not the fourth, of the tank lever. While he had not replaced that part (and perhaps should have), this lever only had three holes, so he moved the chain to the second one and attached it. Then, for the third time, he crouched down, turned the nozzle counterclockwise, and waited as the water flowed until it stopped at the top mark. He stood staring at it for a minute, motionless, watching for any sudden movements. When it also appeared to be still, he replaced the lid and went about his day.

That evening, the tank did not run. Could this be it? Were his toilet troubles finally over? He slept well.

When Edwin arose the next morning, everything still seemed fine. His wife did her usually business before getting to business with work and he didn’t have to exclaim to her, “Wait! Don’t use the upstairs bathroom!” He felt accomplished. He felt like a good husband. He felt a tinge of confidence he had almost forgotten he had as a man.

That night, everything came to a halt and the crippling reality of his inevitable tendency for failure set in again. The toilet ran and Edwin wanted to run away from everything: his wife, the dog, the house, the life he never imagined he would have of trying to fix toilets that were impossible to fix. While he was a stubborn man, he refused to replace the entire toilet based on principle. Which seems to define what being “stubborn” is to a T. The financial implications didn’t help either. While a mere $200 may not seem like much to most ordinary men, Edwin was no ordinary man (which has probably been evidenced at this point). At the current moment, $200 to Edwin was everything. But it was also a matter of his dignity. Was he really so pathetic he could not make a basic toilet repair? What kind of man was he?

Since then, he’s continually toyed with the flapper to the point that it tends to work for a two-day span, on average. Yet, without fail, it always fails at some point, so he eventually succumbed to ordering a new flapper off Amazon. Of course, it’s not a genuine Toto replacement, for that would have taken a whole ‘nother week to arrive. In order to get one-day delivery with Prime, he had to settle for an aftermarket part, but it’s not universal this time, it’s just one specific use, and it has mostly good reviews so he has high hopes for it. It was also half the price of the genuine part, too, so his hopes aren’t that high.

But it’s hope that keeps us going. And at this time, it’s about all the hope Edwin has left in going to the bathroom upstairs ever again.