March 25, 2010

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Mike’s sorrows washed away by flooded basement

The way I picture it, the hose under our kitchen sink was like a guy at the beach, sucking in his gut. While we were in the house, the hose was flexing its muscles, trying to impress us with its strength, walking carefully to avoid any unnecessary jiggling. The moment we walked out the door, though, it said, “Ahhhhh,” and just let it all hang out.

We’re not really sure of the precise moment when the hose under our sink decided to dangle its belly over its swim trunks, but we can say with some degree of certainty that it happened after we departed recently for the first leg of a family vacation and before our very exciting return home.

“I’ll be upstairs changing the baby,” I told my wife Kara as she hustled to the kitchen to prepare our son Evan’s bottle. He’d gone three hours without a feeding, which means, on the Incredible Hulk Scale, that he was about a seven: beginning to turn green and angry, though not yet bursting his onesie into tatters. 

As soon as I set him down, Evan started kicking and shrieking on the changing table.  I’ve heard it said about some parents that they could change a diaper on a running baby.  I’m not quite there yet, but I can do a decent job while he jogs in place.

After a moment, I realized that Evan wasn’t the only one shrieking. 

“Babe, if you’re saying something to me, I can’t hear you over the baby hollering,” I called towards the nursery door.

Kara screamed something else indeterminate. 

“Sorry buddy, Mommy’s being crazy right now. I’ll be right back,” I told Evan, stepping away from the table.

“What are you yelling about?” I called from the hallway, finding Kara dashing up the stairs.


Some things are never good to have in your house, under any circumstances. Zombies.  Brussels sprouts. Teenagers. Somewhere very high on that list: huge puddles.   

Up until that moment, I’d thought my biggest problem was my holiday love handles, which had become much more ergonomic over the Christmas/New Year’s period almost three months ago, like those big-grip spatulas, but fortunately the universe stepped in to provide a handy distraction from my toffee-and-gumdrop-related troubles.

Kara ran to take the baby as I took the stairs two-at-a-time with an armload of towels.  Under the kitchen sink, a small, steady spray of water shot from the hose that connected the faucet to the cold water supply. A quick twist of the shutoff valve turned the spray into a trickle, then to a drip, then to nothing. 

We threw every towel in the house onto the kitchen floor, sopping up as much as we could, pretending we didn’t see the small tectonic ridges forming in the hardwood.              “Well, I guess it could have been worse,” I said. Kara nodded. And then our eyes both rested on the door to the basement. The basement that we’d just finished less than two months ago. The basement which sits directly beneath the kitchen. Well, actually, it doesn’t really sit there anymore. Swims, more like.

We knew that something wasn’t right before we even flipped the lights on. As we walked into the basement, we could hear the sound of water dripping onto more water, as if we were descending into a medieval dungeon. 

“Oh, dude,” Kara said.

Our recessed lights had been turned into water features, dripping steady streams onto the saturated new carpet, as large swathes of new paint bubbled off of the wall.

We learned about how to start the recovery process from my in-laws, who had recently experienced the unfortunate privilege of living in the first house uphill from a sewer blockage, which sent raw sewage a foot deep spewing into their basement through their downstairs john, marking perhaps the most unpleasant thing to come out of a toilet this side of the movie “Ghoulies.”

That fiasco at the in-laws’ helped my wife Kara and me to keep the proper perspective with our own basement problems. Whatever issues you may be having in life, if you can describe them without using the phrase “raw sewage a foot deep,” then maybe things really aren’t that bad.

In times like these, it’s important to look at the dry side. If you can finish a basement, then you can also start it over. In the meantime, since ping-pong is out of the question, I’m thinking of taking up rice farming. 



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