At one o’clock Saturday morning, I was basking in the afterglow of Clemson’s Orange Bowl victory over Ohio Sate and preparing to head off to the land of Wynken, Blynken, and Nod. Said preparations were interrupted by a torrent of water loud enough that at first I thought the building was collapsing. Said torrent was coming from an air conditioning vent high up on a wall, which is not where you’d normally expect water to come from. That’s probably why I sat on my bed, eyes and mouth agape, for a minute before it registered that the rising water was not part of an all-too-realistic dream.
And it wasn’t just coming through that vent– it was coming from other nearby vents, from a light fixture in the kitchen ceiling, from a smoke detector, from a fuse box… Long story short, in less than five minutes, the water was an inch and a half deep throughout my apartment. You remember playing the lava game as a little kid, in which you couldn’t touch the floor? It was like that for a while, but with the imaginary risk of being burned alive replaced by the not-quite-as-imaginary risk of being electrocuted. Or caught in an electrical fire. Or swept away by the current. Or eaten by piranha.
Wading barefoot through water rushing over a painted concrete floor was quite adventurous. There were a few slips and slides, but I probably didn’t tear that many tendons and ligaments. So much water came in so fast that it tipped over some of the lighter tables. My shoes raced around the room. My garbage pail fell over and set its contents free. Two rugs were floating in place, anchored by furniture. When I opened the front door to check for pairs of animals, my doormat made a break for it.
It took some time to get the main line shut off, so that stopped the mechanically pressurized torrent– but then all the water in the reservoirs on the roof and in the pipes winding through ten or eleven floors above me kept coming in. By the time I got out of the apartment two and a half hours later, there was still a good bit of water trickling in.
I learned the hard way how to prioritize my belongings on the fly. It turns out my most prized possession is my only decent pair of glasses, because that’s what I grabbed first. Seeing’s pretty darned important.
A lot was ruined– that’s for the insurance company and my lawyers to sort out– but the really important stuff is fine enough. So begins the New Year.