My husband and I collectively have more than a decade’s worth of higher education between us. He’s got an M.D., and I have a master’s degree. But those vaunted degrees don’t mean diddly when it comes to stubborn household appliances.
Today’s Household Challenge was a clogged toilet. Low-flow toilets are excellent for conserving water and for lining the pockets of plumbers who get paid to unclog them, which seems to happen a lot. But they’re not so excellent for people like me, who have a lot of education but not a lot of useful household skills. I was determined not to have to call a plumber on New Year’s Eve eve and potentially have to pay some jacked-up holiday rate, so I turned to my trusty friend, Mr. Google. What did we ever do without Mr. Google, right?
A quick search turned up this neat tip: squirt some dishwashing liquid into the toilet bowl, wait, then pour a large pan of hot (not boiling) water in, and plunge if necessary. Repeat. And marvel over the impressive mound of bubbles now threatening to spill onto your bathroom floor. Luckily, the bubbles stayed within the toilet for me. And the toilet now emits a sweet odor of spring fresh Palmolive, which is kind of nice. But alas, it didn’t fix the clog. It helped, but even a couple of repetitions didn’t completely dissolve the clog.
My brother John, who is visiting me for New Year’s, may be working on a master’s degree, but fortunately, he is not bereft of useful household skills. He paid a quick visit to the neighborhood Ace Hardware and came back with a nifty, inexpensive, if somewhat intimidating, device called an auger. A few twists of the auger in the toilet and ta da! No more clog. And no call to the plumber on the eve of a national holiday. I, of course, was making mental notes in case I ever have to do this again. I’m all about the cheap solutions.
I think every soon-to-be-college-graduate needs to take a Basic Life Skills Course before they’re turned loose on the world. Clearly, this episode shows that I could have used such a course. I mean, I can do a lot of things. I can charmingly convince reluctant sources to let me interview them, edit digital photos, write some HTML code, navigate an Excel spreadsheet (you should have seen the one I created for our wedding a few years ago), and administer asthma treatments to a squirmy toddler. I understand how the electoral college works. I could give you a pretty good explanation for how HIPAA works. My husband can diagnose all sorts of medical ailments. I’ve written whole papers on postcolonialism in world literature and the unreliable narrator in modern novels, and David could tell you all about Kawasaki Syndrome. But we need help when it comes to fixing a toilet. I’m not saying we need to learn all the skills necessary to become a plumber, just the ones that any homeowner really should have.
I figure, probably most students would have some experience in a few of the potential topics for my proposed Basic Life Skills course, but I doubt everyone would be competent in all of them. So, if I were designing the curriculum, I would include at least one lesson in basic toilet repair. Then I’d include a lesson in basic electrical wiring, maybe a couple of lessons in simple car-maintenance tasks like how to change tires and oil, and at least one lesson in how to disassemble a (cooked) chicken. I’m thinking first aid should also be included on the syllabus. Maybe the Heimlich maneuver, too. The possibilities are nearly endless.