Sunday, January 17, 2010

What floats beneath

The reader(s) of this column may remember from last week that my house just experienced an aquatic mishap so severe that, had it taken place on a submarine, the remedy would have been to close the hatch to the bottom floor, sealing it off before the whole thing went down.

The ensuing events have been quite informative about how to recover from a water-damaged basement, after the stomping-on-every-towel-in-the-house technique has been exhausted. We learned about how to start the recovery process from my in-laws, who had recently experienced the unfortunate privilege of living in the first house uphill from a sewer blockage, which sent raw sewage a foot deep spewing into their basement through their downstairs john, marking perhaps the most unpleasant thing to come out of a toilet this side of the movie “Ghoulies.”

That fiasco at the in-laws’ helped my wife Kara and I to keep the proper perspective with our own basement problems. Whatever issues you may be having in life, if you can describe them without using the phrase “raw sewage a foot deep,” then maybe things really aren’t that bad.

When we came home to discover the damage on New Year’s Eve, I went running around to the neighbors’ houses, knocking on doors in the hopes of procuring a dehumidifier, only to discover that we were the only ones home on New Year’s Eve, adding “being the biggest losers in the neighborhood” to our list of problems.

After several frantic phone calls, my buddy Sergey came through in the clutch, giving me instructions, as drunken voices reveled in the background, for breaking into his house to steal his dehumidifier, a task that would have been much more exciting had his Rottweiler been home.

“Oh, the dog’s not there?” I said, pulling the tranquilizers back out of the T-bone steak.

Upon returning home and sloshing across the basement carpet, I set down Sergey’s dehumidifier and plugged it in. Water dripped from the ceiling. Drywall slowly crumpled. Newlyweds floated by on gondolas while their boatmen sang, “That’s Amore.”

But still, the dehumidifier bravely soldiered on, trying to get rid of the moisture when the odds were so clearly dripping against it. It was like the last of the 300 Spartans, but without the loincloth or the Crisco-smeared torso.

The next morning, Kara’s parents recommended that we call Servpro, the company whose motto is “Like It Never Happened.” This motto refers only to floods and fires, so there wasn’t anything they could do about Brian Kiernan shoving me into the girls’ room in tenth grade.

Very quickly, the Servpro folks removed our ceiling, cut out our walls, tore up our carpet and placed gigantic drying machines all over the house. The cumulative noise from these machines was indistinguishable from that of a jet engine, the presumable idea being to trick you into imagining that you were not in a messed-up house, but on the tarmac beside a flight bound for the Bahamas.

The strangest thing about this whole experience has been the help from our insurance company. When their check arrived, I gripped tightly onto the mailbox as I opened the envelope, bracing myself for the Earth to start spinning the other way, water to start running uphill and baked potato chips to start tasting better than fried ones.

I hesitate to say it before the repairs have really even started, but the insurance company has actually been quite helpful so far. Oh, okay, it’s Allstate. They’ve been very good. So good that I’ll probably never need to devote a month’s worth of columns to the negative experiences that I don’t foresee having.

In any event, we’re now dried out and starting to think about getting put back together again. And if things go south from here, at least I still have those tranquilizers.

You can hit Mike Todd’s eye like a big pizza pie at


  1. DUDE, bro - those pictures ain't pretty. Glad to hear you're getting to the other side of things - good luck! Hugs, Anonymous Ames

  2. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  3. Dude, did you get the Servpro guy's release before posting those pictures?

    ... and on a side note, that's what you get for wanting to tranq my dog. :)

  4. I love that you are able to keep your sense of humor about it all.

  5. Glad to know that you're all dried out, but you never can be too careful. A friend had a similar problem in their basement...thought that the basement was completely dry...long story short they had to tear it all apart in less than three months, due to mold.

    P.S. Rottweilers make great neighbours. :)

  6. I've seen ads for ServPro. I'm glad to hear that they do good work.

    I could only imagine how often you had to empty the dehumidifier.

  7. Ames -- Dang, you are incognito! And thank you.

    Marion/Alena -- You're not a human, but thanks for the kind spam words.

    Sergey -- I promised them royalties not to exceed 50% of the dough I pulled in from this post. We're all squared up.

    ZenMom -- Thanks! It's because I can't cuss in the column.

    Loon -- Dude, don't say the M-word around here. Mold, I mean. We're trying to keep that in the fridge, where it belongs.

    Jered Earl -- A comment! You must have a new post. I shall check it out.