House

Just over a week ago, and after months of preparation and research, searching, and financial paperwork, Jodi and I moved into our home. We bought a house, and the minute we closed on the place we had family ready to help us run ethernet, paint rooms, and unpack valuables. The pack from our rental house took 2 days, and the move took 1. We unpacked a lot over a few days and then settled into a routine of unpacking a bunch of boxes each evening as we setup offices, guest bedrooms, and our multi-purpose room (games and exercise).

We were super-excited, if a little overwhelmed. Owning a home isn’t a right – it’s a responsibility. We took this very seriously, paid extra money for a more detailed inspection prior to closing, and started making a list of all the things that needed repair or upgrade. But, the thing about life is that, as one of the department administrators says at SMU, it’s what happens while you’re making plans.

Jodi and I returned home on Thursday night to find our back gate unresponsive to the remote control. We assumed it was dead batteries, or some such thing. We drove around front and I went in to open the gate manually from the back yard. Jodi drove around back to wait for me. As I turned the key to the door and opened it, I heard water running. As the door opened, I realized it was the sound of water spilling on the floor of the half-bathroom across the foyer. I got upset, thinking that the sink was left on in the morning and spilled over the basin onto the floor. I realized I was also hearing water noises from the kitchen, and upstairs. As I walked into the half-bath, my flip-flops were overtopped by the water on the floor. I realized water was pouring from the ceiling.

The mind is a funny thing. I remember saying, “No . . . no . . . no . . . no . . . ” over and over again. I felt panic jump up my throat. I splashed to the back door and hesitated as I got to the kitchen; the back gate isn’t working, I thought, because the electricity is shorted. What if I electrocute myself in this water?

I realized that I didn’t care. To be fair, I did care, but I needed to tell Jodi, I was already standing in water, and I headed for the back door. The gate needed to be open manually. I pulled the crank handle for the gate out of its case and shoved one end into the small hole on the side of the gate motor. This was when I realized how PAINFULLY slow the manual crank is. All I remember thinking was that line from the first Austin Powers movie, “Begin the painfully slow dipping mechanism.”

I got the gate open enough to run to the opening and beckon to Jodi. I told her the house was flooding and she needed to come around front.

I remember very little after that. I remember that she went out to the front yard and pulled the metal cover off the water main shutoff. Normally you need a metal key with a handle to lift the lid; she did it with her bare hands. I remember that I went to the attic to find the hot water tank there spewing water out a hole in the top. I turned the intake shutoff valve; this slowed the water but it wouldn’t stop.

We couldn’t get the water main shutoff valve to turn, and we didn’t have one of those long-handled keys to turn it. She called our realtor, Lance, who was a God-send through and after the homebuying process. He and his wife were within 30 minutes of our house, and Lance started over. I snapped him a picture of the water main shutoff, and texted it to him. Since the obvious valve wasn’t turning, I used the wrench to knock leaves around and look for another. We got off the phone with Lance and Jodi ran down the street to talk to a neighbor we had met a couple of days earlier (and who baked us a great cake as a welcome to the neighborhood). She wasn’t home. Jodi called her. She told Jodi to see her neighbor, Carl.

Meanwhile, I went back in the house. My mind had cleared. I remembered something from my colleagues’, Profs. Scalise and Cotton, class on the scientific method: everybody relies on eyewitness testimony, even though it’s been shown to be highly unreliable, but in an era when a TON of people have a camera on their mobile phone few of us witnesses think to whip it out and shoot video. I whipped out my phone and started shooting.

Above is the result. When you watch the end, please note that the reason the water stopped when I got back into the attic was because that neighbor, Carl, was home and he has a water main shutoff key. By the time I got the attic, he’d cut the water to the house. That’s why the water stopped pouring out of the tank.

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