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Not a Problem, Just a Catastrophe

June 27, 2009

I’ve always considered myself very lucky in that I’ve been able to avoid most of the major disasters that can befall a person. Only once have I had a medical problem that dented my pocketbook (broke a tooth last year). Living in my parents’ house, I’ve suffered power outages at most a handful of times as a result of storms, and I happen to live in the area that was affected by the Northeast Blackout of 2003. None of these lasted for more than two or three days, and the most lasting damage caused by one happened back when I was in junior high: Because I couldn’t blow-dry my hair, my school picture came out horrible. I’ve lived in an area that got the occasional tornado, but they always passed by at a comfortable distance.

Last week, there was a heavy rain storm in my area and my garden-level apartment got flooded. Water accumulated in the landing outside and the drain pump, which was probably old to begin with, became overwhelmed and failed. There were parts where the carpet was squishy, parts where I could see a quarter-inch of water above carpet level, and parts that stayed bone dry. I’m not sure which part baffles me more: the fact that some areas remained dry or the fact that my closet, which is in the back of the apartment along an inside wall, got the worst of it.

It started Friday evening. What gets me is that I had spilled my drink a bit earlier. I mopped it up the best I could, but later on I noticed a spot that seemed rather wet. Since it was right near where I had spilled, I thought I’d missed it. I went through several paper towels trying to mop it up and didn’t make a dent. How odd. Then I noticed a similar spot a bit further away. I hadn’t realized my drink had splashed so far.

Then I noticed that there was water all over the kitchen floor, but we couldn’t find a leak under the sink (as well there shouldn’t have been: I had the garbage disposal replaced when I moved in because it was leaking). That was when I called emergency maintenance. I went to go get dressed, since I had just been lounging around thinking about going to bed and now some guys from maintenance were coming over. En route to the bedroom, it seemed as though my shoes were tracking the wet around — that’s not right!

To my growing horror, I discovered that the carpet in the bedroom was wet and my closet was swimming. I started bagging clothes that had been on the floor and worked on moving things to higher ground. Dan was lucky that his closet pretty much stayed dry. Around this time was when Dan opened the front door to find the landing filled to the threshold — five inches deep. That certainly explained where the water came from!

Thus began my sleepless night of moving things out of the way. First maintenance drained the landing, then they called in a team of professional carpet cleaners with wet/dry vacs to suck up as much water as they could. Who knew that you could get a team of professional carpet cleaners to come out in the middle of the night? Then they set up four carpet fans around the apartment to help speed the drying process: one in the entryway, one in the living room, one in the hallway, and one in the bedroom. Four carpet fans all on high in an 800-square-foot apartment makes for a lot of noise.

I was feeling utterly exhausted and useless around 6:30am and, for lack of a place to lie down, took a three-hour nap in the car. I was amazed at how much that recharged me; I was fully functional for the entire rest of the very long day. Around noon, the carpet people came back with an industrial-strength de-humidifier, which threw a lot of heat. Maintenance told me that running the A/C would also help the drying process, so on that went. Four carpet fans, a giant de-humidifier, and the air conditioning, all day Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Ow! My electric bill!

On Tuesday they removed the high-powered equipment and steam-cleaned the carpet. To make ourselves scarce while the carpet air-dried, Dan went to work and I took my laptop to the clubhouse and played with my Sims, having done the vast majority of the laundry Saturday and Sunday. Ow, my jar of quarters. At least now the carpet is cleaner than it’s been in a while, and they need never know I spilled my drink, hur hur. 🙄

Dan and I are very lucky that nothing valuable or important was seriously damaged, although there were a few casualties such as some of my old math notes, two small rug/mats, and a contoured memory foam pillow. It has, however, driven home the fact that we are pack-rats and have way too much stuff crammed into far too small a living space. We’ve begun to cull through everything and I’ve already gotten rid of approximately one drawer’s worth of things. It’s not much, but it’s a start. I’ve taken to calling last Friday “the night I became a Buddhist” because I’m starting to realize just how true the central philosophy is: Life is suffering, and suffering comes from attachment to things. The sooner I can learn how to let go of all the random, useless junk I’ve accumulated over the years, the freer I’ll be.

It just won’t be easy.

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