Wednesday, October 15, 2008

From the dumper to the dumpster © by adrian Part 2 of 2

The house is a disaster. Walls and parts of the ceiling have caved in and broken drywall is lying about on various areas of the floor. There is about two inches of water over all the visible floors. Even though the water was turned off the night before it's still dripping down the stairs and through the ceiling. I quickly go downstairs and reconfirm that the water is indeed turned off. The water that's still dripping is just what has saturated the walls and carpets from a two day onslaught of running water. The phone is still dead and I guess it shorted out from the water, thus precipitating the unscheduled house check.

Thirty minutes later the front doorbell goes. Linda has phoned the next door neighbor and wants to talk to me. She has already arranged for the insurance adjuster to start the recovery process, and at eleven a.m. someone will be here to inspect the damage and determine what needs to be done. I let her know what to expect when she returns home.

I return and slog through water continuing to look for some explanation of what happened. This house has always had a slight shift toward the front so I discover the back areas of the house are untouched. The bedroom and my computer/hobby room which is filled to the brim with electronics and camera equipment on the second floor are completely dry. The kitchen and living room at the back of the house on the first floor are also mostly dry.

The tank in the second floor toilet is empty, so I reason it may have cracked and started this whole mess. If the toilet tank breaks the water will just continue to run full blast. I turn off its supply line and go downstairs and hesitantly turn the main water back on. I quickly run back upstairs to see or hear if water is leaking from anywhere else. I also check if there is hot water and everything seems fine.

We have a toilet in the basement that still works so with some heavy boots on, this place is actually more or less habitable. Already I start to daydream that we may reach a new plateau of personal exploration. I envision Linda running around in something flimsy with big work boots on. Some new unexplored sexual fantasy may emerge. Life is good.

We brought home an antique outhouse toilet from the cottage and set it up in the garden a few weeks ago so we would also be able to use that.

Well, maybe not.

I picture Linda waking me in the middle of each night asking me where we left the flashlight so she can find her way outside.

I finally find the source of the leak. It turns out to be the coiled supply line that connects the toilet tank to the water line. It didn't come undone; it simply fell apart in the middle and water poured out of the hole for two days. I decide that as soon as I get a chance I will go back to solid copper supply lines to the toilet tank. Next time we go away we will also be sure to turn the water off.

I disconnect wires in a few of the phone connection boxes that I see have been waterlogged and hope that if they dry out the phone may start working again.

At eleven on the button the door bell signals the arrival of an estimator from a company named Burke's Restoration. Tony and I do a walk through (more like a slosh through actually) and he fills out forms with as much information as he can get. He says that tomorrow he will have a dumpster delivered and his crew will be here to start ripping out the affected areas and drying out what's left. He carries himself with the air of a man who appears totally unflappable but he briefly loses it when I ask if I should dress in formal black tie for the occasion.

I collect up any carpets that are loose and throw them over the banister on the back porch and then get out the wet/dry vacuum cleaner and start mopping up. About two in the afternoon the phone begins to reluctantly work again. The line is full of static, but it works. I phone Linda and update her on what is happening here. She lets me know her stepsister is arriving in Montfort soon, will stay overnight and then drive her back to Toronto the next day. Later, the phone returns to normal as the line dries out.

Tuesday morning brings a crew of workers who set up huge dehumidifiers and fans and then start cutting up carpet and ripping it off the floor. In the afternoon the dumpster arrives. I had pictured a small dainty apartment size dumpster but now lodged in our driveway is a no nonsense big grown up man sized dumpster.

Linda and I have a lot of stuff (well had, anyway). Once upon a time in a memory far away, I owned a house and rented the studio I also lived and worked in, so I had two of almost everything, stoves, fridges, dishes, beds, tools. When I sold the house much of it ended up at the studio. When we got married and I later closed the studio it all ended up here so we now had three of many things. We did garage sales, took lots to Goodwill and places like that, but the piles never seemed to get smaller.

Between the two of us we also have easily over a thousand books.

