Hey Oprah, I'm a Decent Plumber Too!

I don't consider myself an equal to Oprah Winfrey. I don't possess her charisma, her cell phone contact list or her billions. And I'm okay with that. We can't all grow up to be talk show hosts, media moguls and worldwide celebrities.

But I do think I'm on level ground with her when it comes to plumbing skills. Why doesn't anybody care?

Oprah, anyone with an Internet connection knows by now, is also an amateur plumber. We know this because a photo of her peering into a toilet tank at her Maui home recently went viral. The photo was taken by Gayle King who, in addition to co-hosting CBS This Morning, has made a lucrative career out of shadowing Oprah's every move.

King's photo, and accompanying tweet, implied Oprah fixed the toilet, but it left many questions unanswered. First, does Oprah regularly put her plumbing prowess to use? She owns multiple properties so her porcelain possessions could make for a decent math exam question:

Oprah has four mansions, one deluxe condo and a farm house, each containing an average of seven commodes. If every flush uses an average of five gallons of water, how many toilets must Oprah flush simultaneously in order to fill up an Olympic-sized pool and incur the wrath of the EPA? Please show all work.

We never learned what ailed the toilet, causing Oprah to lift the lid and peer into the murkiness. As someone who has repaired numerous malfunctioning "thrones" in my own house, I'll go out on a limb and assume it was a broken "rubber flapper thingy."

Finally, did Oprah REALLY fix the toilet? Simply staring at a broken piece of machinery does not necessarily cure it. Were that the case, I would have saved thousands on lawn mower, car engine and snow blower repairs.

Still, the Instagram photo quickly fell victim to the "Three D's" common in today's media environment: Discuss, Dissect and Debate. News anchors giddily proclaimed Oprah a regular person, not averse to getting her fingers wet in order to stop a gurgling sound or overflowing bowl. The twitter hashtag #toiletrepair sprang up. Within hours, the Internet was buzzing about Oprah and her toilet. One can't buy that kind of publicity.

Sensing an opportunity, I instructed my wife to photograph me fixing my toilet. I assumed the "Oprah pose," hunching over the open tank while clothed in extremely casual attire. Thanks to the beauty of digital photography, I had my shot in seconds.


Immediately I posted the photo to my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Then, I sat next to the phone and waited for what I assumed would be an avalanche of calls from local and national news organizations, hoping to be the first to interview this "regular person" who can fix a toilet. How did I do it, they would ask. Do I have a favorite toilet fixing story I could share with readers, listeners and viewers? Would I be interested in appearing on camera with Oprah as we debated our plumbing skills?

"I prefer the 10-inch Soft Jaw plumbing pliers, Oprah. How about you?"

I received only silence.

No Facebook shares, no #Gregfixedhistoilet Twitter hashtag, not even a retweet or follow from the American Society of Plumbing Engineers. While Oprah's toilet goes viral, mine only goes "glug" when it's broken and "whoosh" when I fix it.

I'm not blaming Oprah; she doesn't write the news. But come on media, we non-celebrities occasionally step outside our comfort zones too. How about doing a feature story on that Arkansas housewife who installed a ceiling fan? Or the Michigan insurance salesman who successfully replaced his hard drive? I promise you, these stories could be just as interesting as reporting on celebrities who do nothing more than engage in normal behavior.

Then again, the day Justin Bieber starts acting normal, it will be news.

Copyright © 2014 Greg Schwem. Distributed by Tribune Content Services, Inc.