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H2Ouch!

By Tim Hayes

Poseidon in Greek mythology and Neptune in Roman.  Sumandra in Hindu, Tefnut in Egyptian, and Mazu in Chinese.  Heck, even Aquaman in the comic books.

All gods of water, the liquid source and sustenance of life.  Entire cultures worship water for its irreplaceable role in keeping the planet alive.  We twist a knob and this magical, mystical, miraculous substance flows clean and freely from the tap.

Yes, water is wonderfully awesome.  Then its awesomeness takes a hard left turn into “I can’t believe this” territory.

Shortly after dinner on July 2, the sky outside turned a strange blend of orange, pink, and black.  Bolts of lightning could be heard off in the distance, growing louder and closer.  Within seconds, sheets of pounding rain fell with alarming force, and without slowdown or easing.

So what, another thunderstorm at the end of a high-humidity, 95-degree summer day, right?  It would be over soon.  Just ride it out.  No biggie.  Maybe a trickle of water in the laundry basement room.  Happened a hundred times before over the 15 years we’ve lived in this house.

Our son sat in the family room – an addition put on to the house long before we bought it, which sat on a concrete slab foundation – and called to us, while we sat in the kitchen.  “I hear water!” he said.  “Well, sure, it’s raining like mad outside,” I replied.

“No, Dad – I hear water…in here!”

We raced into the family room and heard the unmistakable squish-squish with every step onto the carpet.  Water bubbled up from behind the baseboards, soaking the rug and spreading out into the center of the room.  All the while, the relentless rain continued its assault outside.  Later we learned that our section of town suffered 4 inches of rainfall in less than two hours.

Friends, that is a boatload of water.  That’s a battleship of water.  That’s the USS Enterprise of water.  Captain James T. Kirk would be on the bucket brigade trying to get rid of so much water.  Our back patio looked like the Raging Rapids ride at Kennywood Park.  The End Times had begun!

The municipal storm sewer system proved incapable of handling such a volume of water, so drains began backing up in homes all over the area, including ours.  Area streams quickly crested their banks and turned nearby houses into islands, surrounded on all sides, with up to three feet of water in their basements and family rooms.  For some poor victims, sanitary sewers clogged, sending a backwash of raw sewage rising into their abodes.  The worst fate of all – and one that we avoided, thankfully.

Yes, let’s worship water.  Good grief.

That night, at about 9 p.m., my wife called a restoration company, and was told someone would be there around 10. “They mean 10 tomorrow morning, right?” I asked her.  “No, he’s coming here tonight at 10!”  And damned if he didn’t, and damned if he didn’t stay and work, ripping out carpet and padding, setting up dehumidifiers and those big floor dryers, and stabilizing that family room until 2 a.m.  Amazing.  The fact that he’s been here nearly every day since for two weeks, as he keeps finding more issues with mold and moisture embedded in walls and long-ignored corners of the basement, is another story.  But the man is thorough, I’ll give him that.

To date, nine outside vendors have become involved in (what we thought was) this little leakage issue.  The restoration guy, the mold guy, the landscaper/French drain guy, the handyman to repair the outer siding where water found its way in, the asbestos remediation guy (YES! As an extra special treat, we found that a tile flooring beneath the carpeting contains asbestos!  Triple word score!), the PODS guy to set up a portable container for the furniture as the asbestos gets removed and the room cleaned, the electricians to keep that end of things safe and working properly, the carpeting guy to produce and install the new rugs, and the furniture guy to deliver a new sofa to replace the old one that got wet underneath.

I know what you’re thinking.  You think I missed somebody, right?  One of the first guys you’d call when something like this happens.  Oh, we called the insurance guy.  Three times, finally shaming someone there into actually visiting this policyholder of nearly 40 years.

The adjuster pulled up to the house with his clipboard and smartphone, taking notes and snapping pictures, and finally turned to us with his best sad and empathetic face, and said, “We appreciate having you as customers, but there is nothing we can do for you here.  If a pipe had burst and flooded the room, then we could.  But this is damage caused by rainwater, so unfortunately your policy doesn’t cover this.  I’ve had to tell most of your neighbors the same thing.  But we very much appreciate having you as customers.”

Yeah, I bet.  And I know why, too.  If I calculated how many thousands of dollars I’ve mailed away to that company over four decades, and then, when you at last think the insurance I’ve been paying for forever will help me out?  Bupkus.  Nothing.  Zero.  Like a good neighbor, my ass.

So, looking at a grand total for restoration and repairs fairly reaching into five figures – all of which we’ll need to cover out of pocket – we did the only logical thing.  We left town on a four-day vacation to celebrate our anniversary.

The place we went has an indoor pool that’s fed by a nearby natural mineral spring that feels like no other water in the world.  Silky smooth, with a distinct, very clean and pleasant scent.  “Healing waters” is what we call a swim in that pool.

And perhaps a love of – and ability to worship the value of – water was regained there.  Well, that, and laying out a small fortune to safeguard against such a deluge of H2O ever coming into the house again.

Hey, Poseidon, Sumandra, Aquaman, and all your waterlogged buddies – go soak somebody else next time, will ya?

Copyright 2018 Timothy P. Hayes