I clearly cursed myself when I told you last week about all the awesome progress I’d made carving out a real, grown-up, home office space for myself in our downstairs living room. As you can see from this photo, I’ve had a bit of a setback. Well, OK…a major setback.
I walked downstairs Saturday morning with the intention of throwing in a load of laundry, spackling the former gallery wall in the “office,” and prepping the walls for painting. As I was descending the stairs, I said to Ad Man, “Wow…it smells really musty down here.” Ever the helpful husband, Ad Man told me to turn on the dehumidifier. I then stepped from the wood stair to the carpeted basement and thought, “Why does this rug feel moist?” (That was for you, D. I know how much you love the word MOIST.)
The next step was more than just moist (I could do this all day). In fact, I felt a squish and looked down to see water oozing up from between my toes. I yelled, “Honey, we have a serious problem!” and continued down the soaked hallway to the utility/storage room where I discovered a gaping hole in the ceiling, wet plaster everywhere and water pouring from above.
Luckily for us, unluckily for them, we have a bunch of friends who have dealt with flooding from broken pipes and encroaching creeks in the last few years. So, I ran next door in my pajamas to get my friend B who sprung into action the moment I said, “We need your help!” B grabbed his 6 foot tall 13-year old (my adopted neighbor son C, also in his pajamas) and we headed to our house to figure out: a) why it was raining indoors, b) how to make the water stop falling from the ceiling, and c) just how many of our belongings stored in the storage room (naturally) were now floating.
A frenzy of activity followed. I fought through my social anxiety and called the insurance company to open a claim and ask a million questions. Ad Man searched for the valve to turn the water off to the house and B and C carried waterlogged boxes, artwork, clothing, toys and furniture out to the back deck. One fun twist to this whole debacle is that our house is in a flood plain so we’ve tried to be diligent about keeping things in the storage room up and off the floor. Little did we know that we should have been defending against an attack from above.
We quickly called a plumber and a water remediation company recommended by friends. Luckily, Ad Man was able to locate the correct valve and shut the water off because the plumber took his sweet time getting to us. I did have to give him a break though simply because the name of his company was “Hers & His Plumbing.” A little girl-power goes a long way in my book.
A troop of strapping young men from the water remediation company arrived, in record time, tumbling out of a large truck and a van. They were a well-oiled machine and, for the first time all morning, I breathed a small sigh of relief. There’s nothing quite so calming as the arrival of a team of experts whose job it is to take over and manage your disaster. My feeling of relief was short-lived, however, when they started tearing up carpet, pulling off baseboards and punching holes in my walls so they could check to see if the insulation was wet.
Honestly though, the hardest thing for me to watch was the armies of people trudging in and out of the house turning even the dry parts of my floor into a filthy mess. I just kept saying to Ad Man, “I can’t believe I’ve kept that light beige carpet looking brand new for seven years and now this!” When you’re a stay-at-home mom, you sometimes derive a sense of pride and accomplishment from the most banal things. It’s fairly pathetic that I now get the same satisfaction from keeping a rug clean as I used to get from a well-written Motion for Summary Judgment.
As teams of people rushed around my house with tools and fans and huge silver boxes I was later informed were industrial strength dehumidifiers, I retreated upstairs and stood paralyzed with not the slightest clue what I should be doing. Eventually, I wandered off to make the kids’ beds and sweep the wood floors thinking that, if I was going to be living in half a house for a while, it had better be clean or I’d surely lose my damn mind.
The downstairs living room/office space was spared from the water because it is a step higher than the rest of the rooms, but it was not entirely unaffected. As the day wore on, more and more crap was deposited in my newly cleaned and organized office space. It took some serious mental strength to remain calm as I watched all my hard work being undone bit by bit. A friend who was following the drama from afar via Facebook even commented on my relative serenity in the face of all the chaos. Actually, it’s more likely I was just in denial. Zen MommyEnnui was long gone by the time I woke up the next morning and the adrenaline had worn off, however.
The day of the flood, I was thankful for all the things that were spared, like family photos dating back to my grandfather’s childhood. The following day, however, I was far more upset about all our belongings that got trashed, like the two limited edition, signed, Barack Obama posters we bought for the girls so they could have a little piece of history.
The incessant buzzing noise of a bunch of fans and dehumidifiers can quickly cause a person to become quite unhinged. I keep wanting to describe the sound as the equivalent of “Chinese water torture,” but I’m worried that that may be considered racist now. Should it be Asian water torture? Or should we refrain from blaming Asians altogether? In China, do they refer to “American Waterboarding”? Boy, am I good at wandering off topic or what? Remind me to add “skilled at digressing” to the list of strengths on my resume.
OK, where were we? Ah yes, Day 1, Post-Flood. Well, my day started sucking immediately upon waking. You see, two giant dehumidifiers draining every last bit of moisture from the air plus ten giant humming fans equals one gargantuan headache. I stumbled out into the living room where the girls had the TV on the highest possible volume in order to hear it over the fans. Then I was hit smack in the face by the stench of nasty-ass old motel wafting up from downstairs. IT WAS LIKE, SUDDENLY, MY ENTIRE LIFE WAS IN ALL CAPS!
If you think the sight of water pouring from one’s ceiling and water bubbling up from one’s carpet is disturbing, that’s nothing in comparison to viewing the aftermath. I walked downstairs to find a half crunchy, half soaked, all stained carpet. In the absence of baseboards, my walls no longer met the floor, instead ending in a jagged line that appeared to have been gnawed off by beavers and leaving a dark and mysterious gap around most of the room. Just getting around to assess the damage was a challenge what with having to hurdle over all the fans. Seriously, if I was looking to buy a house and this one was listed at a low, low price as a “fixer-upper,” I would have turned up my nose and sought shelter elsewhere.
And, sadly, that is where things remain today. A chorus of angels sang “Hallelujah!” when all the drying equipment was turned off and removed yesterday evening and the carpet is now all crunchy, but other than that, not much has changed. We’ve been diligently listing and figuring out the value of everything that was destroyed so we’ll eventually be able to replace that crap with more crap. An insurance adjuster will be arriving tomorrow to compute the cost of returning this smelly fixer-upper to its original state and, hopefully, write us a big fat check so we can begin the process of doing that.
Though it will undoubtedly take longer to complete, there’s a chance I’ll actually be able to hire professionals to prep and paint MommyEnnui headquarters. That may unfortunately be the only silver lining to this big, ugly storm cloud. Well, that and being able to entertain you all with the story of the Great Basement Flood of 2014. Always an adventure at MommyEnnui!