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Thursday, April 8, 2010

People, Plumbing, and the American Dream

The downstairs, next-door renter called.

“Water’s exploding everywhere!” his voice mail said, a slurred mixture of hysteria and ecstasy. “It’s coming out of the kitchen light fixture and – and – hic! – it’s all over the floor so, um, call me back and, um… Yeah. OK. It’s not an emergency or anything.”


Hmm. Water exploding and coming out of light fixtures.

But it’s not an emergency.

The last time we had water-based dealings with the downstairs, next-door unit was four years ago.

The renters at that time had gone to Hawaii for a week, leaving us in charge of their cat, Pickles, an introverted animal we never actually saw but whose existence was confirmed with a number of framed photographs.

It was on one of our twice-daily forays to feed Mystery Cat when we came upon a scene rarely encountered outside of rated-R movies, a scene heavy with foreboding…

Seeping out from under the closed bathroom door was water, water of a shade that could only spell looming disaster.

Conflicting emotions forced me into a forward-moving/backward-stepping mambo until my landlord-ly duty propelled me onward, where the plumbing bill that was surely in my future went up in increments of $100 as I turned the doorknob.

Awaiting was the bathroom floor, a lovely parquet, all a’slime. The toilet mocked me from across the room, filled to its porcelain brim with a most appalling sludge.

Remind me to tell you of one of the bravest things I’ve had to do, to date. It involves a pair of elbow-high rubber gloves, a ladle, a five-gallon bucket, and only partially successful suppression of the gag reflex.

But now? What now? Was this or was this not an emergency?

Willie changed from flannel lounging pants to jeans, pulling on his boots and dashing next door.

I got on the phone with the woman upstairs, next-door.

“Karishma! This is Pearl. Will you check your bathroom, please? Are you flooding?”

Karishma assured me she was on her way home, less than five minutes from home, and would get back to me immediately.

Looking outside, I watched as Willie knocked on Dave’s front door. Leaning out the window into the winter air, I hollered, cupping my hands for better hollerin’ effect: “Karishma’s on her way home!”

My phone rang. “Pearl, this is Karishma. I spoke with Lonnie, and she said that she had overflowed the bathtub, but by less than a gallon, she assures me!”

Four minutes later, she pulled up to the front of the house. Putting it into park and leaving her purse in the car, she dashed to the front door. Willie, who was still waiting for Dave, followed her in her flight up the stairs and confirmed moments later that the amount of water on the floor was easily absorbed by three large towels.

Dave never did answer the door, although he did call us two days later to apologize for having reported that water was “exploding” everywhere, that it had, in fact, been more of a drip than an explosion.

That was four months ago, and we’ve heard nothing since.

Economy aside, tell me truthfully now: Do you think it’s too late to invest in something a little more practical, cheaper to handle?

I’m thinking fishing bait or hookers, something with a future…


DevilsHeaven said...

This is exactly why we hate being landlords. Backup sewer, twice now.
I would be a puddle of boneless jelly if I had to deal with that on my own. God bless the hubs.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Hard to know what's a safe investment these days, but fish bait sounds good to me.

Simply Suthern said...

We thought about renting our old house. We decided we wernt brave enuff. I grew up with a friend who's dad raised red wigglers(earthworms sold as bait). It was a family business. He passed away a couple years ago. I guess he's with family again now. Not sure if thats a good or bad thing. Kinda like a cop going to prison.

Pat said...

A newer house as a rental--ten years old or less, one of those foreclosures.

Tail-Kinker said...

I'm betraying my nerdliness here, but Magic the Gathering cards can be a good investment. They don't lose value overall, even when the economy tanked.

Plus if you're a nerd like me, you can actually play with them, and justify an addiction by telling yourself and your husband they are a good investment.

Mandy's Kidding said...

My last landlord took two weeks to fix my non-functioning washing machine (which stopped working one week after I moved in) and then never sent an exterminator to check the mouse traps (I discovered inadvertently in the ceiling of the basement) after I called to tell her there was a dead mouse hanging from the ceiling.

*Happy to be a homeowner*

Kr√ęg said...

Real estate is ALWAYS a dicey investment, what with market fluctuations, upkeep, and questionable tenants.

That's why I just stick with the insane profit margins from cutting and selling pure Colombian.

Ruthibelle said...

water 'exploding' everywhere?? A little overstated... a little. Prime candidate for a nice slap.

Anonymous said...

Well...your renter obviously suffers from EEL Syndrome (Extreme Exaggerating Liar Syndrome).

One effective treatment for this is to tape a piece of paper on his front door announcing that his rent has been raised to $10,000,000 per month.

After he moves out...get a more ACCURATE renter in there that doesn't tell stories.

Susan said...

A plumbing business might raise some revenue. Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

You are much braver than I am. Fish hooks for sure.

Joanie M said...

Bait shop, definitely.

Teena in Toronto said...

I wasn't a great renter at times so wouldn't be a very good landlord.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes water coming out of a light fixture could be a bad thing and it may actually take a moment to realize that it's not something more serious like a broken water line, which if left untreated could cause serious issues.

Marla said...

When I pictured you in a pair of elbow-high rubber gloves with a ladle, a five-gallon bucket, and an only partially successful suppression of the gag reflex, I gagged. No seriously, I did!

R. Jacob said...

I was at a friends home one day, they rented, and as we sat at the table having a beer or two and I noticed water in the lightbulb overhead. I couldn't figure out if it was the beer or was it really happening!