Monday, March 23, 2009

Of sump pumps and sanity

Kristie registered a complaint about my blog – there’s not enough writing in it. Plus, she can’t access all the video and ipapers I put on there.

The truth is I was just learning how to embed stuff in my blog, so I was having a bit of fun with it. Plus, I’ve been swamped with work, so I haven’t had any time to blog.

I can’t believe all that has been packed into the past week.

My previous real blog entry detailed our troubles with water pressure on Sunday. I thought “What next?”

Well, “next” came Monday when I got home from school. Since it was warm and sunny, I decided to park in front. Whenever it’s cold, I pull my car in the garage. You can’t imagine how I look forward to spring when I don’t have to do that and I can just leave my car out on the street without fear of calendar parking or having to warm it up.

I came in to the house after a good day of school and a general feeling that all was well with the world. I couldn’t wait to see Kenzie, so I entered the kitchen where Gail was holding Kenzie.

After kissing my little girl and making her giggle, I opened up the door to the basement to let our dogs out. That was when the “next” struck, for I noticed water – literally – running in through the back door and down the basement steps.

I made the mistake of opening the back door to see what actually was going on. That was when water really began to flow in since there was at least six inches of water backed up against the door.

Since it was so nice out, the snow, which had been piled up along our sidewalk, melted quite rapidly. This was compounded by the fact that our old sidewalk has sunk and actually descends as it gets closer to the house. This was compounded by our new patio. The yard used to be able to absorb all that extra water. But now the patio does not allow for that. We were sure to slant the patio stones away form the house. However, we put a small brick retaining wall along the edge of the patio. Since there was just so much water, the patio and retaining bricks were effectively funneling all the water to the back of our house and into our basement.

I told Gail to send Casey out to help me.

Help me with what, well, I wasn’t sure yet. I grabbed one of our recycling bins hoping to at least scoop some of water away from the house. This was futile.

While Casey and I were outside planning on what to do (we tried scooping the water away in vain. He began shoveling some of the snow away to at least keep it from melting and sending more water in. I was trying to dig up the frozen hose for the sump pump. I was bent on getting that running so we could get the water out of the basement asap.

Of course, while we were focused on this, there came a pounding from the kitchen window. Gail was holding Kenzie and beckoning to us.

It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that she wanted to offer her two cents on how to solve this crisis. Well, you can imagine how well that went over with Casey and I.

You see, listening to her advice was not on the top list of our priorities at that moment.

You see, also listening to her advice would mean abandoning what we were doing and walking all the way around to the front of the house (couldn’t open the back door), taking off our boots, and listening to her advice.

Let me remind you of the time I spent a good chunk of a wet, fall morning piling our patio furniture into the back of Casey’s pickup. That’s when I noticed Gail standing at the same window beckoning to me. Guess what? She had more advice!

Nothing like getting advice from someone watching you do all the work!

Now, I know this is the role of parents. I recall many times my father doing the same thing. In fact, the summer before he died, we were cleaning out the cemetery where Mom was buried. While I ran the weed whacker, Dad still found the time to come over and tell me how to do it better . Errrrrrrrr.

Casey, whose patience was running much lower than mine, yelled at Gail to open the window if she wanted to talk to us.

Yet, she was not able to figure out how to do that. And she was going to tell us what to do!

So, frustrated, she stomped upstairs to and woke Kristie up, who had been suffering from the stomach flu, to tell her that Casey and I weren’t listening to her advice, and, by the way, water was pouring in the back door.

Of course, this was wonderfully ironic because Gail had been home all day. All she would have to have done was peak out the back door sometime – or actually listen while she was in the kitchen – and she would have not only seen but also heard the water flowing in. It’s not like it just happened the moment I got home!

Well, things really started to pick up there.

Whenever something like this hits, the first thoughts are Call Dad. He’ll know exactly what to do. And if he were still alive, he’d have loaded the pick up with pumps, extension cords, and yards of hose, and headed in to town.
What was Gail’s big advice? I’m sure you’ve been wondering. It actually was pretty sound advice: sand bags.

Of course, it’s a good thing she didn’t offer that to Casey and me as we were ankle deep in water in the back yard because we’d have gone after her with our shovels like the villagers after Frankenstein.

Where should we get the sand bag?. Oh wait, I’ve got one right here behind this tree! Oh wait, it’s over by the propane tank!

I knew the county highway department had sandbags, but they were closed. It’s not like we had a stockpile in the back of the garage.

Kristie, now up and frustrated as we all were at finding the water flowing into our basement, called a friend who worked in the city’s office. She suggested calling the police. They eventually got us some sandbags to pile in front of the door to keep the water at bay.

While all of this was going on, I was also attempting to get our sump pump working correctly. Of course, Gail, whose sump pump quite working on her a few months ago and she had to pay someone to replace it, suddenly became the expert on all things sump pump related.

“Did you check the base?” She inquired.


“The base on my sump pump was bad.”

“The base is fine,” I said.

“How do you know?”

“Well, because I just spent the past five minutes scooping dirt and sand out of it!” I said.

“Well, how old is it?”

“I think the patent ran out in ’56, but I’ll be sure to check the next time I stick my head down in the hole again,” I said, thinking of what to do next.

“Well, you know . . . they are only good for about five years,” Gail added.

When did she become the Alex Trebek of sump pumps?

“I think ours has lasted a little longer than that,” I said, looking for a flashlight.

“Are you sure the base is okay?”

Alex, I’ll take “Most Annoying Things One Can Do In An Emergency” for a 1,000!

“Because, you know, the plate underneath the pump was bad on mine.”

You’re in luck Kurt, it’s a Daily Double!

“Are you sure . . .”

Great, Alex, I’ll wager my entire sanity!

I left Casey in charge of remedying the sump pump. It was working perfectly. The only problem was that it would not shut off. However, after scooping all of the silt and crap out of the bottom, it began to finally shut off on its own.

Kristie began shoveling snow away from the patio so some of the water at least could pool on the patio instead of being funneled directly at our back door.

Gail, who was really frustrated that no one was taking her advice, handed Kenzie to a bewildered Casey and declared, “I have to let the dog out!” Then she made a phone call – no doubt to one of Kristie’s brothers to complain how we were not taking her advice.

I headed to Hardware Hank in TRF to purchase a pump, extension cord, and hose, with Dad’s would-be instructions echoing in my mind.

Eventually, thanks mostly to Kristie’s fast thinking, we were able to avert disaster. The cops showed up with a dozen sand bags and stacked them in front of the door. Then while Kristie was shoveling, our neighbor came home and offered us the use of her pump.

When I returned with a second pump and 75 feet of hose, we were able to divert most of the water to the street. Dad would have been proud. And like Gail, he would have offered his fair share of advice!

No comments: