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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Of Floods and Warnings

This is Steven Petrick posting:

Monday morning I awoke and went to the bathroom to shave. When I finished shaving I looked down casually for some unknown reason and saw that the edge of the bathmat closest to the sink was wet. I thought nothing of this, believing that it was simply some water that had somehow gone from the sink to the floor while I was splashing water on my face in preparation for lathering up to shave.

Thus I total missed, or at least failed to interpret, this ominous sign of impending disaster.

I went to work and did not return home until well after 2000 hours. I did not visit my bathroom until near midnight in preparation for going to bed.

The edge of my bathmat was still wet.

In face, all four edges of the bathmat were wet.

Not just wet, but thoroughly and completely soaked.

Examination of the underside of the sink revealed that water was leaking from one of the pipes.

Immediate action would normally dictate hitting the water shutoff, but those are frozen (have been for years, and reporting it through three different owners of the apartment complex never got anyone to come out and fix them). It probably would not have done any real good in this case anyway, as examination seemed to indicate that the leak was in fact the water shut off valve itself.

So I cleaned everything out from under the sink and inserted a bucket. I then called management.

I have noted before that the system used to manage my apartment complex is that there is an owner, who owns four of five (maybe six or more) apartment complexes, and maintains just one office to manage them all. So there is no on site manager whose door you can knock on. I made the phone call, and the person on the other end of the line took my name, address, and phone number and assured me that maintenance would be contacted. So at different parts of the night I dumped water from the bucket, and in the morning contacted the office and sat down to await maintenance.

I waited for maintenance all day Tuesday.

I spoke with one of my fellow tenants and he noted that he had once had to wait three days for maintenance to show up to deal with a leak in his bathtub. But then, the lead in the bathtub was after all contained in the bathtub. Mine was not, and was getting worse. (Take your pick on whether it was slowly getting worse, or rapidly getting worse, it is dependent on point of view.)

By this time the leak had "spread". There were now multiple leaks in the system, and no one bucket could be put in place to catch them all, and it was impossible to use multiple buckets because their round edges would always keep one of the drips from going into a bucket, and all of the leaks were worse. (I really need some square buckets, but I had none and no real idea where to find some that I could in fact secure in time to do any good.)

I was beginning to wonder when a pipe joint would just suddenly completely separate.

I called the number again, and this time was advised "We are just an answering service, you will have to call the office at 0800 hours to report the problem."

A full day wasted while things got worse. Gallons of water poured down the toilet, and now another night to spend tending my dying sink, and the many leaks continued to get worse. There was always water on the floor as the bucket filled, and mopping could not keep ahead of it.

Dawn of the third day arrived, and shortly after 0800 I called the office. Maintenance arrived somewhere near 0900. The guy did his best, but we had a new problem. He was unfamiliar with the apartments and did not know where the main water shutoff was. Naturally, he did not ask me as he set off for what used to be the manager's office (back when we had a live in one in the 1990s) in search of it. He moved quickly, so I was unable to restrain him when he headed in the wrong direction. By the time I caught up with him, he was on his cellphone to the guy who coordinated the maintenance and the two of them were trying to figure out where the water shut off was, looking in the laundry room for it. I was able to say, politely and calmly, that the water shut off was in the alleyway behind the apartment complex located in the middle of the length of the complex. I was not believed until I walked with him back there and showed it to him. Just at that moment the head of maintenance called to tell the actual maintenance guy that they had been unable to determine where the water shut off was, and he responded "I have found it, the tenant knew where it was."

I knew where it was because I got along well with the second set of owners and had helped them deal with water issues before and they had told me where the water shut off was because they trusted me to turn off all the water to the complex if it was necessary. (This was after an incident in which a water pipe to a washing machine in the laundry room had blown out and I was the tenant who reported it and tried to help.)

In any case, the pipes have now been replaced, and my bathroom sink is back in operation, and while the flood waters have receded, the flood damage is still being dealt with.

All because I missed that first little warning on Monday morning. If I had bothered to look under my sink then and report the leaking pipe bright and early that day . . .