Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Sept. 9, 2011


There was no reason to think the Sunday before last would be anything other than a quiet day. Daughter Katie had just finished her first week as a college student and, with some of the anxiety that comes with change now quelled, she had come home to spend the night. In many regards, it wasn't all that different for me. Despite having taught for 28 years, the introvert in me always anticipates the start of the semester with a touch of angst.

In contrast, husband Art's most stressful activity the previous week had been waiting for another bite. He was still in Wisconsin, starting the last week of his annual trout-fishing trip.

About mid-morning with Katie still sleeping, I completed a load of laundry and spoke with Art, who had decided to set the day aside to work on his genealogy. Around 11, Katie got up and joined me in the living room. A breakfast of pancakes sounded like a good addition to our tranquil day.

But tranquil didn't last!

Art first learned things had taken a turn for the worst when Katie called and yelled something he couldn't understand. He asked her to calm down and repeat what she had said, but she was too frantic to follow his instructions.

The call had been precipitated by what sounded like a "gush" of water in the basement. My first thought was that something had happened to the washing machine.

Katie and I tore down the steps, but never made it to the laundry room. The sight of water spraying in all directions in the furnace room greeted us as we reached the bottom of the steps. We ran around screaming for about three seconds and then I told Katie to call Art as I didn't remember how to shut the water off.

She called Art and soon had the pump shut down. But the water kept coming. Art suggested opening an outdoor faucet to release the pressure.

It did the trick.

Now, with water dripping everywhere, my main concern shifted to removing the wet boxes from the nearby shelves and dealing with the water on the floor.

But Art, always the engineer and the family "fix-it" man, had other priorities. With Katie's phone turned to "speaker," I could hear him ask in a calm voice, "Where exactly was the water coming out?"

I started yelling about it coming from a pipe in the ceiling and gushing like a geyser from the floor, too.

"Mom, shut up so I can hear Dad!" Katie said.

I did. Art explained the possibilities.

I sighed, knowing that nothing could be done immediately about the break But the cleaning up was another matter. Katie and I spent the next three hours removing boxes and putting them on the garage floor to dry. Luckily, I had stored most of our holiday decorations in plastic boxes so we just had to wipe them down. Then we mopped up the water and set up fans to help dry the floor.

By the time we had finished, we were both exhausted - a condition I'm certain helped fuel my irritation with Art. There he was 800 miles away in cool Wisconsin with little more on his plate than which trout stream to go to, while we were dealing with a household emergency in hot Kansas.

But as I thought about it, my irritation began to wane. I imagined the kind of mess we would have found if the break had happened while we were on vacation or at work or even just at a two-hour movie.

Later in the week, I told a friend what happened. She related how her water heater had "let go." The flood of water floated a comic book to the floor drain, clogging it. Three inches of water built up in her basement while she and her family were at work and school.

A few years ago, the pressure-relief valve on Mom's water heater failed and it, too, created a mess.

So while my situation was annoying, it certainly didn't come up to the level of those situations.

I then thought about something Art had e-mailed to me. It was part of a message from his friend Steve, a retired Emergency Medical Technician and fireman.

"As I told you, I'm a board member for the HOA (home owner's association) where we live now. With 80 occupied units, I've found we have some cranky folks here. I was on the receiving end of a complaint a few days ago from one of our more cranky ones about how brown the grass was and it was causing him to have a bad day.

I told him he may be talking to the wrong board member about what a bad day looks like. In my world, a bad day is losing your home by fire or even worse, losing a family member in that fire. A bad day was a phone call from the coroner that a son or daughter had been killed in a car accident or coming home and finding a family member hanging from the rafters ...

So until I started noticing corpses in the brown yards, it was still a good day."

Steve added, "I was probably a little hard on him..."

Perhaps, but it certainly put my broken pipe in perspective!

Christmas items, Easter baskets, one of our daughter's school projects, boxes and a
variety of things typically found in a basement spread across our garage floor drying.

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