At 6 a.m. on Saturday, I awoke to the sound of spattering water. At first I thought maybe the expected thunderstorms had arrived and were blowing in through an open window, but when I got up to investigate, it was clear the sound was coming from the bathroom. I switched on the lights and discovered that water was streaming from them, and from the ceiling itself, and rapidly covering the bathroom floor. (Jenny took one look, declared, “There’s nothing we can do about it,” and collapsed back into bed, where she slept through the rest of the incident. I thought about waking her, but there wasn’t much point, so I let her get her rest.)
I quickly called my landlady, who fortunately answered the phone and said she’d be right over. Then I set to dashing back and forth with towels and every large pot and garbage can I could find, pausing in between to take various paintings down off our dapening walls. Eventually I realized that I ought to go upstairs and wake the Ooghes. When we had a similar problem a few months ago, it was a leak behind their toilet that did it, and when I got upstairs, I could hear the rush of water inside their apartment.
A groggy Robert emerged, went into his bathroom and managed to turn off the flow of water to his toilet, whose tank had somehow cracked during the night. (Our guess is that the earlier repairs to the hose leading to the tank had stressed the porcelain.)
By this time, the water had begun to spread beyond our bathroom, running along dampening seams across our living room. A steady flow ran down the wall and over the circuit-breaker panel, while more water had begun to run from one of the recessed lights in the living room. A steady drip fell from in front of our front door, while the frame of the bathroom door was now a flowing cascade.
Meanwhile, our landlady arrived with her mother and their usual fix-it guy, a Chinese fellow whose only other language is Spanish. They were admirably calm, though I was a bit startled to see our landlady’s aging Chinese mother immediately plunge to the floor and begin mopping the hardwood floor with the heap of towels I’d built up. She was right, though: keeping the floor dry was crucial unless we wanted to face the expense and hassle of replacing wavy floorboards.
As the crisis was brought under control, I made coffee for Robert, Lydia and myself, and we enjoyed some pleasant conversation in the drier section of my living room. (It was lucky I had water in my Brita in the fridge, because the fix-it man had shut off all water to the building.) Once operations moved to the Ooghe’s apartment, we followed the repairman up there and continued our chat, now joined by Lydia’s hamster, who did not have much to say.
After a while, our landlady, her mother and the repairman headed out, declaring, “We’ll be back,” and they returned soon enough with a brand new toilet. Installation took a few hours, and then everything was mostly back to normal. Our apartment dried gradually, with towels taking turns on the radiators. A chunk of paint still hangs limply from our bathroom ceiling, and the bathroom door frame is still too swollen for us to shut the door properly. But we all agreed that it could have been much worse, and it was a good thing we were all home.