Tuesday, April 10, 2007

More stories from my pathetic life - The Flood

When I was first married, my apartment flooded.

Not anything dramatic and newsworthy. A small flood. Just big enough for our one-bedroom garden-level apartment.

The caretaker for our building was out of town.

Sam was working as a coffee roaster and started work ridiculously early in the morning. I dropped him off for work one Saturday, drove myself home and settled on the couch for a snooze. I had my glasses off but I thought I could see a damp spot under the kitchen table.

As I stepped on the floor, a geyser of water shot up at my feet and I set off an unexpected series of waves through the carpet. The whole thing was floating on three inches of water.

It was coming in from the floor. Somewhere. I couldn't locate the source of the inundation, but it was coming in FAST. I ran around the apartment throwing everything I could into the bathtub, the only place I was relatively certain would remain dry.

I wondered what would happen when it reached the level of the electrical outlets. I still couldn't tell where the water was coming from. Nowhere near the bathroom or the kitchen. Up from the floor. I stood on top of the piano bench holding the phone, which was already giving me a series of little shocks, wondering how to decide if this was an emergency. Should I call the substitute caretakers?

By the time they arrived the flood had reached cartoon-physics proportions. It whooshed out the door and spilled into the hallway. We knocked on the doors of all the other garden level folks. Soon there was a whole contingent of people sweeping water from my apartment down the hall.

I was trying to bail myself out with a bucket and a borrowed wet/dry vac. I wasn't coming anywhere close to keeping up, but what else could I do?

Everyone kept saying how calm I was and how well I was taking it. I just kept thinking that it wasn't a fire, no one was hurt and I was there to save a bunch of stuff from flood damage. Plus, getting upset wasn't going to do me any good.

It turns out a water main had burst under the corner of the building, directly under my apartment. The main was supposed to go around the foundations, but someone had literally cut corners when they laid the pipe fifty or more years ago. The building had settled over the years and finally sheared all the way through the pipe.

The water had to be turned off at the main valve in the street. Unfortunately when the city showed up to try to turn the water off, the valve broke and they had to dig up the street to fix the problem.

Sam and I lived with friends for five weeks while we waited for our apartment to be livable again. We called them the day of the flood and asked if we could stay one night. Every subsequent night we said we might be out of their hair the following day.

Four people in a one-bedroom apartment. For five weeks. Uninvited.

It was stressful.

But like I said, nothing horrific. Just annoying.