“You’re not supposed to have to use a hacksaw to repair a toilet!” That’s what I said fuming in frustration the other evening as I was trying to complete a repair on a toilet. It was supposed to be a simple repair – replace the flush handle. The lever on the old one had rusted out so the chain to the flapper couldn’t be connected. I got out the only tool I thought I would need for the job – a pair of pliers to unscrew the nut holding the handle in place. Well, the old nut didn’t want to surrender easily. I yanked and yanked and the pliers kept slipping, though a couple of times I got a small bit of movement. “Righty-tighty and lefty-loosey,” I kept reminding myself, still not sure if I was tightening or loosening the thing. Sweat was dripping down my face and my t-shirt was soaked but I was making no progress. Though I felt like hauling off and hitting the old handle out of its socket, I had enough sense to know you can’t start banging metal out of a porcelain tank and not create greater problems. But I wasn’t about to give up. After all, there are times when the man of the house has to make the repair. And there was no way I was calling my father-in-law for help on this one. This was supposed to be an easy job. But with the flat sides of the nut worn away, leaving me nothing to grip with my pliers, I was stuck. The metal nut wasn’t moving. Getting desperate, I took my pliers and in frustration, I pulled the handle apart piece by piece hoping somehow I would be able to get the thing off that way, but no luck. So that’s when I went for the hacksaw and about ten minutes later the old handle was removed and the new one installed. Though I was victorious and my sense of manhood sort of preserved, I still had this troubling thought that the normal replacement of an old toilet handle wasn’t supposed to require the services of a hacksaw.
Later my wife raised the question, “Who says?”
“What do you mean, ‘Who says’? I asked.
“Who says you’re not supposed to have to use a hacksaw? You got the job done, didn’t you?”
She was right; I had completed the repair, and even though I had to use an unconventional toilet-repair tool to get there, we once again were able to simply push down the handle to flush the toilet instead of having to reach a hand into the water tank and pull the chain. I had completed the job and that was what I was after.
Who says there aren’t other men who have had to use a hacksaw to repair a toilet handle? I don’t know of any, but who says I’m alone? Maybe others are more successful in actually loosening the nut and removing things the conventional way, but who says you can’t just saw it off? In that moment of frustration, when I felt like I was about to fail at a simple repair, I judged myself to be alone, the only man in the world who had to use a hacksaw on a toilet handle.
That got me to wondering about how many situations in my life I get exasperated with circumstances and how many times I come close to giving up because of some expectation I have of how it ought to be happening? How many times do I judge myself a failure because what’s supposed to work isn’t, and so I end up having to do things some other unconventional way? It’s possible to live life as if there was a rule for everything – a right way and a wrong way for every situation you will face, and that just isn’t so. Sometimes we might like it to be that way. It would be easier, no uncertainty when making decisions, no dilemmas, no explaining why we do what we do. Everything would be cut and dry, simple, clearly explained with instructions anyone can read and marked out with unmistakable boundaries everyone can see.
But that’s not how life always works. I’m not suggesting that “the end justifies the means.” I’m not recommending we toss rules to the wind, ignore instructions, and let everyone do their own thing. I am realizing, however, that sometimes it might take a hacksaw to fix a handle. And that is okay. It may even yield a job completed!