Today when I was cleaning Joey’s bathroom, I cleaned the toilet, flushed it, then went to rinse off the brush thing when I noticed the toilet was overflowing. So I turned off the water, used the plunger to correct the problem, and then finished cleaning the bathroom.

“So what?” you might say. “That happens to people all the time.”

Well, it has only happened to me a few times.

You see, for the first . . . well . . . 46 years of my life, it went something like this: I discovered the toilet was overflowing, then ran out of the bathroom, closed the door behind me, and used another bathroom until an Individual Who Could Handle Toilet Issues (my mom for the first 18 years, then my husband for the next 28) came home. Then I would report the problem to the Individual and promptly leave the area so I couldn’t be asked to touch anything that had touched water that had actually been in the toilet.

In my defense, I don’t remember this ever happening during the first 18 years of my life and am just assuming it must have based on my behavior the following 28 years.

I do know that I didn’t ever clean a toilet during the first 18 years of my life. And I know this because of an incident that happened about two weeks after high school graduation.

I graduated from high school on a Friday. The following Sunday I used a one way ticket I had bought with my own money to fly halfway across the country to live with my then-boyfriend (who was indeed an Individual Who Could Handle Toilets but was not yet an Individual Who Cleaned Anything).

Anyway, Zach and I got an itty bitty one bedroom apartment. He got a job doing landscaping and I got a job waiting tables (note: I suck as a waitress). Things were generally good.

One evening, however, I came home from work and when I went in the bathroom, I made a mental note, “Ew. The toilet looks a little nasty.” Then a few days later, I was like, “What the Hell? The toilet is nasty.” Then it was probably the next day when I realized the toilet had reached an Unacceptable level of nastiness.

And all of a sudden, it hit me. Like a full front kick to the solar plexus.

There was no one who was going to clean the toilet. I was going to have to do it.

It was a sad, sad day. Seriously. I sat on the bathroom floor (which was also nasty, by the way) and I cried. I cried and cried and cried. All this time I had assumed I was Somebody Special but I was really nothing but a regular person who was going to have to go to a store and buy a toilet bowl brush and whatever one used to clean toilets and probably some floor cleaning stuff too and I was going to have to clean the bathroom.

All that to explain that I’ve been really far removed from having to deal with the toilet most of my life. Though I am kind of a neat freak and did become accustomed to cleaning my own toilet eventually.

I was still married and in graduate school when I went with my class to Mexico to study Multicultural Counseling. For purposes of this story, you only have to know that our entire class filled a “hotel” in a small village. I was lucky. I had a real roof. One of my friends had a thatched roof and had 42 ticks stuck on her person the first morning.

But I was unlucky because after like a day, the toilet in our room wouldn’t flush. Ever assertive, I went to the front desk to report the issue. The woman at the front desk actually attempted to hand me a plunger! I was like, “Uh, no. I don’t plunge.” She wouldn’t budge, though, and was really a bitch about it.

I was in my late 30’s at the time but my classmates/roommates were all mid to late 20’s. So we sealed off the bathroom in our room and spent the next few days using the bathroom in the room next door. By the time our class checked out at the end of the week, there was only one toilet working in the whole hotel. We just kept all moving down the line using the ones that still worked.

I know there’s a whole lesson there about spoiled Americans, but this is a toilet story so I won’t go into it now.

It was probably about ten years after the Mexico incident when Zach and I were separated and I had filed for divorce. I had been living in my rat hole apartment for about a month, when my Worst Toilet Nightmare was realized.

The toilet in my apartment backed up. It was Friday night. I called the Emergency Maintenance number. The guy said he would come but he didn’t.


So I called Zach. “Zach! The toilet’s is clogged!”

Bless his heart. He understood that this was a real emergency for me. “You can do this. I know you can. You’ve done much harder things than this.”

I know what you’re thinking. Sometimes I think it too. But that’s another essay.

So my soon to be ex-husband stayed on the phone with me and talked me through my first toilet plunging. The next time was a little easier. And now I don’t even run and get Joey to stay with me while I’m plunging. I just do it.

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