zen (part two)

My toilet has been running for about three months. Although I’ve been to Home Depot multiple times during those three months, I have yet to purchase the requisite replacement tank innards, even though it is a simple job. At first it was out of pure laziness. Then after thinking about it for a while it was more out of stubbornness, like I was thinking to myself, “I replaced those innards only 15 years ago… they should still be good for another 15 to 20 years. They sure don’t make toilet innards like they used to.” Then I thought to myself, “Holy crap I’m starting to sound like my mom. I gotta stop thinking this type of stuff to myself. I should just fix the dang thing and forget I ever even had those thoughts… and who says tank innards anyways?”

I am actually also a bit surprised at my unwillingness to fix said innards as I find great joy in rattling off the names of toilet parts. Ballcock, flush valve shank, float rod, refill tube, flange screw, wing nut, flapper tank… it’s like handyman poetry (or porn), the potential for haiku being endless.

On multiple occasions I’ve been tempted to purchase a new toilet because this one is like 90 years old. I believe it’s a 10-gallon tank* which pretty much means I am single-handedly destroying the fresh water supply for future generations with each flush. But I think it looks cool as the tank and bowl are two separate pieces and the tank is mounted to the wall, so future gens be darned. Our future may be down the toilet for any number of reasons not related to my toilet tank anyways.

Cool looks aside, and btw, I do think I am probably the only person who thinks it looks cool, especially as the tank kind of hangs all twitchy-like off the wall, like its just getting to tired to be a toilet anymore, it might be getting closer to the end. The last time it needed serious repair I had to hunt for a specialty plumbing shop that specialized in out of date gear as they simply don’t make parts for it anymore and there’s only so much one can finagle with duct tape and shoe strings in lieu of actual parts, especially where flushing is concerned.

The plumbing supply store I found was more like an antique shop or museum than it was a hardware outfit. I found myself wandering for about an hour after already procuring my needed part.   There were just so many cool and odd things that I had never before seen. I kind of felt like they should charge an admission at the door and have guards in red coats asking people not to get to close to the early mid-century discharge tubes and the neo-classical ballcock shank washers.

When the tank first started running this last time I found it quite annoying, the constant pitter-patter being some form of enhanced interrogation technique. I shut the bathroom door, I turned the conspiracy talk radio up even louder as I painted and even resorted to turning the water to the tank off when its services were not needed. This provided a fun morsel of dialogue when visitors to the gallery or studio would ask to use the restroom. “Sure, let me just run in there first and turn the toilet back on. Oh, and don’t forget to jiggle the handle when you’re done…”

It wasn’t long before the task of turning the water on and off with each use became a bit tedious. I am after all lazy and so figured, fine, if she’s gonna run, let her run…

A strange thing happened the day that I gave up giving a crap if the toilet was running or not, I found myself not only not caring, but not noticing the constant flow of water trickling in the porcelain chamber and as a result I was no longer annoyed by it. The sound, which I had previously referred to as Chinese water torture, had faded into the background, barely noticeable. Its constant flow became a predictable rhythmic pattern and, despite all odds, became kind of soothing.

Today the water is still running and yes, probably ruining the future water supply for the next generation, but in my mind, it is no longer a toilet. The running water emanating from just past the closed door in the studio is coming from a small water fountain in my personal Zen garden, its trickle a constant source of calm and meditation aiding me throughout the day as I try and achieve present awareness.

*A buddy of mine who is a plumber said when I do eventually fix the innards of the tank that I can set the limit to how much water fills up. He said I could easily get away with only filling it to the 5-gallon mark if even that… so the future looks bright for all you fresh water enthusiasts. Cheers!

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