I got home from work around midnight last night, looking forward to going right to bed. I dropped my briefcase by my desk in the sunroom, changed into pajamas, and went to turn down the covers — but found myself instead splashing through a good half-inch of water. That’s right: SPLASHING. At first, it didn’t register. I don’t live on the Mississipi flood plain, or in a humid basement, or in a Cirque du Soleil production — so a splashing bedroom was about the last thing I would have expected. Nevertheless, about three-quarters of the carpet in my bedroom was absolutely soaked, as was nearly half of the living room carpet. I hadn’t noticed the water in the living room because I’d been wearing shoes before, and because the dark blue area rug had soaked up the water in a way that didn’t splash.
|You can see my footprints because they’re actually little puddles.|
I called the management office’s answering service and asked for maintenance ASAP, and then set about saving the furniture. My first thought, naturally, was to save the Turkish carpet in the bedroom. One doesn’t fly to Turkey to buy carpets only to let them drown in mysterious flood waters. Fortunately, that carpet had avoided the worst of the wet. The other furniture, though wasn’t so well situated. The bed, being metal, was fine, but in the living room the wooden feet of the armchair and the TV cabinet had soaked up about an inch’s worth of water, and the wood was already deformed.
When I’d moved everything but the TV cabinet, Oscar the maintenance man showed up. He declared instantly that the TV cabinet needed to be moved (thank you Captain Obvious) — and then waited for me to move it. Because why would a 6’3″ burly man in overalls be moving furniture when he had me on hand?
Once the TV cabinet moved safely to the side, he opened the air conditioning closet and discovered the source of my affliction: The drain pipe for the air conditioning units in my apartment and every apartment above me had broken — so the air conditioning water from 9 floors of apartments was flowing freely into chez moi.
|Inside the utilities closet.|
Having identified the problem, Oscar launched into destruction mode: The carpet was up, the padding ripped out, and we were down to bare cement and water in the living room by 1:30am. Then he brought in four giant fans, trained them on the living room floor, and called for reinforcements to tackle the bedroom. Once they’d taken car of that, they would focus on repairing the pipes in the air conditioning closet.
|Oscar peeling back the first layer.|
|The state of affairs at 1:30am|
Needless to say, by this time I was not a happy camper. I don’t do well with surprises at the best of times, and this was not the best of times. I was in the middle of what was likely to be another 80-hour work week, with meetings early the next morning, and now I found myself shunted aside in my own apartment at 1:30 in the morning — with no prospect of sleep anytime soon
So I grabbed my toothbrush and my pajamas (which I’d changed out of before Oscar showed up), and headed out to find a hotel. Normally, this should not have been difficult: there are three hotels within two blocks of my apartment. And yet… I walked to the Hilton: no room. I walked to the Holiday Inn: no room. Feeling like the Virgin Mary on Christmas Eve (minus the contractions), I made my way to the Westin. Yes, they had room. (Yay!) That will be $400, please. (Gasp!) Apparently the Westin is a “business hotel,” which apparently means they get to pretend that they are in Manhattan instead of suburban Virginia. Since the Westin didn’t offer a stable, and I didn’t like the prospect of a night on the street, I handed over my card. As I lay in bed, I began reviewing in my mind those law school classes about property law, especially the cases about when a tenant is entitled to withhold rent as a result of “constructive eviction” by the landlord…
|The next morning, fans ablow.|
|Fans under the carpet in the bedroom.|
|And in the sunroom.|
Unfortunately, that wasn’t quite the end of the story. For as expensive as the hotel room was, I only got about 4 hours of sleep before having to go back to work for an early meeting. I worked through the day and, when I had a break in the afternoon, was surprised that I hadn’t heard anything from the management office of my building, despite my many emails during the middle of the night. (Cue the godmother.) I called the management office and spoke with an idiot who apparently did not think it was management’s job check in on tenants who are displaced due to major equipment malfunctions. Nor did they think it was at all appropriate for them to have to cover the cost of my hotel room. Why should they be responsible for my personal choice to go to a hotel when their maintenance staff had responded in such a timely manner to my request for assistance? (Why indeed?!) And no, a manager was not available to discuss this further.
I hung up the phone. I was not okay. I was stressed about my unmanageable workload, I hadn’t slept well for days and was operating on less sleep than usual, I hadn’t eaten properly since the day before, and I’d just been patted condescendingly on the head by a smug little prick of a leasing agent. I needed a minute to regain my composure. But could I have that minute? No. Of course not. Just as I had closed my office door and drawn the curtains, my secretary popped her head in! (#$!@) I did what any normal person would do: I completely fell apart.
Fortunately, for all her bad timing, my secretary is actually wonderful. She came over and gave me a big hug and listened as I explained the situation. Then she offered to get her ski mask and a baseball bat.
From there things got gradually better. My building manager actually called back and was willing to have a decent conversation about the situation. She didn’t agree to cover my hotel costs, but she said she would “see what she could do.” (Which might be code for “I hope you die,” but at least on the surface it was a step in the right direction.) Then I went home and ate some food. (Or, rather, drank an instant breakfast, which is often all I can stomach when I’m in a state — thanks to Lady for introducing it to my diet back in law school.) And I got some sleep.
Lots of sleep. I didn’t go to bed any earlier than usual (the firm could care less that my personal life was in shambles; the work still needed to be done). But I didn’t wake up quite on time. In fact, instead of getting up at 6:30am as planned, I woke up by accident at a quarter to 10. (Gulp.) The nice thing, though, about having had dinner and a good sleep, is that suddenly I could actually deal with the situation. It wasn’t ideal to be walking into work at 11am (which I did), but there wasn’t a single thing I could do about it. So why stress? What a difference a few hours of sleep make.
Which, in addition to anything else I might have learned through this ordeal, was a great reminder of just how subject we are to the physical forces of our bodies. As much as I might think that I’m an intellectual or spiritual or even emotional creature, at the end of the day I am just as much (if not more) a physical creature. Even the things that I think are mental or emotional, like stress about work and anger about the flood situation, are so much a product of the chemistry and physics of my body. I don’t think I’m very good at being a physical creature.