I’m wondering if there are some minor water gods whom I have offended. I’m deep into a love/hate relationship with water and I fear they’ve got the upper hand.
In a nominal effort to appear to be an optimist, let me first discuss the love. The universe is divided into two camps—bath people and shower people. (There also may be a third outlier camp of people who don’t bathe at all, but I presume they live in hand-built cabins in Montana where they build bombs with paper clips and elk droppings and have not communicated with other living beings since the dawn of the millennium.) I am firmly in the bath camp. I can’t sleep if I don’t take a bath. I spend my entire day counting down the hours until I can take a bath. I sometimes take more than one bath in a day and it’s a sacred ritualistic thing for me, well beyond being clean. Candles, lavender bath oil, Spanish monks singing Gregorian chant, the whole works.
I love water. But my hate of water is also fierce and unrelenting. I hate the free-range water in my house.
The first serious incident happened about ten years ago. I noticed the carpet in the corner of my basement, at the foot of the stairs, was discolored. After pulling out large pieces of drywall on two floors, the plumber found that there was a leak in a waste water pipe. It was expensive and messy. I thought I had paid my dues to the water gods.
A few years later, I called the refrigerator repair person because my icemaker wasn’t working. Sorry, ma’am, it’s not the refrigerator—it was the water line to the refrigerator. Next step—the plumber. Okay, fixed. Or so I thought. The water gods were snickering. Later that evening I went into the basement to get a light bulb. Water was running down the basement walls like a waterfall in a fancy hotel lobby. I had to turn off the water main to get it to stop. Something in the icemaker water line had failed. Plumbers, drywall repair, paint, carpets pulled up, more mess. The water gods were having a fiesta.
Next? A puddle of water under the kitchen sink. A friend fixed it for me. Didn’t work. I put a metal pan under the drip. I emptied it daily, offering my little daily homage to the water gods. They aren’t easily satisfied.
Spring came. It rained. I smelled something rank in the basement. My family room carpet was soaked and part of the drywall was discolored. My neighbor’s downspout was cracked, causing water to soak the foundation of my house. The man who repaired the carpet from the icemaker leak came back. He’s now on a first-name basis with me since I’m sending one of his kids to college. I paid to fix my neighbor’s drainage and reinforced my own drainage system for another layer of protection. Ha, it is to laugh, said the water gods mockingly, with a decidedly French accent.
Next—more rain, more water in the basement. Not as much water, but still leaking. It appeared that the crown of my chimney (three floors up from the basement) was cracked and water was seeping all the way into the basement fireplace. The carpet repair guy is on speed-dial. Two days of masonry work and a couple of thousand dollars and that leak went away. The water gods were doing high fives.
Then the hurricane season came and brought a day of torrential rain. A stream of water was flowing out of an electrical outlet in my basement. There was a leak in the window well. I had the window well removed, the wall bricked up and sealed, and had all the drywall repaired. It cost me again. The carpet fixer guy? Not this time. I replaced the carpet with a floating wood-look floor that could be removed in case of flooding. It wasn't cheap. The gods were laughing so hard they had tears streaming down their crummy little faces.
The latest and most horrific episode involved freezing rain and a flat roof—you know what’s coming—it’s an ominous combination. Water was dripping out of one of the ceiling lights in my dining room. The usual first step, I called the plumber who tore big holes in the ceiling. Sorry, ma’am, it’s not the plumbing because there is no plumbing in this ceiling; it has to be coming from somewhere else. It escalated—water out of all the ceiling fixtures on the first floor, water running between the walls and seeping up out of the wood floors in the upper level. Water in the basement. I could hear it trickling inside the walls and it was seeping into the house much faster than I could remove it. Long sad story—the roof had cracked under the weight of freezing rain and the ice began to thaw. I screamed out for mercy. Tarp over the roof, clean-up crew, a new roof, removal of ceilings and walls, painting, insurance appraisals, repairs ad nauseum. I know it’s hot in the desert, but I’m willing to give it a try. The water gods wouldn't dare follow me to the desert. Would they?
I suppose I should look at this amount of water in perspective. My first bad water experience involved much, much more water—the Atlantic Ocean. It was the summer I turned 12. My family went to Bethany Beach on the Delaware shore for a day trip. It was hot and the beach was packed blanket-to-blanket with people searching for some respite from the heat. My father stayed on the shore, watching my younger brothers while my mother and I waded into the ocean. We floated in relatively placid surf on a rented rubber raft. There was a growing distance between me and my mother, who was alone on the raft. As I tried to swim back to her, I lost ground, swimming forward but moving backward into the ocean. My feet no longer touched the ocean floor. I was quickly becoming tired as I moved farther from my mother and she began to realize that I was in trouble. After the fact, I knew that she began screaming, but all I knew at the time was sheer terror. I had never heard of a riptide and had no strategy to save myself. A riptide is sort of passive-aggressive water, looks innocent enough but has a really nasty streak. I was gasping, swallowing the ocean, when two lifeguards reached me and put me on a raft. I don’t know how much time elapsed, but as we neared the shore, they asked me if I wanted to ride in on a wave. Bad idea, but I must have agreed. The wave threw me and I washed up on shore like a half-dead mackerel. Obviously much more water than I could handle.
Maybe these water gods who are out to get me have been trying for many years. The lifeguards who saved my life in 1960 thwarted the water gods’ plan to snuff me at an early age so now I’m paying the price one drop at a time.