Wednesday, August 02, 2006

When I'm Wrung Dry, I'll Stop Awhile And Think Of You

Yesterday, in the deep, dark, early morning of 3:30 am or thereabouts, I awoke to the sound of pouring water, and thought sleepily that there was nothing nicer than the sound of torrential rain when one is snug and cosy inside. The weather has been building to intolerable levels of heat and humidity in New York and a good thunderstorm was exactly what the doctor ordered for a cooler, saner week.

Then the thought came that the water sounded as though it was pooling somewhere close by, to a depth of not less than a few inches judging by the sound. Moreover, it sounded as though it was coming from the direction of the bathroom rather than from over my shoulder (the direction of "outside" at that moment). I began to suspect my wife had left the bathroom window open and that the rain was being blown inside the house, and so I got up and made my way to the hallway where the sound of the water was much louder and nearer and the hall lights didn't work. An ugly suspicion formed in Mr Brain.

I stepped into the pitch dark bathroom and was greeted by a refreshing cascade of lukewarm water rushing in great torrents from the drop ceiling and pooling to about three inches on the bathroom floor. I ran upstairs. Sure enough the carpets were soaked and when I entered the bathroom there I could hear the sound of high-pressure water spraying from under the sink. I opened the vanity and was greeted by a facefull of water. Having discerned the location of the leak I ran down to the basement (now a delightful wading pool for children of all ages) and shut off the water supply. I couldn't budge the local shut off valves (or risers) under the sink as they had frozen solid sometime in the late Permian so went in search of the valves to isolate the upstairs water supply from the downstairs one, only to find that Mrs Stevie had walled off the access to the service corridor behind the laundry room with a formidable wall o'crap. I managed to relocate that and waded to the control valves. The handwheels were positioned for maximum challenge in amongst pipework remeniscent of a Mousetrap Game and wouldn't budge. I went back for Mr Stilson's pipe wrench and finally managed to shut off the upstairs water supply so I could turn the downstairs one back on again and begin manning the pumps.

Deciding that the job was a little much for my trusty Shop Vac (normally the first line of water removal ops) I deployed Mr Submersible Pump. Normally, I pump out the Shop Vac using this and run a hose out to the King Crimson Maple at the property's southeast corner, so I opened the basement window and pulled on the hose, which obliged me by refusing to enter the basement any further than about five feet.

Heaving a sigh and a few swear words I de-alarmed the house and went into the garden with a flashlight to uproot the hose, which had become bedded in the lawn over the last few weeks. When I entered the house I ran into Mrs Stevie who became agitated over my state of dress. Thus I was forced to suspend vital getting-the-water-outside-the-house ops to defend my decision not to pause to don clothing for an EVA into my own well-fenced back garden at 3:45 am (well before dawn).
"You can't walk around the yard in the nude!" she yelled.
"I have other priorities than finding appropriate digging up a hosepipe in the pitch dark attire!" I wittily responded.
"What about the neighbours?" She snarled.
"The neighbours have a perfectly good yard of their own should they wish to partake in the new fad of midnight togs-off garden appliance rearrangement. That being said, if they wish to stroll around mine au naturel they are welcome provided they agree to help drain the basement of the floodwaters" I responded and went below to do just that.

I won't go into tedious detail of how much valuable and irreplaceable (largely paper-based) stuff was lost despite being placed on shelves high off the floor (who knew the water would come from above and run latterally for several feet before descending?). I won't detail the part where I went into the laundry room, badly overcrowded with clothing no-one wears any more and the subject of many Stevierants on the value of walling up closets so we can't get to them with stuff we don't need, only to have an overloaded shelf full of towels with a nice display of shirts hung underneath (now soaking wet and ten times their dry weight) tear out of the wall and nearly crush me. I won't detail the bit where I poked the ceiling light fixture of the downstairs bathroom with a finger and it shattered, slashing my hand quite nastily and releasing another ten gallons of water to the floor. I won't even detail the part where it got bad.

I took the day off work and after grabbing an hour's sleep started to clear up the damage at 7 am. I ran flying leads to the laundry room so I could run the washer and dryer, since the electricity supply was still tripping the GFI (I suspect a light fitting was full of water). I still didn't know exactly what had blown upstairs1, so ran to home depot and bought a new faucet and flexible couplings, which I installed with much cursing only to find the bloody tap leaked so I had to pull it out and replace it again. At 4:30 I had managed to get the upstairs water turned back on and was busy clearing out the detritus from the downstairs tub so it could be brought back into action. This was when Mrs Stevie rang to tell me that we were going to have to meet the park-and-ride for the Stevieling's gala performance at 6, but that her brother was due chez moi at 5 and that I should "finish getting ready". It was 4:30 and I had just discovered that the tub wasn't draining due to a pre-flood problem no-one had thought to mention (I do not use this tub; it ia a "girls only" one reserved for Mrs Stevie and the Stevieling). Since she was interrupting vital plunger operations I had less diplomacy in me than Hezbolla and I snarled "Who's getting ready? What in God's name do you think I've been doing all day?" into my cell phone and she hung up. After that it was the matter of 15 minutes to nip upstairs, make three trips to what was left of the laundry room with wet towels used to mop the floor by Mrs Stevie and left there for me to find, pick up as much of the remains of the vanity as I could (chipboard does not handle soaking well) and get a shower before everyone started arriving home.

I reckon I've got Frank Lloyd Wright beat. His water fell oustide the house. Mine washed through it. I dub Chateau Stevie "Fallinghotwater".

1: Turns out the flexible coupling for the hot water supply had burst. Thus, not only shall I be paying for the water, but also for the gas needed to heat it. Doubtless it has also taken 5 years off the life of the water heater too.

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