Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Monster House

I am afraid of my own house, and it's not the ghosts that are living here that frighten me. (Yeah, that blog is coming.)  I am shouldering a most unhealthy fear of Household Disasters, and because of my phobia-filled mind, fifteen years of home ownership have caused me to pen my imaginary epic masterpiece, “The Book of Catastrophic Plumbing and HVAC Related Events That Will Eventually Happen to Me”.  I know in my heart that one day, I will come home from work only to open the door and find water flooding my downstairs and pouring like rain from the light fixtures. These slightly irrational appliance-centered nightmares are keeping me awake at night.

I have a secret daily routine that I use to ensure that all systems are operational and not on the brink of cataclysmic failure. It’s rather low tech, but so far, it has worked for me. It goes something like this:

1. Upon waking each morning, I turn the water in the bathroom all the way over to the “H”, and I mutter under my breath, “Please, please, please let the water be hot! Come on…heat up already...whew!” Once the maximum tolerable (scalding) water temperature is reached, the water heater check is complete.

2. Next, I move on to the heating and air conditioning system. This test consists of me standing by a vent when I hear the air start to blow, and  muttering under my breath, “Please, please, please let the air be cool! (Or warm) Come on…come on…whew.” Once the seasonally appropriate temperature of air flow is reached, the HVAC check is complete.

3. Lastly, I stand in the kitchen, making sure the house is silent so that I can wrench my neck to hear if any pipes are spewing water beneath the house.  For this test, I have been known to go so far as to press my ear against the hardwood floor or walls as needed.  Lately, my rushing water scares have actually just been the deafening chirps of cicadas outside the window, masquerading as my worst nightmare.

I even step out onto the deck each morning just to ensure that the waterfall in the pond is flowing properly.  I think you get the neurotic picture.

Now, before you start spouting off a list of pharmaceuticals that will ease my fear of Plumbing and Electrical Systems in General, you should know that there is a perfectly sane reason that ice makers  and washing machine hoses scare me. I have been to the Land of Exploding Water Pipes, my friend, and I have the post traumatic stress to prove it.

 It was a dark and stormy night.  Okay...so it wasn't stormy, but it was dark, and I was sound asleep in our first home that we had lived in only a year.  I awoke to a soft sound that I didn't recognize at first.  I sat up in the bed to get a better listen.  "Did I leave the fan on after exercising?"  Possibly, so I decided to investigate, you know, just to make sure the fan didn't overheat and burn down the house.  (That is SO not an irrational thought!)

The hallway was completely dark as I crept slowly along. Then, just when I reached the halfway point to the kitchen, I was sprayed squarely (and painfully) against the side of my head by a mean, hard blast of water.  What happened next is a little sketchy, but I'm fairly certain that I let out a yell like someone was stabbing me with a blunt kitchen knife.  My horror-movie-style screams roused my husband who came running in my direction, only to end up taking a midnight shower in the hallway, just like me.

The next few minutes were a blur of wetness as we rushed around trying to discover the origin of the Pipe from Nowhere.  It was in our hallway, but it didn't seem connected to either the kitchen or the bathroom that were adjacent.  Time was of the essence now, because the water was already pouring into several rooms, and disintegrating the opposite wall. 

As I rushed through the house turning off any and every knob that controlled water, my husband punched the soggy wall to make more room in the hole for him to grab the hard, plastic pipe (Never buy a house with plastic pipes.) and managed to squeeze it until the flow was stopped.  (This was an amazing feat, and I expected him to follow it with bending spoons by his brain power alone!)  I hurried to the garage and found a vice clamp to relieve his poor fingers, and we took a moment to re-group.

The water was down to a trickle, but we had to shut it off completely because no plumber was coming out at two in the morning no matter how much I alternately sweet talked and cried.  It would be daylight before it was repaired.  (That was fine because, hey, we both just got a really cold shower.)

We sloshed around the house and surveyed the carnage.  We had several inches of water throughout the place.  There was a giant hole in the wall and sheet rock was hurled about on the drenched carpet. There were visions of claims adjusters dancing in my head.

Once the plumber arrived, the pipe mystery was solved. So, what caused this single devastating event that has scarred home ownership for me for life?  The busted pipe belonged to the ice maker. THE ICE MAKER!!  When the house was built, Mr. Albert Einstein snaked the pipe up the wall, across the ceiling and over to the fridge.  That's why we couldn't figure it out.  The pipe was in another part of the house from the appliance to which it was attached!

So, don't tell me my fears are unfounded.  Don't even try to assure me that my house is not out to get me. I feel it heaving as we walk the floors.   In the winter, I can hear the low, diabolical rumble as the flames of the gas furnace ominously come to life. (And, don't even get me started on explosions caused by natural gas - I shudder at the thought.)  Wainscoting and crown molding do not fool me.  I have assumed the role of Domestic Warrior - Mistress of the Leaky Faucets and Garage Door Gatekeeper Extraordinaire.  It's me against this Monster House,  and yes,  I have the insurance guy on speed dial.

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