There’s this question my hubby often asks me when I’m freaking out about something. “What’s the worst that could happen?” For most people thi
s is a good technique and can help them calm down. For me, not so much. I can outline a string of continuous and related disasters that usually and consistently ends with nuclear holocaust. You see, I don’t think I am a pessimist, not at all. I am very optimistic and hope that things go well all the time. I believe in happily ever after, but I also believe in shit hitting the fan and wrecking your princess dress before the pumpkin carriage arrives.
So, what does this mean? Well for my loving and patient hubby, it means I am constantly telling him all the bad things that can happen. He made this incredibly impressive Les Miserables style fort for our kids in our hallway and I asked him what would happen if there were a fire. Not wow, I can’t believe you got all the chairs to stand on end like that, but what might occur if we needed to evacuate the house immediately because there were flames licking our heels? You might say I’m a bit of a downer on occasion. I can see where that might make it seem like I suck the fun out of things.
That said, when I say there is a problem, and we don’t take care of it, and then the worst thing happens because we didn’t act, there is little to no chance I will ever forgive or forget. It’s just “I told you so”. Forever.
The story starts about a year ago. After a heart-stopping discovery of mouse poop, a panicked call to the pest control people, and investigating like a forensic scientist, I discovered a hole the size of a dime where the gas line comes in to the house and connects up to the stove. This makes all the sense in the world. The little rodent critters from Hell can fit through annoyingly tiny spots, and then continue to eat the walls to make their entry nice and comfy, like the lobby of a fancy hotel. So the ROUSes (Rodents of Unusual Size, Princess Bride style) walk into my kitchen, poop all over the place, and I have a cold wretched draft on my toes in the morning while I make coffee. So all we need to do is plug up the hole, right? Right.
But here’s where owning a house becomes a royal pain. No simple repair is ever simple. You want to fix one thing and all of a sudden you realize that you need to do ten other obnoxious and expensive things first in order to make that happen. Rome wasn’t built in a day – not because it wasn’t possible – but because they had union issues, long periods of time to wait for building permits, and the work crew forgot what they were doing and went to Greece by mistake.
My beautiful stove, that I love, apparently weighs 2000 pounds. So it’s not like you can just pull it out of the way and caulk up the hole. So, I get an estimate to hire someone to move the stove, without wrecking the hard wood floor, caulk up the hole, and put it back. I think I’m brilliant. I found the problem, I provide the estimate for the solution. However…
Brian is so annoyed he doesn’t want to do it. He doesn’t think we should pay someone to do this. I get that, however, I don’t care. It’s a problem, there is a draft, there are furry things that scurry, this could get worse. Granted, I did not anticipate the series of catastrophes that happened later specifically, but I did have an awful lot of ideas that might have happened, including rats and raccoons and aliens. Brian, however, is busy actually making the money that would pay for this disaster avoidance bill, and isn’t obsessed by it. So a few months go by. I remind him. He says he’s thinking about it. Then he decides he will move the stove. 2000 pounds of stove. Mr. Hercules will move it. Two months later I remind him again. Well he thinks he’ll just ask my brother and brother-in-law or his brothers next time their over for a dinner party. After the next dinner party when we serve drinks instead of moving large kitchen appliances, I remind him again, this is a problem and can we fix it. Three months after that, a full NINE MONTHS after I first presented the solution, he decides we should just go with that idea. You know, the original idea. The one I had. NINE months ago. I could have created a human in that period of time.
So guess what – now we need to wait. Because we need a permit. And have to get scheduled. And then it’s Thanksgiving and while nursing a broken toe I host 30 people and then I get bronchitis and it’s Christmas and I make Christmas for our family and then I take a breath in January. Except my breath is frozen and hurts the inside of my head – because NJ is now in the middle of the coldest deep freeze in 40 years. And guess what happens in a historical freeze? Shit. Shit happens.
Shit Day One: Five degrees, with a wind-chill of MINUS FIFTEEN. The kind of epic weather that freezes pipes (and everything north of the 45th parallel, if you’re a fan of Day After Tomorrow like I am). Ridiculous wretched cold that freezes everything – including our kitchen sink pipe. You know, the pipe directly across the floor from the hole behind the stove? Guess what the little dime size hole did? Froze the shit out of our kitchen sink. Brian tries to de-thaw the pipe with a hairdryer for a few hours and then acquiesces that we need a plumber. We are eighth on the list because apparently the entire state either has frozen pipes or no heat. They bring a cool ‘jumpstart your car battery’ type machine to de-thaw pipes that they hook up and shoot magnetic energy laser light saber beams or something. Ten hours later we are good to go. When everything is finally fixed and the water is turned back on, we heed the advice to drip the faucet overnight while we are sleeping to keep it running. Don’t ask what this visit cost. We think we are done.
