7 Unique Ways I'm Celebrating Earth Day Including Using A Ginsu To Fix My Toilet

1. Not Using Any Electricity At All For Four Full Hours

The fact that PPL was replacing the transformer in our neighborhood and shut down power between the hours of 9:00 AM and 1:00 PM does not in any way diminish the virtue of my electro-abstinence. Somewhere on some mountaintop, a wind turbine slowed to a standstill and a family of buzzards was spared. Thanks to me. Mostly.

2. Not Driving My Daughter To Skating Practice Saturday Morning

My husband drove her. I slept in. I used no fossil fuels while sleeping. I emitted only one delicate waft of methane which smelled of pine trees and cilantro. So naturey!

One time, I rode my bike to work, and a community garden sprouted on the spot I coughed up my lung.

3. Up-Cycled A Ginsu As A Hack Saw

While replacing the fill valve on the downstairs toilet, I ascertained that the critical level mark was less than one inch above the top of the overflow pipe, which is not according to code.

It's okay if you don't understand what this means.

I just used very complicated plumbing terminology which took me seven hours, two Tylenol, a screaming fit, and a nap to completely muddle through, even though the box of the Fluidmaster 400A fill valve clearly advertises in bold print "A Thumbless Idiot Can Install This Fill Valve In 15 Minutes".

So, after six and a half hours of attempting to replace the fill valve with no success because the critical level mark was still way below the overflow pipe, I purposefully walked to the kitchen, rummaged in the junk drawer until I found the Ginsu knife my mom gave me for Christmas, and chopped off my thumbs.

No, I didn't. Actually, I re-purposed the Ginsu - which I never used precisely because I was afraid I would chop off my thumbs ("It cuts through a Volkswagen!") - and used it to hack down the overflow pipe a half-inch until it was lower than the critical level mark. Voila. It worked.

If I had truly chopped off my thumbs, you can be sure I would have served them on a fresh, organic salad. With a nice chianti.

If you are a plumber and/or attorney and want to warn me that by hacking down the overflow pipe, I've now voided my homeowner's insurance policy by messing with the structural integrity of my toilet tank innards, or some such thing, please don't. The toilet now flushes and fills. A certain male in the family no longer has a good reason to go pee outside, which he seemed way too amenable to doing for someone who is not a) camping, or b) warning off bears, or c) holding a half-empty bottle of tequila.

4. I Broke The Other Toilet And Saved The Aquifer

At first, I was pretty angry with all those well-meaning, overly-supportive "friends" on Facebook who should really mind their own business and not try to empower me or encourage me or tell me "You can do it!" when I get some hair-brained scheme like fixing the other toilet in our house which was, it turned out, not a toilet at all but a fancy porcelain geyser lid. As well as a waterfall plug.

Lesson learned: Even if you think you've drained the toilet and turned off the water line and grabbed enough towels to sop up the cup or two of residual water you expect to bubble up like a happy little spring when you unbolt the toilet from the floor, you will be wrong.

The act of un-tightening the toilet base from the floor will, in fact, magically divert gallons of water from the Conodoguinet Creek, Susquehanna River, and several streams and brooks which are part of the Chesapeake Watershed into your previously land-locked home as if through an astral siphon.

It's kind of lovely. As long as you can swim.

And so a mark was set in the sky as a reminder forevermore of the folly of DIY bathroom repairs.

So, anyway, after throwing ten boxes of corn starch at the problem (really, that stuff soaks up everything, doesn't it?) and contacting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding a copy of their Katrina notes, I shut down the waterworks, and very intelligently gave up.

I sold a kidney, called a plumber, and after a humbling discussion, decided that the sensible thing to do was to put in a new toilet since the one I broke was 40 years old and when you think of it that way, Ew.

Upon which, after a visit to a local big box DIY store and conversation with an employee who had so many opinions about toilets that I realized there were bigger gaps in my lavatory knowledge base than I realized, I arrived home the proud new owner of a American Standard chair-height, five star flusher that uses only 1.28 gallons per flush.

Plus the bowl is elongated for my comfort.

The employee told me this without any hint of embarrassment. Or leering. At my evidently elongated backside.

So now, after draining the aquifer, my new toilet will help to re-establish it. One low water-volume flush at a time. You're welcome.

