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Death and Malfunctioning Toilets

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Written by Matt   
Monday, 06 July 2009 08:47
My handyman's father passed away on the fourth of July. I remember this not because it was our national day of independence but because it was the day our toilet stopped working. Now, sildenafil normally broken appliances don't bother me much: in a pinch, rx I'd dry clothes on a line outside or ask to use the neighbor's fridge. But the toilet has a certain primal duty. That, cure and it'd be taboo to use an empty flowerpot. There's something inherently puzzling about trying to fix a toilet: beyond the basic step of removing the lid, the amateur is left with a confusing network of tubes and pipes, not unlike the optimistic process of opening the hood of a broken car. I stood pondering the tank for about a minute before breaking down and calling Miguel.

"Hola Miguel," I said. "Deira told me the news of your father. I am very sorry to hear of this. I remember meeting him, your father, a year ago. Tu papa...el esta bien?"

I don't know why I said this last part. Maybe it's because my death vocabulary in Spanish is quite rusty. I had meant to say that he was a good man, but instead, I asked if Miguel's father was OK: like he had injured himself or fallen asleep for a small nap.

"Miguel, I imagine you have many things for to do today. A sad day for us."

"Yes," he said. "I will be with family for to comfort them. We will go to the church for to make pray for my father."

I paused for a few seconds and decided asking him to come help fix my toilet wouldn't be an appropriate request. Maybe I had expected him to be more upbeat - I don't know - different people handle death in different ways. I recalled just recently, upon the death of Michael Jackson, one devoted fan offered one week of complimentary haircuts to honor the King of Pop. "OK," I said. "My mind and heart is with you. Go with God." This was a phrase I heard people say all the time, vaya con dios. It was the first time I used it in a semi-normal context. I hung up the phone, ending what actually turned out to be a very considerate condolence call.
I returned and look down into the toilet trying to channel the insight of Miguel, but instead saw the reflection of an utterly hopeless gringo in Panama. One who had to urinate. So perhaps blowing my cover, I called Miguel again and asked if he had any recommendations for someone to help with my toilet.

"I come fix your toilet easy," Miguel said. And while I seriously hadn't been planning on it, Miguel himself was certainly the expert of toilets. I remember a time when I accidentally flushed a full-grown tangerine down the drain. "What the fuck were you doing with an orange in the bathroom?" Keenan asked.

"It wasn't an orange it was a tangerine," I said, as there is a clear difference. Miguel came and was able to extract the tangerine from a constricted tube beneath the floor and I envisioned the space like the neck of a python after swallowing a housecat.

"Oh, I couldn't ask you to do that Miguel," I reasoned. "But...well, if you really are free for fifteen minutes..."

Miguel showed up to fix my toilet and I gave him a superhug followed by thirty extra dollars. The process of paying for someone's mourning wasn't common where I was raised in New Jersey but here in Casco Viejo, it's about the only thing that matters. A gangster was shot in the shoulder several months back up on 14th street and his mother approached me asking for some condolence money. "But he didn't die," I argued. "I thought we only pay money when someone dies."

"It's both," she said. So I gave her a five-dollar bill. And I suppose herein lies the duality of a foreigner's existence in Casco Viejo. There are times when guilt overrides you and, to fix a toilet, you are the inconsiderate asshole. But then there are the times that you're on the other side of the tracks: the sucker, the philanthropist, the hopeless gringo wanting desperately not to offend the grieving.

Comments (1)Add Comment
Ask LameRse
written by Fingal , July 07, 2009
Bottle of water, couple of fingers, bit of desert, no problem.
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Last Updated on Monday, 06 July 2009 08:52