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“Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science.” - Girl Genius, by Kaja & Phil Foglio

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke

Perspective, it's all about perspective ...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Clean Towels, Anyone? Or How I Spent TOO MUCH of My Week ...

A week ago Thursday (May 19), I came home from work to find a small flood in my laundry room. As I stood there perplexed, water oozed up out of the central drain and forced the leading edge toward my toes. I grabbed some towels to block the flow from reaching the doorway and my hallway carpet. Anyone who has tried this can tell you: towels do not make good dams. Or levees. Several minutes of outflow were followed by statis, then water slowly receding back into the drain.

This is the point where any lingering construction worker who poured the cement floor in there would have been dead meat. The drain is the high point of the room! There is sat, a small island. About an inch of water covered the room to the walls. I changed into some old sneakers, grabbed the broom and started slowly sweeping the water toward the drain. Eventually the floor was close to dry. I called the Association President so he could start finding a plumber, then tossed the towels into the washer.

Before I could start the machine, water erupted out the drain again, this time faster and longer. Before it was done I heard the toilet in the next room overflow. My daughter grabbed the rugs off the floor just in time. More towels down to form soggy levees. The bathroom slopes toward the tub, so water there didn’t reach the hallway. But the towels in the laundry room doorway were too wet to stop anything. Water seeped out from under the wall as well. More towels down, to blot the carpet. Set the washer for a Drain and Spin cycle to wring out that first batch of towels.

The Drain and Spin cycle takes ten minutes. It took about a minute and a half to get a batch of towels soaking wet. Soon almost every towel in the house was in the rotation. No plumber available until 7:30 AM.

Sweep, spin, sigh, watch the water emerge again. Repeat until about 1 AM, when the eruptions ceased.

Friday morning the cycle started again about 6 AM. Any water use by anyone in the building seemed to cause the backup into my unit. Not fun. The plumber showed at 7:35! Huzzah!!

Tree roots had blocked up the main sewer line from the building. I’m on the far side of the building from there. While the plumber worked several residents came out to watch and told him they’d been having problems for weeks. NO ONE CALLED IT IN!!!

Flood under control, I went to The Day Job. When I returned about 7 PM, I went back to work on the laundry room and bathroom. Still blotting up water from the carpet, but at least now I could wash the towels, not just spin them. Three bucketsfull of 15% Bleach water went down on the laundry room floor, under the working premise that the bleach water would go all the places the sewer water went. It did, including coming out from under the wall onto the hallway carpet. Joy. I let it sit for a half hour, then I swept it down the drain. More loads of towels into the washer, into the dryer. Bleached the bathroom floor, too. Blotted carpet. Washed and dried towels. Went to bed about 1 AM. Again.

Saturday I bleached the floors again. Towels in the washer, in the dryer. Blotted the carpet, then pried open the metal sealer things that hold the edge of the carpet down in the doorways. Pulled that sucker up, rolled it toward the living room. The pad was soaked, of course, with sewer water or bleach water I couldn’t tell. My nose was in bleach overload and would register nothing by then. Anyway, the pad went into garbage bags and out. I blotted up the water from the cement with towels, of course. More wash, dry cycles. The carpet was unrolled and propped up against the wall so it could dry from both sides. I set up a fan. About 4 PM I spread bleach on the cement, laid the carpet down on it, spread more bleach on top of the carpet, and went out to dinner with my daughter.

(Daughter wasn’t helping me because she was at her Day Job. She works 10 hour shifts, currently from 6 AM until 4:30 PM with a 45 minute commute on each end.)

After dinner, guess what we did? Blotted the bleach out of the carpet with those nice clean, dry towels! More washing and drying. Stood the carpet up again and went to bed. Maybe by midnight, I’m not sure.

Sunday afternoon I thought the cement would be dry enough to lay the carpet back down so I could run my steam cleaner over it, but it wasn’t. There were several stubborn spots that kept forming puddles. I was no where near being the brightest bulb in the chandelier at that point, so it took me way too long to figure out why.

The water heater was leaking.

And of course it wasn’t leaking to the DRAIN, but under the wall into the hallway.

Have I ever told you how much I love the Internet? If not, I’m telling you now. Checked out places online for water heaters, called the one with the best deal, and set up an appointment for Monday to have the new one installed.

He didn’t come until about 3 PM, but by 5 PM the real drying was underway. I steam cleaned the carpet about 8 PM and went to bed.

Tuesday morning (May 24, in case you're keeping track) when I got up I felt the carpet was still too damp, so I stood it back up against the wall. Went into the laundry room and took the last load of towels from the washer and put them in the dryer. Headed to the kitchen for breakfast. Before I got there I heard that telltale gurgling from the laundry room drain.

Yep. The sewer backed up again. More s**t in my house.

This time the toilets in both bathrooms overflowed. I was nearly hysterical as I tossed down the clean towels again so they could pretend to be levees. Called the Association President and was pretty much yelling at him to get the plumber out here NOW! I don’t think I swore, but I might have. The plumber from Friday didn’t answer the phone. Eventually they contacted another firm and they could be there in an hour and a half. That would be 11:30.

I had a really important meeting at work for 10:30. Had to go. So I went. At 11 my cell phone rang. The plumber was there. As our General Manager listened and tried to look serious, I explained to Plumber 2 where the main sewer outlet was. (I’d visited on Friday with Plumber 1.) I headed home about 11:15.

Plumber 2 had a camera, so the Association President saw that Plumber 1 only cut a small opening in the tree roots, didn’t clear out the mess. Plumber 2 cleared it; took about 45 minutes. But meanwhile no more flooding happened. WooHoo!

It was a breezy, low humidity day and I could practically watch the cement dry. So I didn’t go back to The Day Job. Instead I bleached the laundry room and both bathrooms. Twice. Washed a s**tload of towels. Drank a lot of lemonade; wished it were something stronger.

I was so glad I’d propped the carpet up when I did that morning, because it didn’t get wet. If it had been hit a second time I wouldn’t have bothered bleaching again, would have just tossed it.

I am grateful I have a house to bleach.

The carpet’s back down, sans pad. My house smells normal again. The heat we’re going to get in the next few days will be a test of my working premise of the bleach going wherever the sewer water went. If it didn’t, mold will grow in the drywall and then that will have to be replaced. The Association will pay for it, but I’ll have to clean the mess.

I’ve got lots of clean towels.