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things you can learn from your maintenance man
by Beth Lovern
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I have always had great relationships with apartment maintenance staff -- patient, fatherly men who would quickly arrive to fix my domestic disasters. One scolded our freshmen dorm girls, "Ladies, please do not put Q-tips (wink, wink) in the commode!" Another saved my apartment from flooding after my toilet tank dramatically split and crashed on the floor. Then there was the one who entered my life on a scorching August afternoon, two days after my move to a new city. I struck up a conversation with the sweaty but handsome maintenance guy who had fixed my broken A/C unit, and dating ensued.

Is there anything better than being with a man who knows how to fix things? Maybe just one -- and that is learning how to fix some of these things yourself. Good-naturedly, my handy fellow taught me some common sense that I lacked. Here are "a few things you can learn from your maintenance man" -- so you can avoid the eye-roll and sigh that accompany those preventable maintenance requests.

Plumbing Issues, Part I. DO NOT FLUSH THAT. You know what I'm talking about. To state it delicately, feminine hygiene products and contraceptives do not belong in there. Tampons are no exception, despite the claims of flushability on the box. If you're really considering chancing it, ponder this: do you really want to be there while a stranger pulls that out of your toilet? Though many women blame overflowing toilets on their boyfriends, the maintenance men know better than to believe this. And they may giggle like schoolgirls behind your back.

Plumbing Issues, Part II. Buy a plunger, which is not so gross if you learn how to use it correctly. Grip the plunger so that it covers the hole in the toilet and push it down, concentrating on creating suction. Yank it back up again to try to pull the clog free. Do this about 10-15 times. With any luck it will all start going down the drain. It also helps to have a bucket of water handy to help it all go down. When all else fails or if water is rushing out, reach to the back of the plumbing pipes and shut off the water valve. Yes, that's what that thingy is for.

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