Sunday, October 07, 2007


I was thinking, with the mild weather we've been having I might actually get a decent Pepco bill this month. We've been keeping the windows open, maybe a half hour of AC in the afternoon, nice. That bill has been a killer through the summer.

And then Wednesday morning about five o'clock my wife got up, went out to the hall and started yelling like crazy. I leapt out of bed in the ancient-zombie way that I leap at that time of the morning, and our daughter came leaping from her end of the hall. Which was a couple inches deep with water. I grabbed some towels and threw them on the ground. Now that I think about it ... there must be a saying about things like that, deck chairs on the Titanic or something. Because look, a couple of towels weren't going to do anything.

My wife immediately identified the source of it, the pipe on the toilet that fills the tank. She turned the water off, mostly, she couldn't get it all the way, so we threw a bucket under it. I ran downstairs. It was like a dream. Water was pouring down from the ceiling everywhere. The floors were ankle-deep with the stuff, it was pouring like a firehose from the kitchen light fixture onto the Amish birch island, which had stacks of stuff on it, all ruined. And it is interesting in this kind of situation how you have to think of all your treasures as stuff; each little thing normally has its story, its meaning, but suddenly it's just mass and volume, stuff to move.

She called a plumber while I tried to get laundry baskets under the major cascades. We have a wet-vac in the basement, I don't even remember why we have it, but it saved the day. It can vacuum up 34 liters of water, which is about nine gallons. We were emptying that thing one time after another, it took some effort to pick it up when it was full. (I just did the math, totally full it would weigh about 75 pounds. So it was probably fifty or sixty pounds when we'd take it out and dump it in the yard.) And the laundry baskets were filling up, especially under the kitchen light fixture, we'd put one down by holding it over the full one and sliding the full one out from under, empty the full one, and then do it again. These weren't buckets or pots and pans, these were big laundry baskets.

The plumbers showed up a little before seven. It took them about a minute to fix the pipe. Nice guys, wished us a "better day" as they left a hundred seventy-five bucks better off than they were when they got there.

It was weird. My daughter went off to school, my wife went to work, and there I was, amid the dripping. We had gotten the water off the floor, but, like, a drawer in the island was full of water. Everything on all the countertops was soaked. Shoes by the front door. The boy's passport. I talked to insurance people on the phone, and there was really nothing else to do but to let it dry out. I went to work.

The next day the water-damage guys came. I stayed home from work. They have a device that can tell if there's water in the walls and in the ceiling, it was beeping just about everywhere they put it. They cut holes in the ceilings in the kitchen, the dining room, the hallway, the foyer, the bathroom, and put these big fans on the floor pointing in significant directions, six of them, plus two big dehumidifiers that pull water out of the air and send it out into a clear-plastic hose that drains into the sink. Oh, it was great, they took down the hall light fixture, it was full of water, like an aquarium. I was afraid they would get electrocuted, but they knew how to do it. I had noticed, if you threw the switch for that light, every other light in the house got dimmer. I only tried that once.

We ... I ... had to move all the books out of a huge bookshelf and put them in the living room, so they could dry the rug in my office. Had to take about a hundred thousand little glass knicknacks out of the china closet, OK, maybe it was more like fifty of them, no, I'll go with a hundred, and put them neatly on the floor in the family room. We moved furniture all over the place, it's in the middle of rooms, furniture is in the wrong rooms, upside down, diagonal so you can still walk past it, heaps of stuff on every dry countertop, on every piece of furniture.

And the fans. The first day we had them, we blew the circuitbreaker twice by trying to use the microwave while these things were on. We moved the extension cord to another outlet, and now it's okay, so to speak. They run night and day, powerful electric motors making noise and sucking the amperage up. The poor dog is walking around, like, shivering, I think it's just the noise getting to him. We walk him all the time now, well, we're glad to get out of the house, too.

It looks like we got through this without any really serious loss, the family photos were safe, my 45s, the important stuff. The insurance lady will come over when we have an idea how it's going to look dry. The ceilings are blistered and stained and cracked, walls have bubbles in them, the upstairs hardwood floor is, uh, not flat any more. There will be a lot of work to do, and I'll bet this drags on for months.

The funniest thing, we have been talking for a long time about hiring one of those house-cleaning services. You know, we both work, the kids are hardly ever home, two cats and a dog equals dust bunnies, two teenagers equals junk everywhere ... So they were scheduled to come Friday. That would've been funny, opening the door and bringing them into this catastrophe: "Could you please just clean this up for us?"

We canceled them for now. Going to donate to Pepco this month instead.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Generally somewhere buried in your house is a valve that will turn off all the water to the house. You should figure out where it is...
It is a lifesaver at times.


October 07, 2007 7:49 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Good point Theresa, we know where it is. The problem, really, was that we were asleep. It probably ran for several hours before we knew it.

Today somebody told me about a kind of alarm you can put on the floor that will go off if there's water. After the fact, that seems like a good idea, but I don't know if we can have alarms for every crazy thing that can happen -- seems like we could end up with a house full of nothing but alarms. Wouldn't that be fun?

I think things are drying pretty well, but it will be along time before we can put things back. This morning I kept dreaming about a big crowd applauding; it was the roar of these fans.


October 07, 2007 8:56 PM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Sorry to hear about the mess...

As a side note...when I replaced the bathroom faucets a couple of years ago, a friend experienced in matters of plumbing insisted that I also replace the plastic supply lines that run from the valves underneath the sink to the faucet fixture. I did as she instructed - she explained that the ones typically put in with new home construction are cheap, cheap, cheap and prone to break, leaking for a good while before being detected.

Hope everything is soon restored...

October 09, 2007 2:12 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home