It’s all quiet until the pipes break
A friend needed to borrow something, and I said, “Come over whenever. Im having a really quiet weekend.It was going to be cold. My husband, an editor like me, was heading off to the Utah desert very early Saturday for a photo shoot. I would stay home with kids.And then at 9 p.m. Friday, the boys were playing football in the basement when suddenly they pounded upstairs, shouting, “A pipe broke!”Note the delicate passivity of the sentence construction: as if to say, “The paper tore!” or, “A punch was thrown!”They also said, “There’s water!”The two had been playing tackle in the small concrete room downstairs containing utilities; some stored skis, snowboards and golf clubs; and a small home climbing wall, beneath which the floor is padded with old mattresses and gym mats. It would later transpire that Roy, the younger, had landed on a pipe protruding from the base of one of two 300-gallon holding tanks.From beneath him emitted a sound like “ZZZZ.” Then water sprayed out in five directions, and the boys looked at each other bug-eyed, asking, “What should we do?”They ran up the stairs. We ran down the stairs.Water spread in a lake across the concrete floor, soaking the mattresses. The kids shouted frantic apologies, and Roy, fearing complete household submersion, was sobbing, “My hermit crabs!”The water moved into the hallway, lapping along the bottom of the bookcase.Mike sloshed swiftly across the utility room and shoved the pipe back onto the tank, which is as tall as I am. It had to be held perfectly, or two to five of the jets would explode again. He wedged a lever beneath it, but it, too, had to be painstakingly held. I took over the job, crouching on the floor for half an hour.It was 9:30 p.m. Mike was supposed to meet Kir, the sports model, and Bret, the art director, on the highway at 4 a.m.He called Kir. No answer. She, an athlete in her 30s, had naturally gone to bed, since she was getting up at 3 a.m. He called Bret, a coworker in his 20s, who naturally was not in yet, since it was before 3 a.m.The water flowed under walls, spreading under the downstairs freezer and through backpacks and crates of climbing harnesses and hardware, then into the guest room, deep into the carpet. It rolled through one last doorway, and under a vacuum cleaner.Mike, saying nothing that can be repeated, dialed dials and threaded a long hose down the hall and out the door. Over the course of an hour, during which the pump ominously stopped, he drained hundreds of gallons of water out into the dark backyard. I heaved the sodden mats up sideways, where they flopped and buckled, and dragged and pushed them outdoors. The boys and I silently mopped and squeezed sponges into large buckets.Now we had no water, because the pump had stopped. Have you ever tried to get a plumber at 10:30 p.m. on a Friday? We couldn’t either. Finally, Mike set an alarm so that he would awaken to call Kir and Brett at 3:30 a.m., after which he slept another couple of hours.At 8 a.m. he phoned Ken, our neighbor, a skilled blacksmith and fix-it-yourself sort. Ken ambled over, genial, coffee cup in hand. A little coffee dripped onto a sisal rug in the hallway.”No worries, thanks for coming!” I shouted. “I’ll wipe it up.” Then I remembered I had no water.The two descended into our humid underworld, conferred, restarted the water, and jury-rigged the system. Mike hurried out the door at 11 a.m. Eight hours late.Recently, a friend called before coming to town, and I offered a place to stay. “Just call when you get here,” I said. “I’m having a really quiet I mean, just call me.”Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at email@example.com.
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