Close Encounters of the Worst Kind
Yesterday afternoon at approximately 4:00PM, just when I was settling onto the couch to work up the latest Local News Tuesday post, just as Expat was headed to take a shower and change into more Appropriately Professorial Attire so as to cut a dashing figure at the evening’s lecture and dinner to follow, just as we were getting on with our Very Important Lives, Expat made a discovery.
“Honey? Come here for a minute.”
I walked from the couch to the bedroom to find Expat crouched on our closet floor, smelling his hand.
“Uh-oh. Is one of the Pre-Kids protesting?”
He shook his head. “I don’t think so. What do you think?”
I crouched, too, and pressed my palm onto the cheap beige carpet that covers the floor of every apartment in our entire Yuppie Apartment Complex. It squelched when I pressed it. Regardless of how much protesting it was doing, no cat had that much pee in its bladder. An exact, dark replica of my handprint was left when I pulled my palm back and sniffed. “I think it’s water. I wonder where it’s coming from.”
We stood up, looked around, scratched our heads. I walked around to the bathroom, which is just on the other side of the closet. I flipped on the light and stepped in the puddle. “Shit.”
The water was coming from the air conditioning vent over the sink. It had completely covered the floor in front of the sink vanity. It had saturated the carpet in front of the bathroom. It had crept down the wall and oozed into the closet, saturating the carpet there as well. It was leaving long, dark stains across the ceiling. It was creating a bubble in the plaster next to said air vent. And it was still dripping fairly steadily.
I called the apartment complex office while Expat hauled clothes off the closet floor. I told them to hurry. Then, I decided to go upstairs.
Our upstairs neighbors are a very nice middle-aged, middle-class couple with two Mercedes and three school-aged kids. We think at least one of the parents works for the new Mercedes plant. The kids come home from school, lock themselves in while they wait for their parents to come home, and then, from what Expat and I can tell, either: (A) jump like monkeys from one substantial piece of furniture to another; (B) shoot sizable, thudding arrows at the closet door; or (C) reenact death-defying action movie sequences in the living room, some of which require very energetic footraces and the overturning of said substantial pieces of furniture. On any given evening, we sit on our couch and determine their afterschool activity by the severity of the wild swinging of our overhead living room fan and the amount of plaster dust that sifts down from our popcorn-blasted ceiling.
The daughter answered the door when I rang the doorbell. I’d guess she’s about 13 and is definitely the Middle Child.
“Hi, I’m Sparky, your downstairs neighbor and I was just wondering if your bathroom was, perhaps, flooding.”
“Well, my brother came home and found it all covered with water. We weren’t sure what happened.”
I put on my very best Understanding Adult smile. “Oh, how weird. Well, do you know if the water is still running? I mean, can you tell where it’s coming from?”
“Um, well . . .”
“Tell you what—can I come up and have a look?” I walked past her as she opened the door, her face relaxing with visible relief at not having to explain the situation.
The bathroom in question was locked. Younger Brother (about 9 or 10) was stamping around on the carpet outside, soaking up the water with what appeared to be a baby blue bed sheet. Middle Sister pounded on the door, telling Older Brother (about 14 or 15) to open up. He did. Their bathroom wasn’t just covered, it was submerged in what I guessed to be a little less than an inch of water. The cheap hall carpet, while gradually absorbent, seemed to be acting as a partial dam when faced with such a large quantity, allowing the water level in the bathroom to rise enough to make the plastic wastebasket bobble a bit in its place beside the toilet. The toilet in question was sitting silently—in fact, no running water could be heard at all, which I took to be a good sign—but the noticeable brown smudges around the upraised toilet seat didn’t add much to my comfort level.
“So what happened again, exactly?”
Middle Sister slid her eyes from my face to the wall just beyond my head. “We don’t know. My brother just came home and found it like this.”
“Ah, right. Okay, well, I’ve already called maintenance and they should be stopping up here first, so when they come, be sure to let them in, okay?”
“Yes ma’am. Thank you.”
I headed back downstairs. Expat went ahead and took his quick shower. Then the maintenance men began showing up in a steady caravan. I explained what I knew. They nodded. “Plugged toilet,” they said.
“All of this?” I said, waving my hands toward the heap of soggy towels I’d used to soak up the water, to the stained and suspiciously bubbly ceiling, to the squelching carpet.
“Yes, ma’am. Toilet stopped up and overflowed.”
“They said they don’t know how it happened—that they just came home and found it like this.”
“Told us that, too. But you caught it just in time—it hadn’t soaked into the underlay.”
“So it probably happened this afternoon?”
“And I’ll bet they just didn’t know who to call.”
“And I’ll bet they tried flushing the toilet more than once.”
“I’d say. Probably embarrassed.”
“Probably.” I nod. I can understand this. Kids get embarrassed. They worry what others will say. They worry that they’ll get in trouble.
Expat understands it, too, but can’t quite get past something. “Poo water? We had kiddie poo water dripping into our bathroom?”
“Well, it was clean water by then, you know—just overflow from the toilet.”
“Which was clogged with kiddie poo. I don’t want no kiddie poo water dripping on my head!”
I know my husband is serious when he trots out the double negatives.
Yet in light of this, in light of all of this—the poo water, the bulging plaster, the severe and wild swinging of the overhead fan—I can sit down on my couch and smile.
We close on our new house in about 1 month. A 2,100 square foot house. A monument to 1970s wallpaper that surely deserves a post of its own.
Before that can happen though, we have a few updates from Local News Tuesday and the Black Warrior Files that I need to get back to.And before that can happen, I need to go by some renter’s insurance. You know. Just in case.