Feb 12, 2007

Water: The Accidental Baptism

There I was, Wednesday afternoon at around 2:10, trying to solve a problem. Once a week, I teach a writing class to middle schoolers at Will's Montessori. We are reviewing websites, and I had gotten us all on our own Wikispace. Here's the problem: I had seriously underestimated their ability to turn it into a party. They had been sending messages to each other during the whole class without my knowledge, even though I had told them I could read everything they sent. Anyhow, there I was, thinking, What Have I Done, and staring at the kids' comments on the screen. I began to hear a slow, rhythmic tapping sound . . . on my open file next to the computer. Dripping, actually. I looked up and saw a brown water line on the ceiling. Upstairs, I saw that it was wet around the toilet.

I wiped it up, and not sure what to do next, flushed. In retrospect? Not such a good idea. The toilet overflowed, and overflowed, and overflowed, with astonishing rapidity and force. Over the bathroom floor, down through the floor and into the kitchen, raining onto my keyboard and monitor as I grabbed the files and anything moveable out of the way. For about fifteen minutes I became another person, Panicked Princess. She unplugged everything she saw. She grabbed a bucket but she really needed about six. She grabbed a towel but she really needed ten. Panicked Princess called 911. She really shouldn't have, but she hadn't seen this much water coming down, indoors, ever. She called hubby, who calmly told her where the valve for the house's water was located. She succeeded in turning it off.

A nice Swarthmore Borough policeman came. (The police here don't have a whole lot to do.) He helped Panicked Princess mop up. He told her reassuring things like "This floor might buckle. You might have to redo it." "Your kitchen cabinets are wet. I hope you won't have to have new ones put in." "Can I see your basement? Oh, look, it's pouring down here, too." Our shop vac/wet vac was in the attic, so I carried it down our narrow attic ladder. Panicked Princess was beginning, slowly, to morph back into Lauren. Deep breathing helped.

Finally, Nice Swarthmore Policeman said, "I don't think it's as bad as it looks. That's just residual water coming down." Lauren was back. Lauren called Will's school to cancel an interview for an article she was writing for them. Lauren called a friend to have her get Will. Lauren called the plumber, and something in her voice, a trace of Panicked Princess, prompted them to put our house at the top of their emergency list.

So, after hours of looking for a clog, they found what was probably a bird's nest at one time, perched on top of the exhaust pipe, maybe? It's all conjecture at this point. Plus, pipes have been freezing around here, so that may have contributed to what amounted to an impressively impenetrable clog.

And the upshot? A nice new high-pressure toilet and a plumbing bill not to sneeze at. Grains and flours had to be thrown out. And as I said, some cookbooks now have slightly wavy pages. But then License to Grill was already doused with water at some point, and Trattoria Cooking was already wavy and scorched. Some people don't believe in keeping cookbooks in the kitchen, or so I hear, and now I know why. My mother's collection is in the living room, because I consider them archival, but otherwise I think cookbooks are to be splattered upon and marked and otherwise affectionately abused.

As for my computer? It. Is. Fine. I normally try to avoid that bloggy habit of using periods for emphasis, so please understand that when I do it, it means EMPHASIS. EMPHASIS!!!! My manuscripts for my MFA application have not been lost. I was supposed to back them up, like John was always telling me, but of course I didn't. But everything is fine. Did I say that? That my computer is fine? Like when Batman's helicopter crashes into the foam rubber expo (we just saw the movie last night), it was just good fortune. For which I'm very thankful.

And my Wikispace problems? I've locked the space and we're now using the school's email to share responses. Because I have no time or interest in policing the students, and the Wikispace was just too, too tempting for the little darlings. That problem, in my mind, was all wrapped up with the other one, how to stop a flood when you're not at the source. Here is what I've learned:

1. Middle schoolers do technology a million times faster and better than 48-year-olds.
2. Each toilet has a little shutoff valve right on the dang thing.
3. If you admit a mistake, students are grateful and everyone can move on.
4. Always know where your water shutoff valve is.
5. The dryest time of winter is the best time to have a lot of water between the floors in your house.
6. Back up your files.
7. Cops can be very nice. So can middle schoolers.


Amy said...

My favorite part of this story is where you call the police. That would never fly in Philly!

And, I just can't imagine you becoming the princess.

I'll be laughing about this one for a while!

M-j said...

Oh. My. Word.
Sorry to hear about it! I cannot even imagine how you are holding it together, I would have cracked like an egg.
BTW, the S'more cops DO have something to do. They stop and close my minivan sliding door every time I leave it open!

Scrivener said...

I'm so sorry that you had to deal with all of this, but man is this an hilarious blog post. At least you got a good story out of it, right?

Lilian said...

M-j "stole" my opening lines... I swear I thought of them too (not first, obviously).
Oh. My. Dear. (I know, it's pathetic to do this period thing, but it is a good way to convey emphasis, the way we would say it out loud).

I'm glad no terrible damage was done and that your computer is fine. Good thing things dried out quickly and that the nice policeman came to help the Panicky Princess.

What a story!! I have to go read it again. The infamous Rachael Ray's article will have to wait :)