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Inspirational Reads

The War of the Seals

October 14, 2008

A long time ago, someone took the sap of a tree and let it polymerize, thus making latex. In time, people discovered there were lots of wonderful things you could do with this natural polymer: make it round, inflate it with air, and heat it in the presence of sulfur and you can get something for on your car; slip it over your John Thomas, and you can have yourself a guilt-free bout of naughty during shore leave; mix it with some cooking oil and you can correct your graphite-laden mistakes; cast it roughly in the shape of a woman, put a dark, curly wig on it, call it Dannah Dean, pump it full of air and--well, *nervous laughter* you get the idea. Rubber is pretty damned versatile stuff.

One other thing you can do with it is to shape it in the form or rings and saucers and it helps to create air- and water-tight seals on various implements you might find around the house or, let's say, lab. And that is where today's bugaboo leads us.

At first, there was the War of the Roses, then later came the War of the Worlds and then the War of the Ring and, somewhat recently, the War of the Flowers. The past two days, I have been fighting the War of the Seal.

No, no, not that seal. I leave that to the nefarious Canadians or Heidi Klum. No, the seals I have been fighting are the little rings that you deftly position in the proper places to create the aforementioned water- and air-tight connections.

It all started simply enough on Sunday, when my wife came home early from work. The toilet in the kids' bathroom had been making dripping, "snoring" noises for a couple of days, but I had not the time to fix it (there was a lot of couch-sleeping to do). After digging around in the tank for a while, I decided I needed a new rubber gasket for the connector between the tank and the bowl as well as a new flapper. Having successfully and (somewhat) dryly disassembled the toilet tank, I was off to Lowes were seven bucks later I was prepared to finish this task. I had even had the good foresight to buy new bolts for the reconnection of the tank to the bowl as the old ones were a bit corroded and Courtney Love nasty. Hooray for me, the Bob Vila of my age.

Having successfully returned home, it was a quick snap of the wrist and a bit of a turn in order to get the new gasket on as well as the new flapper. A couple of adjustments, and the flapper chain was adjusted to the right length. Then came the daunting task of reassembling the toilet, something which I have successfully done before.

As you might be able to guess, things did not progress quite as swimmingly as I had expected them to, else we wouldn't be here now, sharing this story.

I refastened everything back to where it needed to be, secured the bolts on the toilet, and had the rubber rings in their proper place. Things had been tightened just beyond finger tight, so as to avoid cracking the porcelain, and the water inlet flow was tightened so that things could now proceed. I turned on the water and was quickly inundated up to my ankles. While one side of the tank was sealed properly, the other was unleashing a cascade of water that put me in mind of the beautiful Angel Falls. This is approximately when I went on a 45-minute rant in which I taught my children several hundred creative new ways to swear. Finally, after being foiled at fixing the leak for about the fifth time, I stomped out of the bathroom and told my wife to take the children somewhere for dinner, because I wouldn't be able to cook after spending an hour + with my arms firmly ensconced inside the toilet tank.

Because my life is a sit-com, I completely took apart the whole set up and started at the beginning, tightening everything and setting the tank gingerly back on the bowl. I tightened the bottom of the bolts to secure the tank to the bowl, recited the Hail Mary and--just as my wife was walking out the front door--turned the water back on to discover that I had successfully stopped the leak. Dancing a joyous jig, I celebrated, and my wife asked if I wanted her to wait for me. I looked at the gallons of water on the floor and decided, "No, you go on ahead." I then cleaned up the bathroom floor, showered, and fell asleep watching football.

Fast forward to yesterday when I went to remove some solvent from one of my most recent reactions, only to find that the collection flask in the back of the hood was full. Dutifully, I emptied it, and then went about reassembling the apparatus. Much to my dismay, the seal for the collection flask--which should be circular--was rather ovoid. Needless to say, no seal was formed. I then spent the better part of ninety minutes tracking down a replacement seal, traveling from one person to the next asking if they knew if any spare seals had been shipped when the new parts had arrived here in the lab. Finally, and fortunately, I was able to find some, though I've been sworn to secrecy as to their location. A quick thirty seconds later, and I was in bidness once more and my vacuum was pulling top-notch.

What does the future hold in this war? Difficult to say. However, you can rest assured that I will no longer allow the little rubber disks to get the better of me. Long is the war, but my ability to out-think a lifeless polymeric disk will prove to be the factor that will tip the outcome in my favor.


Alaina said...

bravo! bravo!

Ψ*Ψ said...

I think I'd rather have a gasket in a toilet fail than a gasket in a transmission.
I don't think I ever mentioned it, but I rode home from North By God Carolina in a tow truck for that reason...

Mel O said...

and just where oh where was the Wizard cat during all this? hmmmmm?

someone definitely shoulda helped you :(

Frank said...

My toilet snores and drips water sometimes when I flush it. It's never really been a problem worth dealing with, but since a huge fat guy used to live in the apartment before us, every time my roommate or I flush we always curse him for breaking our toilet.

Grant Miller said...

I hope and pray you don't blow an o-ring anytime soon.

BeckEye said...

Anything you had to say was lost once you posted that adorable baby seal picture. I just stared at it for 10 minutes, dreaming of a day when I can have a pet seal.

Lisa-tastrophies said...

I'm with Melo on this. Just where was the Wonderful Wiz when all the wiz was flowing?

Bravo on the Bob Vila DIY fix. (Can't change a light bulb myself.)

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...'s the thing about that cat. He's a...uh...marvel at making truth serums or love potions. Indoor plumbing...not so much.

Hap said...

If it rolls my cats are on it.

You mean,like putting it back on the toilet? Not so much.