Advancing civilization

What is the greatest advance of civilization?  Some have argued that it is indoor plumbing.  That is what separates us from the brutes lumbering around in the jungle. Indoor plumbing has reached such heights of sophistication that a mere man cannot hope to cope with it alone.  Some time ago I had a situation where one of the two toilets in our apartment was leaking water at a great rate.  You could tell this because when all the taps (faucets) were turned off and nothing was running, nevertheless the small dial on the water meter was rapidly racing around.

I tried to fix this myself, and I faced a problem. There are in fact two washers on the flushing mechanism in the cistern of a toilet.  The one that is easily accessible is on the balance arm that turns off the water inflow when the water in the cistern rises.  That one was alright (I had replaced the whole unit only some months before).  The other washer is a large rubber one that closes the outlet when the central cylinder falls after you lift it to release the water by pressing the flushing lever.  That washer needed replacing, but since it is at the bottom of a large and complex, mostly plastic, mechanism I had to dismantle it to get at that washer.  But I found that I could not remove the central cylinder that is was attached to at the bottom.

After several attempts I gave up and called my loyal plumber, smiling Amram.  He came soon, replaced the leaking faucet that leads to the cistern and then took out the central cylinder in a flash and replaced the washer with a new one, and that stopped the leak.  I asked him how he did it but he would not show me.  It took only a few minutes and cost me NIS 150 ($38).  But, it annoyed me that I had replaced the whole upper balance arm mechanism (for NIS 25) and had also paid him simply to replace a washer that could be done in a minute to stop the leak.

Then  my opportunity came when the second toilet in our apartment was also leaking water.  I knew what to do this time, I went to the hardware store and instead of buying another balance arm, I bought the bottom washer for NIS 7 ($1.8).  Then I was determined to find how to remove the central cylinder to replace the washer.  I dismantled the whole mechanism, and this time I studied the situation carefully, if a plumber could do it, why not I.  With a flashlight I saw that there was in fact a plastic catch on the side that when pushed back released the cylinder, it was in fact simple.  I replaced the washer and then put back the mechanism and it worked perfectly.  Flush and no leak.  The acid test, the little dial was stationary and I saved $38.  Civilization was safe.


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