March 8th, 2005

JOY

Ballcock. Ballcock, ballcock, ballcock. Ballcock.

Yesterday morning after the day's preparation routine, I noticed my toilet was still hissing long after it had been flushed. I pressed the lever again, and yeilded little result: there was a little bit of action in the bowl but nothing that could be called a swirl, let alone a full flush. Popped the lid off the tank, checked the chain for kinks, and fiddled with the little plunger seal thing. As I do not have a good old fashioned ballcock under the hood but some newfangled "water-saving" device that requires multiple flushes in order to tackle jobs as tough as #1-soiled TP, I did not know how to approach the strange pump device.

I emailed a maintenance request to the apartment building, explaining fully that the toilet was not clogged but the tank was not filling and therefore the toilet did not flush. Based on the urgency of this request, I called later in the afternoon to confirm my email had been received and it had not, so I explained again how the toilet couldn't flush since the tank wasn't filling. I was assured it would be fixed.

When I got home at 6:45, it had not. I went upstairs and explained how I had both sent an email and called regarding this problem and I was still toiletless. She told me that I said the toilet did flush but the tank wasn't filling, so they didn't put the request on priority.

1. Do not ever tell the customer what they said. Tell the customer you misunderstood them, or there was confusion, or the message was written down incorrectly. Never unnecessarily put the customer in the position of defending themselves to you. This will only make the customer hostile and acusatory.

2. Granted, the nice old lady who took my voice message may have spent a good seventy years on this earth not knowing the first thing about how toilets work and may not have known there is no difference between "tank not filling" and "toilet not flushing". However, common sense says if someone calls you to confirm the timely receipt of an email, the issue is pressing. It is also safe to assume any maintenence request involving the word "toilet" needs to be addressed with a certain urgency.

I smiled politely, resisting the temptation to explain these points to her and chose instead to assure her the toilet was not functioning, it was my only toilet, and this was urgent. She said I'd have a guy fixing it soon.

To shorten a story that's turning out to be about 3 times longer than it was supposed to be: three hours and a feared electrical building fire later, a young man armed with a plunger and a box of candy arrived at my door. I explained the problem and he went to go get a replacement valve. Upon his return, the toilet was fixed. But not only fixed--quickened with a sort of joie de vivre that I had never seen in the ol' gal. What was once executed with a whimper and a spin was now roaring and whirring with aplomb.

Two lessons were learned last night. The first: sometimes when you give extra information to help the maintenance guy save a trip to the equipment closet, you may addle the message. When it comes to your commode, be simple and direct, and leave the guesswork to the pros. The second: don't give up on your envirotoilet. It may need a new valve to give it that spark it so covets from its 5-gallon days of yore.
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