I learned this morning that my new neighbors are pretty cool. When the Polish family downstairs moved out, I idly hoped that a bunch of single women would move in. Alas, my wish fell one ‘wo’ short. I had seen a couple of the guys coming and going, in the last few days, but I had not had a chance to say more than ‘hello’.
Early, early this morning, before the sky had even begun to turn light, I slowly emerged from deep slumber, gradually becoming aware that someone was banging on my door. It did not occur to me right away that there might be a good reason someone was knocking. “Oh, great,” I thought. “The new guys are getting home from a bar and they’re drunk and they want to share the joy.” That thought didn’t last long. Other sounds were starting to register, but I was still a bit surprised when someone opened my front door. I stood up and — splash.
I thought of several different titles for this episode over the course of the morning, from “The great flood of ’06” to “Bad day for dust bunnies.” The title I chose is a cross between the most common phrase I heard this morning, tý vole, which is a not-very-polite word, and voda, czech for “water”. (Tý vole translates literally as “you ox”, but over the last few decades has for whatever reason become the default curse.)
Water. Lots of water. I stood in the kitchen, water covering the tops of my feet. It was dark; the only light came from the hall. The main breaker for my flat had popped. I was annoyed at that moment, not considering that my feet were in water than also had power strips floating in it. Yes, overall it’s a good thing that circuit breakers break circuits now and then. (There was little danger of me being electrocuted; the wiring would have caught on fire before I got up.)
Voda, Voda, everywhere, but not a drop of čaj. I really wanted a cup of tea at that moment.
I live on the top floor, and water, being composed mostly of matter, responds readily to the call of gravity. It is crafty in the number of paths it can find to make its way downhill. The water was flowing out my front door in waves, cascading down the stairs and pouring in delicate little waterfalls from one flight to the next. I could see paint lying on the treads of lower flights; as the water sought the center of the earth it paused to work its polar molecule magic on whatever substances it encountered, and paint and plaster were the biggest victims. Water doesn’t necessarily have to go over things to get where it wants to go; it can go through as well. By the time my landlord woke up this morning, water was dripping from his ceiling. That can’t be good.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m a big fan of water; everybody should have some. But when you just let it run loose, nothing good can come of it.
As I stood in shock, awe, and tea deprivation, the new neighbors had already sprung into action; and before long we discovered that shutting off the main to the water heater stopped the flow. About then I looked at the clock. 5:45 am. The downstairs neighbors had been getting ready to go to work when they noticed that something was amiss. I set to trying to get as much of the water down a drain, as opposed to letting it soak through the floor and into my landlord’s apartment. As I used a dustpan as a surprisingly effective water scooper, I began to appreciate the acre-foot. (For those still mired in the metric system, an acre-foot is a unit of volume — the amount of water it would take to cover an acre of land to the depth of one foot.) I was dealing with an apartment-inch. I scooped and scooped, then the neighbors hauled in towels and buckets and eventually (after emptying the large buckets several times), we got the situation under control. The bucket team headed downstairs, where the basement was getting deep. I stayed upstairs and commenced mopping-up operations.
Incidentally, when you’re dealing with a major flood, it’s a good idea to keep one towel dry through the first phase of operations. It was purely accidental in my case, but having a towel that wasn’t saturated made a big difference at the end.) By 7:30 the worst was over and a nice lady arrived to help me clean up. She chased puddles in the corners while I tipped up the furniture to see how things were underneath. The plumbers arrived at 8:00, and by 8:30 they were gone, the electricity was back on, and I had my tea.
I have yet to try any device whose power adapter was on the floor (luckily I have a spare for the laptop), and my WiFi thingie was on the floor as well. Tomorrow, perhaps, we will learn the fate of those electronics. The insurance guy comes on Tuesday.