Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Of kids and plumbing

I can recall few things that have given me more satisfaction than looking Pelé in the eye and telling him, "It is because you care and because you have integrity."

Pelé is my oldest son and he has always marched to a different drummer.  We don't see him much.  He works third shift as that suits his natural body clock.  He had a birthday recently and stopped by the house to show us his new car and to accept his gift and a card.  He is now 25 years old.

I had time to think about the similarities between plumbing and raising kids.  I replaced a toilet today and it did not go well.

The thing about plumbing is that you are committed once you get started.  There is no graceful way to bail out in mid-stream.  Mrs ERJ would take a dim view of my boarding off the door and writing off the kid's bathroom.

It is similar with kids.  Once you have them you are committed to slog your way for the duration whether it goes swimmingly or if you seem stymied at every turn.

While he was visiting he told us about a room at work that tends to get cluttered.  "Why am I the only one who will bend over to pick up litter?  Why am I the only one who will pick up a broom when I have a few minutes?  It is not my job but it is work that needs to be done.  What is the matter with these people?"

That is when I was able to observe, "It is because you care and because you have integrity."

There were many times when he was younger that I was sure we were both going to come to a bad end.  But he kept chipping away from his side and I (mostly) learned to stay out of his space so he could find his own answers.

I found these really neat steel rings you can place over broken soil pipe flanges.  The bolts that anchor the stool cannot pull through them.
I planned to lag-bolt into floor joists on one side of the soil pipe and use galvanized, hex head bolts on the other.
We have some large people in our family.  We are hard on equipment.  These steel rings looked like the answer to a weekend plumber's dreams.

Where I ran into trouble was that the stool I chose had very little clearance and it interfered with the head of the bolts I used.  I suppose that if I did this often, for instance as a maintenance guy in a large apartment complex, I would find a brand of toilet that had ample vertical clearance around the soil pipe.  But how would a duffer like me know?
Another issue that popped up was the small size of the holes as-shipped from the factory.  I drilled them out with a 7/16", but the right answer was to have one slightly oversized net hole and to slot out the holes in the other three legs.  Like my early parenting efforts with Pelé, the situation is over-constrained.
I became very good at setting wax rings and dropping the stool on to the studs.  Practice makes the master.

And Pelé?  He is a self-made man.  I am proud of him, not because I made him that way, but because he made good choices and found his way....even if it is not my way.


  1. I wonder how many first time plumbers have to go back to the store for another wax ring? It's a primitive system but works....eventually.

  2. Did you check out Spax Lags. They are hardened and require a T30 star driver. No pilot hole necessary. T
    hey go in great with a 1/4" impact driver that I can loan to you.