As a homeowner and motorhome owner, there are certain areas of maintenance and repair work that I try to avoid at all costs: plumbing, electrical, and propane. Unfortunately, I have had to deal with more than my fair share of disasters/near disasters in all three of those categories lately.

Travis Naughton

Fortunately, I lived to tell the tales. Just barely.

Though none of my recent tangles with plumbing have necessarily been life-threatening, if I ever have to remove or install another toilet, then I will not be held responsible for any collateral damage caused by my resulting temper-tantrums.

After installing a brand-new toilet in our basement a while back, I discovered the hard way that the wax ring included in the kit was not thick enough to provide a water-tight seal. I was forced to uninstall the new toilet, replace the wax ring, and reconnect everything. A year or so later, the wax-ring failed again, further damaging the previously-warped wood floor and forcing me to remove, repair, and re-install the toilet again.

Ironically, Bethany had already decided to have a new tile floor installed, a service scheduled to be performed just a couple weeks later, and I was therefore compelled to remove and re-install the toilet a fourth time. If you close your eyes and listen very carefully, I’ll bet you can still hear the echoes of some of the delicious adjectives I used to describe my feelings that day.

For Mother’s Day, Bethany asked for a new ceiling fan for our bedroom and a new dishwasher that actually washes dishes. Being the dutiful husband that I am, I agreed, albeit reluctantly, to install said fixtures. I had never replaced a ceiling fan before, and I was pleasantly surprised when the operation proved successful.

Installation of the dishwasher ultimately proved to be successful, too, although there was nothing pleasant about the ordeal which began early in the morning when my beautiful bride jolted me awake from a dead sleep saying, “Wake up! The guys are here with the dishwasher and I’m not dressed!” Mind you, my delightful spouse had been awake for the better part of an hour by that point, sipping her coffee and eating her bon-bons and watching her stories and whatnot.

I exaggerate. A little. At any rate, I scrambled to get dressed and greet the delivery crew while Bethany scrambled to get dressed and unload the tired, old dishwasher. The guys noticed our harried behavior and calmly informed us that if the old unit was not ready to be taken yet, then they could come back for it later. We thanked them, bid them adieu, and took a deep breath.

After a cup of coffee, I was awake enough to begin the swap. I started by flipping the breaker marked “dishwasher”, and four others pertaining to the kitchen, to the “off” position. I then turned off the water, removed the water and drain lines, and disconnected the wires.

As I pulled the bare ends of the positive, negative, and ground connections through the metal mounting plate in the base of the old dishwasher, a spark reminiscent of the three lightning strikes I have survived arced in a blinding flash from the wires in my hand to the metal plate. Fueled by pure adrenaline, I rushed to the breaker box and turned off the power to the entire house. I spent the next few minutes shaking and cursing the previous homeowner for mislabeling the panel and nearly killing me.

Miraculously, I managed to finish the installation without further incident, and I’m delighted to report that the dishwasher, and my heart, are both functioning perfectly.

The same cannot be said for the toilet and propane water heater in our RV. Apparently, when I “winterized” our motorhome last fall, I didn’t winterize it enough. Water in the system froze, expanded, and cracked a fitting on the back of the toilet (for the second winter in a row). And the tank on the water heater suffered a similar fate, which I discovered by following the torrent of water flowing beneath the camper while de-winterizing it.

I can replace the toilet. I’ve done it before. It will be the sixth time I will have done so between the house and RV in a relatively short span of time. I will not be happy about it. I will curse considerably. But I will do it. I will not, however, attempt to work on the water heater. This is due to another near-death experience I had recently, one involving propane.

Once again, it was a Mother’s Day gesture than nearly cost me my life. While grilling ribeyes for my wife and my mother-in-law, the grease dripping to the bottom of my gas grill flared up. The steaks were fully engulfed (and ruined) when I went out to rescue them, so I attempted to turn off the propane. The flames were so hot that I couldn’t get anywhere close to the valve. I retrieved an oven mitt and frantically reached under the grill to turn off the gas. I suffered a minor injury, a second degree burn on my forearm, but at least the wooden deck (attached to our house) that the grill was sitting on did not ignite and the propane tank did not explode.

When Bethany asked me what I would like for Father’s Day the answer was easy.

“Nothing that involves water, electricity, or propane.”