Last Sunday afternoon Bryn needed a shampoo; she’d run through the really dusty dog park in hot, dry weather, so her fur was dust-coated and decorated with dirt clods and twigs. In the garden I used the hose to wet her coat, soap her up and rinse her clean. It registered nearly 90 sunny degrees, so the cold water felt good. But- there was a problem. The hose yielded only a tiny flow. I found a kink, but after sorting it, the water’s volume was still feeble. Rinsing Bryn took much longer than usual. This reminded me of........
With a thrill of horror, I dashed into the house and down the basement stairs. Disaster! Torrents of icy water were pouring from the southwest corner of the ceiling. An elderly galvanized pipe had burst some hours ago. Water was everywhere! I ran back upstairs and outside to shut off the faucet on the house wall, then close the lever leading to the hose. The peculiar vibrating sound radiating from the outer wall ceased. I flung on my wellies and thundered back down into the basement. Two inches of water covered the floor and everything on it. I rang Les, who came straight over and shut off the impossibly placed interior valve, which I couldn’t ever hope to reach.
The flow stopped.
In December of 2009 my mother’s cottage in England had flooded. Burst overhead pipes ran amok for two weeks bringing it to near ruin in 2009. I’d moved there for a total of 12 months in appalling conditions to renovate. And now, Sunnybank’s basement was drowned by a split overhead pipe. Rugs were submerged, or floating; boxes of office papers were ruined. Three of the four rooms off the main area were soaked. Only the laundry room was spared, because we’d poured a 6” high cement barrier across the doorway, rather like a ship’s galley (because in the 1990s the city sewer overflowed in a storm and the entire basement was full of –well, poop. Never again. Our simple fix would stop poop from encompassing the entire basement.)
Even the carpet in my little music room at the far end of the basement was completely soaked. The main area’s exercise machine, a large Victorian trunk filled with my music, a ten-foot long filled bookcase, thirty or so cans of half-filled paint, and 14 large cardboard boxes of dried food that would last for 25 years, were bottom-soaked.
I shifted what I could, lifted porch cushions out of the water, and put things on the stairs or in the laundry, hoping I could salvage them later. Then, for nearly an hour, on hands and knees, I used my little shop vacuum to suck away water, but found I couldn’t get the lid off the machine to pour the collected water down the laundry room’s sink. I finally noticed the overfilled tank was spewing it out the other end, undoing all my work!
Murphy’s Law (Whatever CAN go wrong WILL go wrong) was in full bloom.
So I grabbed a sturdy kitchen broom to shepherd water into the tiny main drain, which was soon overwhelmed. Unable to lift the big waterlogged rugs, or hefty stored furniture, I rang Les, a dear friend. We managed to raise most of the really heavy stuff to push bricks underneath, but had to stop after an hour or two of hard work. We were knackered. I rang my insurance company, and they put me on to ServPro, a firm that sorts flooded homes so well that ‘it’s as though it never even happened.’ They came immediately, emptied as much water as possible with their big water-collecting vac, then brought nine huge fans down and set them up everywhere while a giant dehumidifier roared.
Fortunately, there was no drywall down there, but lower brick walls were peeling paint, and the ancient cement floor oozed earth and water...
It was too soon – and too late at night- 10 p.m.- to do a thorough damage inspection, so I told the men to go home. Memorial Day was hours away. There was nothing to be done until we got it dried out, so I’d see them Tuesday afternoon.
For over 48 hours the fans roared; it was impossible to find a quiet place in the house. But they did make a difference.
(The danger, of course, is the rapid growth of black mold. Fans help prevent this dangerous curse, so it’s essential to get them going right away. In England it took me two months to get the insurance company to respond. They simply ignored what was promised in their contract!! By then, though, black mold had covered everything, necessitating much more ripping out of walls. Only when I screamed at them in frustration, threatening a huge lawsuit, did they finally dump enormous fans outside the cottage in the middle of the night and stomp off. As they weighed more than I did, I couldn’t move them until I found help...but that’s another story. I don’t believe I’ve ever been so frustrated and outraged.)
Anyway, ServPro’s equipment roared. The men returned Tuesday afternoon to monitor progress, and decided the fans/dehumidifier should keep working for another 24 hours, just to be sure.
But then (there is often a ‘But then,’ courtesy of Murphy) on Thursday, the music room’s white Berber carpet’s center had morphed to a rusty, ugly red. The vivid stain (maybe from the pad, or emanating from mineral deposits in the ancient cement floor) was huge- as big as a six-foot circle. The guy sprayed something on it. Voila! The ‘blood’ began to vanish- and we began to cough. I backed out, gasping, and went upstairs, but kept coughing. He did, too. Something in that spray had irritated our lungs.
He eventually left, after saying we’d know in a few days whether such a big blemish would stay gone. I doubted it.
So then, I decided to do a load of laundry. In stocking feet Thursday late afternoon, I brought down the filled laundry basket, took some minutes to maneuver the full basket past heaps of stuff blocking the laundry room’s raised doorway---- and found myself wading through icy water! That floor was thoroughly flooded, too! A 9x12 indoor-outdoor grass ‘carpet’ was trying to float, and two huge old wooden cabinets were standing in an inch of water.
And it was rising....
I let out wails of despair. This was a blow. WAY too much bad stuff was happening too fast.
Here’s the skinny. The ServPro techs had set the drainage hose for the dehumidifier down into the deep laundry room sink, but at some point it had managed to dislodge itself and slither to the floor. All the water drawn from the main basement’s wet air emptied onto that floor. Cursing Murphy, I stuck the hose deep down in the sink again and weighed it down with a wet towel.
ServPro came soon after, acknowledged they’d messed up by not securing the hose, and so would not charge to put that room right.
OK. These things happen.
But now I was frazzled to breaking point.
But Murphy wasn’t finished yet. No sir.
For almost 40 years I’d kept a $1,000 deductible on our house insurance. But now, when I rang to confirm that all was well in that regard I was horrified to find that our actual deductible was $4,818.00!!!
Why? In 2013-14 the insurance company had included an extra notice in the semi-annual bill, that, unless they heard from me, the deductible would be raised to 5% of the value of our home. Here’s the thing: every regular monthly bill – phone, water, heat, light, etc. includes reams of extra paper crammed with various ads, notices, privacy assurances, and various legal blah-blah, all of it delivered in very fine print. Rarely bothering to read those tiny info junklets, I just recycle the paper. So, of course, I didn’t notice that an important part of my insurance policy was different.
To be fair- I’ve saved a good deal of premium money during the four years that have passed- until this disaster, so I hadn’t noticed, up close and personal, the radical change. Now, faced with such a huge deductible, I canceled the claim. This bill would not be quite that expensive, but it would be a big bite out-of-pocket. I rang the insurance people to ask that they get rid of that enormous deductible and put it back to $1000,00. I would pay the higher semi-annual premiums.
But. This must be submitted to The Committee, who might well deny my request to change back. So I wait.
Meanwhile, one basement fan still roars; the air is too moist, my nerves are frayed, and my temper is noticeably shorter. Life is a trial right now.
But (Take that, Murphy!) there are huge bright spots. One is upside down in front of me, twitching and paddling as she dreams. Bryn-dog is the essence of quiet cheer and pure love. She brightens every aspect of my life. There is Joe, the love of my life for 52 years. There is my beloved secret garden, with all its nooks, crannies, and little delights. Spring has arrived, and there are fresh babies of every kind to love and admire.
When I have the sense to take in these ‘calmers,’ they raise me up as high as I care to be...