As I said we have a lot of stuff and now parked in our driveway is the very dumpster we had for years said we needed to help extricate us from this excess. I have the ten foot fluorescent sign out back that overhung my former studio. I have useless "Passport photos in five minutes" signs. Ornate pieces of banister railing, fur bits, lamps, all waiting for use in some undiscovered photo I will someday want to make. All of it horded in the off chance I will one day open another studio to play in. We now have the opportunity to get rid of as much excess baggage as we want. The gods have brought spring cleaning to us by way of a flood and a dumpster (fortunately no pestilence yet). I sense some of what's to come will be very cathartic.

The crew of workers starts tearing at the walls and floors like a pack of hungry Rottweilers. There is urgency to get it into the dumpster before the dreaded mold sets in. Whenever they come up for air I can hear them mutter to each other about the amount of stuff in the house. Before they leave for the day I ask if I can continue to add to the dumpster and they encourage me to fill it if I can. Little do they know!

Linda and her stepsister arrive later in the day and after they tour the devastation we go out for dinner. I've been here for a few days now so I'm a bit more cavalier about it all, but it certainly takes a bit of getting used to. Even though the dehumidifiers and fans have been going non stop there are still drenched carpets and walls full of water everywhere. We still come upon areas of the ceiling that are dripping. One saving grace is that it's all clean water. After seeing this I can't imagine what a drain backing up with sewage could be like.

The noise here is almost unbearable. We must leave the fans and dehumidifiers on twenty four hours a day and there are two on each floor, even right outside the bedroom door. I personally think this is a lot better than living in a motel until it's over; Linda is not so sure about that.

The next day brings the Rottweilers back (sorry Steve and Ryan, I'm sure you know we think you were both great) and the dumpster starts to fill up.

Other days bring different crews of people packaging dry books and other items into boxes. Another crew lists destroyed books and other items and takes them to the dumpster. As the hardwood floor starts to dry out it buckles insanely and so it is ripped up and tossed as well. During all this more pieces of wall and ceiling are added to the pile. We learn to navigate around the house on the beams and subfloor as we miss nails sticking up here and there. We don't wear hardhats, but shoes are a must everywhere we go. Eventually I go over the floors and all the nails get pulled but we stay with shoes anyway.

In the meantime we fill more than a dozen garbage bags of dry books and drop them off at Goodwill. All the book shelves are ruined and get tossed in the dumpster as well. I keep adding to the dumpster with as much dredge as we can find.

The house is now filling with boxes and we can barely move around in what was the remaining sanctuary. We are promised a "Cube" storage bin that everything will be moved to. It shows up after everybody goes home one day and the driver can't place it in the space left in the driveway. Next day the dumpster is picked up and moved further back into the driveway and one day later the Cube comes back and gets dropped in the driveway as well.

Our neighbors are thrilled for us because they think we decided to redecorate and then many offer to help when they hear our sad tale.

For the next five days new crews of workers return and while some fill boxes others fill the Cube with anything that isn't nailed down. A few days later Ryan returns with new assistants and tears apart what's left of the basement walls and ceiling.

It's been over three Months since this all began and we are managing to live in what we now refer to as our new "Squat". The dumpster has been taken away, but almost everything we own is still in the Cube in the driveway. There has been no word from the insurance company on what to do to get it all put back together, but so far they have been magnificent in arranging to take it all apart.

Overall not too bad, except for deductibles, most everything is insured. The house needs major repairs but it was all clean water (a breath of fresh air after fooling around that damn composter for weeks), we lost hundreds of books but they were due to be culled anyway. Some precious things and many old negatives gone... don't know yet what was saved or wrecked. Everything was packed so quickly it was impossible to keep track of what was going into the dumpster or what was aiming for the storage Cube, but done is done. A lot of photo equipment was wrecked, but again, nothing that I can't live without and amazingly as mentioned the computer hobby room and most of my current camera stuff didn't get a drop of water on any of it.

The big difficulty now seems to be getting it all put back together again. There have been huge rain storms in Toronto this summer and basements in hundreds of homes have been flooded, so there are no contractors available to do reconstruction work. We want to use the company that took the place apart as they have been unbelievably reliable, but that will mean waiting for a few extra months and continuing to live in our deconstructed house.

Who knows what's next. The other day I did come across a Home Improvement and Restoration Company that looks pretty good from the outside. I'm looking forward to getting into their showroom someday to see samples of the work they do, but they never seem to be around to answer their doorbell. I guess I will just have to keep trying.