Dear Leader Kim Jong-un apparently doesn’t poop.

Or so some in North Korea believe. In their eyes, the guy’s a god. And gods just don’t do that.

But the rest of us mortals need toilets. And I’m in the market for a new one. I took the old toilet out.

I had to move it anyway, to get to the hole in the wall. It was behind the toilet, about a foot square and exposing a large pipe. A plumber made the hole some 10 years ago. He had to get to the pipe, which was leaking.

So he tore through tile and drywall and fixed the leak. Then he quoted us two prices. One where he fixes the hole. And one where the hole stays.

We chose hole. I think it saved us a comma on the price. The plumber put the toilet back and we lived with a hole in the wall. The toilet partly blocked it. Over the years, we hardly noticed it. If an occasional guest did, we figured it’d make a good conversation starter.

Guest: “You have a big square hole in the bathroom.”

Us: “You should see the one the electrician made.”

I always thought one day I’d fix the hole in the bathroom. That day came last week. It involved replacing some drywall and a few tiles. I wouldn’t call myself handy in the sense I have a complete set of screwdrivers. But I’ve had tile experience.

My tile cred goes back nearly 25 years, shortly after we bought our house. Cindy wanted to tile the kitchen and hall floors to match the tile in the living room. It was thick concrete tile, made in Nogales, Sonora.

Getting the tile involved three trips to Mexico. One to find out who made the tile. We tracked him down, by chance. The second to show him a sample of what we wanted. We took a cab. The cab driver rear-ended a car on the way, and laughed it off.

We went a third time to pick up the tile. The tile maker ran a mom-and-pop factory on his patio. His house was part of a jumble of homes high on a hill.

I drove my dad’s Ford Ranchero. Maybe it was the Chevy version, the El Camino. Either way, as pickups go, it wasn’t exactly heavy duty. Still, better than our Saturn. We climbed a curvy dirt road, slowly making our way behind a very slow sedan.

“Pass it,” Cindy said.

I thought about it. And while I thought about it a tanker truck emerged from a blind curve, going the other way. It passed us in a blur.

“Maybe I’ll wait,” I said.

We got the tile. My Uncle Harold suggested we let the tile cure for a month. He knew about tile. He laid it for a living. My father made some chalk lines. I followed them and laid the tile.

It’s my biggest handy achievement to date. I think it’d make a good lead for my obituary.

But now the bathroom, with only four tiles to set.

First I had to move the toilet. There was no point in putting it back. It’d seen better days, if you can say that about a toilet. It was starting to look like something out of an old gas station.

I went shopping for a new one.

“Don’t go cheap,” Cindy said.

I searched the internet. I found something in our range. It had all the standard equipment. It flushed. And extras, like a siphon-action-jetted bowl and an oversized 3-inch flush valve.

Sometimes an oversized flush valve is called for.

I ordered the toilet online from a big-box store. Free shipping.

I’d already pulled out the old one. It’s a job not for the weak. And not just because a toilet is heavy. It’s what’s underneath.

Fortunately, I had a plug. It’s called a dollar plug. I’m not sure why. It costs a few bucks more than that.

I turned my attention to the hole in the wall. I had to buy a stubby little screwdriver, to secure a couple of wood strips to the existing drywall, from the inside. A tight fit, but I managed.

I covered the hole with new drywall. I’ll store the stubby screwdriver in the shed, then forget where I put it.

Next, I fixed the tile to the drywall and, a day later, applied the grout.

Now I just have to wait for delivery of my elongated toilet with the siphon-action-jetted bowl. And oversized flush valve.

The old toilet sits out in the driveway. If the Dear Leader ever decides to join the rest of humanity, he’s welcome to it.


Reach contributing writer Bill Coates at