Let's not talk about the scary few minutes when the inside of the downstairs toilet was completely taken apart, and the upstairs toilet was incapacitated.

5. I Expressed Concern Over Something That Sounded Like It Would Kill Polar Bears

At an outdoor Girl Scout event, a friend blithely remarked that she hoped the jet flying overhead toward the airport wouldn't dump fuel on us.

I guffawed and likewise jovially replied, "Holy cripes, could you imagine if planes really did that? That would be horrible!"

At which point, giving me an amused but quizzical look - kind of the look a parent gives a young child when the child announces she wants to grow up to be an elephant or a cactus - my friend slowly and with great sensitivity explained that in some emergency situations, some planes sometimes must dump fuel to lower the overall weight for a safe landing.

Which I thought was preposterous. And dropped my jaw to prove my point.

Fuel dumps make the sunset so pretty. It's actually not a bad trade-off.

My friend's husband - who was equally kind in not calling me a nincompoop to my face - explained that usually the fuel dump happens so high up that the fuel evaporates and just kills unicorns and angels.

No, he didn't add that last part. But when I couldn't stop myself from saying something like, "OhMyGosh that sounds so unkind to the plants and animals and our whole wide world!" my friend's husband patiently and with diagrams reminded me that planes crash landing into housing developments are also unkind to the planet.

My friends put up with a lot from me. Sometimes, I wonder if they are doing some sort of secret volunteer work.

As a footnote, I have also had it pointed out to me that "Toyota Sienna" translates to "Polar Killer", so there you go.

6. I Attempted To Cut Our Overgrown Lawn With Our Reel Mower

But the grass was so long, it was like pushing a credenza through South Philly.

That is an exact analogy, I can tell you from experience.

And so I didn't mow the lawn, which means I didn't burn 1,000 calories, which means I did not get more hungry than usual, which means I did not drive my car to the Wegman's to buy a pound of coconut shrimp in a Styrofoam container.

I'm all kinds of green.

You're welcome. Again.

It's all fun and lightweight games until you let the grass grow too damn high. Then it's like pushing a legless mule.

7. I'm Patiently Waiting For My First CSA Delivery

Kale. Kale and one tomato that tastes like a tomato will save us all. CSA, all the way.


MommyTime said...

Here's what I always feel/think when I read posts you write:
(1) admiration: as in "damn, that Josette is funny AND such a good writer"
(2) longing: as in "*sigh*, I wish I took the time to sit down and write things for fun"
(3) ambition: as in "I WILL, I will sit down and write for fun"
(4) hives: as in "if I put one more thing on my ToDo list for today, my head will explode."

Here's the moral of that little list: I love it that you are posting more often. And I wish we could run away to some kind of writers' retreat for a week.

josetteplank.com said...

Awwww...thank you. :-) Here's my secret: be so grouchy anytime you're not writing and make you kids do a lot of chores and everyone will be happy to complete your TO DO list for you just so you'll stop being a crank.

No, that doesn't really work for me either. I just never, ever sleep. I get writing done, but I age five years every week.

And YES! I would LOVE to run away with you to a writer's retreat!

josetteplank.com said...

A writers' retreat, even, with more than one person there. ;-)

dianadugas said...

In honor of my birthday also being Earthday, I have shared these words with the twitterverse so that others may giggle into their morning coffee. Thank you!!

(and good grief! What are you doing up before 5:30am on a Sunday?? Oh, that's right, you don't sleep. ;) )

MommyTime said...

I wish I knew how to not sleep. ;)

And yes, writers' retreat. We should do it. I read about one on an island in Maine. Small cabins, joint cooking tasks, kayaks to take out and explore the coastline with the seals whenever you need to get outside just to think. It sounds like bliss. If only I had no other responsibilities and could really do that for a week.

josetteplank.com said...

Thank you, Diane - and HAPPY BEARTH-DAY!!!!

MommyTime, stop teasing me like that. omg...that retreat sounds so wonderful. I'd have trouble fitting in a weekend retreat right now, but if I put it on my calendar for 2013 right now, I will MAKE IT SO.

Sara Perkin said...

What is delicate waft of methane??seem so fresh.. :-)

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