Shit Day Two: The next day we wake up and there is water everywhere in our kitchen. Brian curses, thinking that the frozen pipe had indeed cracked, and mops up as much as he can with towels. We have to turn off the water to the entire house to stop the flood. Six hours without water go by so I shovel snow into pots and melt it on the stove so we can flush toilets. I am a cheerful (maybe just a little grumpy) pioneer and think about Little House on the Prairie. I think they had running water though. I remember Pa installing some pump thing in the kitchen. The 21st century plumber finally arrives, convinced it has nothing to the frozen pipe, and instead tells us that we need an entire new kitchen faucet OR supply line because this one is crapped up from hard water calcification and not useable. So why the hell did it leak like this 12 hours after being unfrozen? Oh yea, because we were dripping it all night. That’s why. And why were we dripping it? Because we didn’t want it to freeze – BECAUSE OF THE DIME SIZE HOLE BEHIND THE STOVE. Now Mr. Plumber has to permanently shut off the kitchen sink because it cannot be used at all. Thank goodness my dishwasher is not out of commission. I don’t understand why it isn’t – because I don’t understand anything about plumbing. Except oh yes, another bill.
Shit Day Three: We have purchased two space heaters and are running them non-stop so the pipe doesn’t freeze again. Ka-ching, electric bill. And I have no kitchen faucet. Ask me how many times I try to turn it on and forget. Duh. No water. I notice that the kitchen floor has a seam in the hardwood where it is buckling. Ugh. I wonder if we will be able to sand it down or if it will go back to normal.
Shit Day Four: The plumber comes back to see if he can fix the intake pipe. Nope. We need a whole new faucet. Still no sink usage. I need to go buy a new faucet and wait a week until they can replace it and install the water conditioner unit we are putting in – which supposedly will take care of any more hard water issues. Take care of it for ten years anyway, and then it turns into a pumpkin and we have to buy another one. Ka-ching. Also have noticed that the hard wood floor is getting bumpier and bigger and uglier. This is not looking good.
Shit Day Five: Brr. Another cold night. Brian needs to leave for work early so he is the first one downstairs. And guess what he finds. Water. Everywhere. Pouring out of the basement ceiling – directly underneath the kitchen sink area. And I mean POURING – it looks like the end of a log flume ride. WTF? The plumbers arrive (again) and discover it is not the kitchen sink. It’s the outside water spigot, which froze, and exploded in the ceiling, and has now drenched everything. Three years we’ve lived in the house and never even used that spigot – I had no idea it was there since it’s hidden behind holly shrubs, and those suckers cut like tiny little knives if you touch them. We’ve never turned it off and never had a problem. But now NJ is colder than the South Pole and everything has gone completely ice age. Brian blames plumber number two, who was just there looking at the kitchen pipes, which are next to that outside pipe, and should have mentioned that we need to turn it off, and he can’t believe this happened. Oh yes, it’s happened alright. The flood in the basement has “happened” over everything in our little workout area, including the treadmill, the TV, the cable box, the speakers, the brand new sub woofer Brian just bought himself as a treat, the carpet, the walls, the light fixture, everything….. And when the plumber looks at me with sad eyes and says “Do you want me to call someone for you?” as if someone has died and I need emotional support, I say YES. And then I pay the plumber bill. Ka-ching.
Shit Day Six: And then the next vendor comes onto the scene. Super Duper Uber Dryers. These are people who bank their business on floods and come with scary pictures in their brochures and tell you that if you don’t hire them you will get mold behind your walls and ceiling and in your insulation where you can’t see it and the mold will attack you in your house zombie-style and you will die. Also, they look at the hardwood floor in our kitchen, and guess what, it can’t be repaired. It needs to be completely refinished. And because there is no break in the floor between the kitchen and the other rooms on the first floor, I NEED TO REFINISH EVERY INCH OF THE ENTIRE FIRST FLOOR. Because WHY? OH, THE DIME SIZED HOLE. Remember that one? The one I said to fix? Oh yes, I remember it too. So ka-ching later we now have these giant blower machines set up in our basement with tubes actually inside our walls and blowing across the rug going nonstop 24 hours a day. It’s sort of like having a leaf blower (times SIX) in the basement except louder so you can’t talk in the kitchen without shouting. And I still don’t have a kitchen faucet. AND I STILL HAVE A DIME SIZED HOLE BEHIND THE STOVE SO WE CAN START THIS ALL OVER AGAIN THE NEXT TIME WE HAVE ARMAGEDDON COLD.
Shit Day Seven: On the seventh day I rested. And then the water bill arrived. It is four digits. We’ve never approached anything near half of that ever. But I am tired. I shall rest. And only slightly twitch from the blowers. And in the meantime I will mutter like a crazy person and my Jersey accent will come out in full force like it does when I get a little bit mentally imbalanced. I told you so. Ka-ching. The aliens are next.
I. Told. You. So.