Tuesday, September 27, 2011

COLUMN: Flood (albeit a tiny one)

(Not my basement, thank God.)

"I need to show you something in the basement," said my girlfriend. Uh oh.

My mind raced. What possible scenarios could be afoot? I've seen my share of horror movies and I know when someone wants to show you something in the basement, it's seldom a good thing. It's usually more like, "Let me show you... THIS CLEAVER," and that's when the music starts going "WEET! WEET! WEET!" and someone says "redrum" and it all goes higgeldy-piggeldy.

But hey, when a cute girl says she needs to show you something in the basement, I suppose it's worth the risk of running into a hockey mask-wearing psychopath. Maybe "I need to show you something" is code for some subterranean PG-13 SMOOCHY SMOOCHY TIME, and I, for one, do not rescind invites to smoochy-smoochy time.

But her voice didn't sound smoochy-smoochy. It sounded serious, if not scolding. It was the kind of "let me show you something" that one would say to one's dog before going, "Look what you did! BAAAAAD Shane! BAAAAAAAAAD Shane!"

I started to panic. The night before, I had been down there doing laundry. My girlfriend doesn't have a washer or dryer at her place, so I let her use mine (and if all of MY laundry gets done in the process? Bonus.) But the night before, I had needed to wash some stuff, so I threw a load in -- and I bet I screwed something up.

Once upon a time, laundry was a simple task. My old apartment complex had a washer/dryer that I'm pretty sure pre-dated the invention of fabric. It had 3 settings: hot, warm, and cold -- and warm was broken. But that was okay, because I'm a boy, and Boy Laundry is simple, logical stuff. If it's white? Hot. If it's not? Cold. Easy peasy. But now that I've got my own house with its own washer and dryer, there's like 28 different settings and none make sense. As God is my witness, I'm now 40 years old and haven't the slightest clue what "permanent press" is.

And that's me handling Boy Laundry. On those very few times that I've been tasked with Girl Laundry, it's a mind-melting free-for-all. Half of her clothes pile is unidentifiable (hat? legwarmer? timing belt?), and the other half I have no clue if you're supposed to wash it in cold, hot, or warm. Maybe all her clothes call for the little setting that's simply indicated with an asterisk that I presume must mean "magic." Plus, ALL of her clothes feel so dainty that you half expect the fabric to crumble in your hands. How can I expect it to survive a wash cycle?

Ergo, I usually just leave her laundry in a pile and do mine instead. It's not that I don't want to help out, I just don't want to hit the wrong button and cause half my girlfriend's wardrobe to shrink or fall apart. As I walked down the basement stairs, I was envisioning her about to show me a dryer full of pink tidy whities or a wardrobe newly resized for Barbie's Dream House.

Instead, we got downstairs and she pointed straight down. Uh oh.

If you're a regular reader of this column, you'll know that I've spent the better part of this past year finishing my basement. And by "I," I mean my dad, whose vision of retirement might NOT have included indentured servitude to his incredibly grateful son. What was once a concrete slab floor is now a paradise of waterproofing, foam, pads, and carpeting. The only spot in the basement left untouched is the small area housing the furnace, hot water heater, and drain... and as I looked down at that tiny concrete oasis, I saw a small pool of water on the floor. Uh oh, indeed.

Above it run most of the pipes for the house, so I started feeling around to find the leak. That's when I noticed with some horror that the small pool of water didn't seem to be coming from above, but rather cascading out from underneath the carpet. BIG uh-oh.

I looked across the basement and there was my culprit. Against the back wall, the washing machine may have looked innocent, but even from far away, I could see it's catchpan brimming over with water. The leak was rapidly turning half of my basement into the Tide With Bleach Alternative Sea.

I raced over and shut off the water flow to the washer. The carpeting underneath was soaked to the bone and water was running under the carpet to the drain across the basement -- directly under the 30 or so cardboard boxes of unimportant junk I had yet to unpack from the move.

"Nooooooooooooooo!" I said as I started grabbing boxes and running to high ground. Happily, we noticed just in time to save such prized possessions as my Sega Dreamcast and Casio keyboard (whew.)

As a Congrats-For-Buying-Your-First-House gift, my dad had handed down a space-age wet/dry vac that had, until now, been sitting in the corner looking like R2D2's meaner cousin. I pulled it down, plugged it in, and set forth trying to suck the standing water out of the washer's catchpan. Just one problem: I was uninformed that this particular wet-dry vac had TWO places to attach the hose: one to suck and one to blow.

Sure enough, I stuck the hose in the catchpan, turned the vac on, and blew out an epic tidal wave that all at once showered dirty sudsy water all over the ceiling, walls, boxes, and anything else declaring residency in my basement, up to and including one of my cats who might need lifelong therapy from the double shock of the vacuum noise AND instant shower. Home improvement is NOT my thing, people.

Eventually I got the hose sorted out and sucked up as much water as I could. Then my dad drove up and had a meeting of the minds with my girlfriend's dad, who just happens to be an appliance repairman. I can't say how it went, since I was at work, but between my dad's inquisitive nature and her dad's knack for detail, my girlfriend reports that she now knows more about the internal workings of a washing machine than anyone EVER needs to and that I "owe her bigtime."

For now, it seems fixed, and the fate of my carpet now lies in a cat-eating industrial fan and a dehumidifer that's getting a serious workout. At least, thanks to Tide with Febreze, this is the nicest-smelling flood one can imagine. I'm lucky because I know basement flooding is a way of life for many Quad Citians, and my drama was pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. Still, the next time my girlfriend says she needs to show me something in the basement, I might just run from the house screaming, even at the risk of smoochy-smoochy time.


Annalise Johnnie said...

Yowza. Heh heh, it's pretty funny when you read stuff like this, but a flood is pretty serious business... especially for cats caught in the crossfire. Well, that's one mistake that you can learn from, right? A lesson to prevent flooding like that in the future.

Gail Wallace said...

That was a nasty experience indeed! It’s good that you caught it in time and stop the water from overflowing. Otherwise, you could have had an indoor swimming pool, and all your boxes and prized possessions would have been soaked. It would definitely take you time to dry them!

Gail Wallace @ Emergency Flood Masters