Donna Fielder: Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey way to work in bathroom

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Both of my commodes are running 24/7. I can’t make either of them stop. The thing is, both of them are a year old. It’s like they came with a timer set to “waterfall” on June 30, 2012.

On that day, each of them began making that burbling sound that heralds huge water bills and the occasional hallway lake. The commode industry is running a great moneymaking scam.

A year ago, I replaced the two old ones at the same time when I couldn’t get them to stop running and I tried to fix one of them myself. And, I admit, that didn’t turn out too well.

Women can do a lot of things. We can fix computer systems with a hairpin and we can perform brain surgery with an old toothbrush. But when the commode overflows, we are clueless.

So soon, I will call a plumber. Not just yet, though. I keep telling myself that one or both of those toilets might just be jacking with me and will tire of that little joke and stop burbling.

I still have strong memories of last year’s fiasco when I tried to replace the innards. Someone inadvertently substituted the workings of a nuclear submarine in the box that should have contained replacement parts.

How else to explain the plethora of mysterious parts that tumbled out of the box after I bought it and fetched it home?

After a week of studying the 26-step instruction sheet, I still was floundering deep in the bowels of instruction No. 1.

My husband never could fix anything, but he had friends who were willing, so he didn’t need expertise or tools.

After he died, I realized that my friends could help me pick out high-heeled boots; they were experts at matching drapes to couches; most of them could write prose that would excite you to laughter or tears; but not a one of them knew how to hang a light ballast.

But I said to myself that if a routine household task does not require being a man, I should be able to do it.

My friend Annette had some advice: “I just went through that myself, and there’s one thing you must remember: righty-tighty, lefty-loosey.”


“Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey. I didn’t pay close enough attention to that rule, and I wound up cracking the commode tank and having to buy a new one.”

She assured me that, even though her experience wasn’t a total success, I could have a commode bowl that didn’t host a booming whitewater rapids tourist business if I would but remember which way to turn the screws.

Good thing she tipped me off because I didn’t find a word about righty-tighty or lefty-loosey in the whole 26 instruction steps.

Instruction 1 read: “Remove old fill valve assembly and tank lever, using pliers if necessary.”

That scared me. I didn’t see any screws to test my righty-lefty knowledge on, and what if I plied too hard and broke the tank?

I read Step 2. It had to do with whether I had a bowl cleaning system. I didn’t know. I skipped that one.

Steps 3 and 4 discussed disassembling small parts like shank washers, angle adapters and coupling nuts. Uhhhhhh. …

Step 5 — thank goodness; unbolt tank from bowl, lift off tank. Finally, somewhere to use Annette’s advice. I applied my flathead screwdriver to the huge bolts: righty-tighty, loosey-goosey? That didn’t seem absolutely correct, but I managed to get the bolts out.

The trouble was, the rest of the stuff was still inside, since I’d skipped down to the part I could handle.

Then I noticed that some of the water remaining in the tank after I shut off the valve was running through the big bolt holes onto my bathroom floor, causing twin waterfall effects. And I realized there was way more stuff to put in the tank than there was stuff to take out. What was I supposed to do with the leftovers?

It was then I decided to utilize a tool I handle exceptionally well: the telephone. Soon, a handyman was standing in my bathroom, gazing bemusedly at the half-extracted tank innards, the sink full of replacement parts and the sodden 26-step instructions that had become a waterfall casualty.

“It’s OK,” I said. “I can help. Just remember righty-tighty, lefty-loosey and you’ll be fine.”

I called him back today and he claims he’s booked for the next two years. Maybe I’ll try that loosey-goosey thing again.

DONNA FIELDER can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is

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