Whenever a delivery service leaves a cardboard box on our front porch, I know I’m in trouble, because it’s usually something expensive that requires tools I don’t have.
On a recent Thursday night, Kathy and my in-laws were in our kitchen, ready for our weekly card party. “What’s in the box?” I asked nervously, referring to a package on our kitchen counter. She turned to me and made a face that my in-laws couldn’t see.
“It’s that cleaner,” she said.
“What cleaner?” I asked, because I’m stupid and haven’t learned when to simply shut up.
“That cleaner,” she said, with that slight hiss in her voice that lets me know to back off. “The one I already told you about.”
Ah yes, the … er, cleaner. She was being discreet in front of family, but in fact she was referring to a contraption called a Japanese bidet, a device that mounts to a toilet bowl and shoots a water spray to clean your private parts. Much loved in Europe, bidets are generally freestanding plumbing fixtures positioned next to a toilet. In Japan, however, owing to the small size of most homes, a separate fixture is impractical.
Kathy had found one online for only $30 and placed the order. But I perceived a potential problem, and it had to do with water temperature. The water source for most toilets is cold. While this unit could indeed operate with warm water, as most Japanese bidets do, the hot-water source in our bathroom was too far away to be connected to the device.
“That’s okay,” she said. “Cold water is fine.”
I thought, Famous last words.
So Saturday morning found us at Berger’s Hardware to buy a flexible tube to connect the bidet to the water outlet. I nearly bought one the wrong length, not realizing I would have had to put a kink in it to fit — and possibly choke off the water. Thankfully, I listened to the advice of Berger’s plumbing supervisor and bought a long tube that I could loop and easily attach at both ends. “Trust me,” he said. “I’ve spent a lot of time with toilets. You want to loop that tube.
Definitely. Loop the tube.”
Plumbing and I have never really seen eye to eye. In order to get down to business, I have to screw up my courage somewhat. I get all the tools I’ll need and lay them out on an old towel. I read the instructions for whatever fixtures I’m installing. (I’m basically procrastinating, is what I’m doing.) Ultimately, I take a deep breath and set to it. In my plumbing mindset, I expect my wife to be my assistant, as in, “Hand me that wrench, dear.” “This one? Here you go, sweetheart.” In reality, when I ask for the wrench, the response is more likely to be that I shouldn’t use a wrench, that the nut should only be finger-tight, and besides, that wrench is so old, we should get rid of it, and don’t forget we’re going to the Svensgaards’ on Sunday for dinner.
Fast-forward to three hours later. Somehow, I managed to make all the connections. And then came time for the test. Kathy nodded toward the hallway and said, “Out,” and shut the door behind me. A minute passed. Two.
“What’s it like?” I called out. “Is it working? More importantly, is it leaking?”
I knocked on the door. “Kat? You all right? Is it working?”
The door opened, and there stood Kathy. “I like it,” she said and smiled. “I admit I’d like it better if it shot out warm water, because that blast of cold water is sure gonna wake you up on a winter morning.”
“But — you like it?”
“I love it,” she said. “And I know it was a lot of hassle for you, so thank you, Sparky.”
She reached out her arms and hugged me. So yes, it was worth it — for both of us.
Mark Orwoll is former international editor of Travel + Leisure. Listen to Mark read this essay.
This article is featured in the July/August 2017 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.