Thursday, September 19, 2013

Rain is a Four Letter Word

On day three of non-stop rain, I sat curled up on the couch, shivering and damp with my hair soaked and matted down to my head, watching the news coverage and finally feeling the true impact of what was happening around me. Up north, people were dead, roads were crumbling and completely washed away, buildings were collapsing, entire towns were underwater, thousands of homes were destroyed and even more thousands of people were evacuated from their neighborhoods even in Denver. I teared up as I watched a man being rescued from his overturned car floating in a roadway under a collapsed bridge. He wasn’t my person, but he was somebody’s and that was enough for me.

While I was no where near amused (although surprisingly calm) when we personally got a spiteful, bully-like poke from Mother Nature, I am thankful and feel lucky that we weren’t a part of the full on wrath to the north. I am also thankful to have gotten a little comic relief in the midst of it all. If you’re a regular reader, you know that I tend to find and document the funny in otherwise shit situations. It’s a full on coping mechanism combined with my uncanny ability to be in the wrong place at the wrong time…or the right place at the right time depending on how you want to look at it. It’s that realist optimist in me; that “this sucks, but it’s hilarious, so we might as well laugh,” mentality.

I am deeply disturbed by what has happened in the wake of this “historic weather event” and I’m doing my part to help those that been through and lost so much – please donate if you are able:

The following story is not meant to make light of the horrendous events of last week that continue to cause problems for many people. It’s simply my account of the Colorado Floods of 2013 from our little blip on the map. Now that the freak storms seemed to have passed, things are drying out and people are picking up the pieces, it’s only appropriate to “cope” in the best way I know how. Enjoy.


I heard the rain long before my body was conscious enough to comprehend what it actually was…and it sounded like the shower inside the house was on. It was one of those torrential downpours that came down in sheets and tended to be much quieter than the few fat drops of a typical sprinkle that slam into the roof.

I was soothed until the phone rang and jolted me awake.  My eyes, perpetually dry in the Colorado morning, creaked open to peer at the phone. I had slept in longer than I wanted to – a pattern that causes later evenings at work and one I’m trying desperately to break with no avail. My existing insomnia coupled with my significant other’s nocturnal buzz saw breathing has made sleep this precious commodity that I steal any chance I can get. It’s a source of constant frustration.

It was the future hubs calling from Texas, asking about the weather and trying to coax me out of bed to check the basement windows for any leaks. That’s the thing about rain. For most city dwelling people, it’s simply an annoyance. It makes commutes longer, hair frizzy and attitudes pissy. We tend to forget the amount of damage and how quickly it can cause it in large quantities. It was the third day in a row of rain like this and once I shook myself fully awake I realized that the bearded one had a very good point. It was the first major weather since settling into our new house and neither one of us had any idea how the cracks and seams tended to behave in anything, but normal conditions.

Keeping him on the phone, I wandered through the hallway and down the stairs into our fully finished basement with the furry children underfoot as always. Everything seemed normal – two window wells checked, airtight and dry…then I heard a faint trickling sound and turned on the light in one of the bedrooms...

Mother. Fucker.

Water spewed out the bottom of the window in a large steady stream, spread out along the wall, over an electrical outlet and splashed onto the carpet below. I would use the words babbling brook to describe the sound of it, but that would imply pleasantries and there’s nothing pleasant about a goddamn river running along your drywall.

“Ummm, OK, there’s water, lots of water, what do I do?” I asked.
“You’re just going to have to bail out the window well,” he said.

It was one of those feelings where I didn’t really know where to start. I stutter stepped around for a few seconds before I snapped out of it. I checked the other windows to make sure I knew what I was dealing with – all leak-free, gathered every towel in the house, then got some instructions on where to find bailing supplies before I hung up and began hunting down water proof clothing.

A few minutes later I was slopping through the backyard pond to retrieve a bucket in the shed in my snow boots, ski pants and one of Pat’s oversized rain jackets that hung well past my knees with my pajamas on underneath. I double-checked all the window wells, found the culprit shimmering with water all the way to the top in the front yard, then contemplated my next move. I had never bailed out a window well before, so I wasn’t sure there was a technique. All I could think to do was flop down on my stomach, hang the upper portion of my body into the hole and get to work.

I quickly realized I was in my own personal hell:  Laying in a muddy puddle while cold rain pounded me, my head and shoulders stuck in a filthy, cobwebby window well with a giant spider four inches from my face…But, then I thought about my Dad wading through sewage muck in the basement of my childhood home when the system had backed up years ago with the more than occasional used feminine hygiene product floating past him. A father’s duties are never done, especially those with teenaged daughters. Then, I thought of my sister a few years back, just barely pregnant with her first babe, sick as all hell, vomiting and near hysterics as we tried to salvage the completely saturated carpets in the basement bedrooms after a water heater/weather mishap. A homeowner’s duties are never done and this could be so much worse, I thought, as the spider crept closer to my cheek.

Plus, this was MY damn house; MY prized possession. A goal the two of us had set together and achieved together. A pipe dream that suddenly came true for me. It’s that kind of fierce, almost human-like kinship and sense of pride I imagine many people feel about their first home and one that I know I may never feel about any other dwelling I choose to call home in the future. I would do just about anything to protect it.

I took a small break after hauling several buckets to the curb and dumping them into the already raging river of a street gutter, looked up at the sky, my hair hanging in wet strings across my eyes and pondered a little thought…water - you can’t live with it or without it. It’s truly our lifeblood and our demise all at the same time.

Just as I was starting to make some progress, an odd sight across the street caught my eye. Although it was not, in fact, Noah’s Ark floating by as I had half expected, it was just as disturbing.

Our neighbors across the street are odd to say the least. The future hubs and I have dubbed them the “Amish Farmers” for their out of place, old school choice of fashion. Besides the fact that they frequently stand around, surveying their yard donning straw hats and turn of the century, pioneer-like clothing, they have this hard to describe, strange demeanor.

Here’s a scenario for description purposes:  Pat and I pulled out of our driveway in his truck one day and turned around in the cul-de-sac passing the Amish Farmers. The lady calls out, stone faced and serious, “Are you from the Denver Water Department?” Nope, we sure aren’t…we’re your neighbors…we’ve met…you see this truck parked across the street EVERY. DAY…you just watched us pull out of our driveway…

They are “simple,” or “not all there,” I guess. Let’s just put it that way.

The man is thin and seems laid back, but the woman is this short, plump shriek-y thing with a voice that carries and a distinct lack of modesty…or the awareness of it anyway. She reminds me of a cringe worthy neighbor I had growing up named Marge, so even though I’m fully aware of this woman’s real name, I choose to refer to her as Marge. Their two grown sons that live with them make only rare appearances.

This time, ‘ole Marge was gallivanting around the front yard doing nothing in particular to help, screeching and squawking in a night gown reminiscent of the flowered muumuus worn by “Mama” in the movie “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.” A white nightgown…in the pouring rain…with no bra in sight. This woman is not small, nor is she young, so the impromptu, single contestant wet t-shirt contest was not appreciated by anybody who was accidently in attendance.

“You guys having problems, too?” She called out from across the street while I shielded my eyes seemingly from the rain, but really from the blinding sight of clingy, see-through cotton over portly, middle-aged lady nipples.

“For shits sake lady, I can see your boobs! Why are you in a nightgown? Put some clothes on!”  “Yeah,” I called back.

Shaking my head, I continued my work, dipping the bucket in, carrying it to the curb, dumping it in the street and back again. The rest of Marge’s family had taken the liberty of putting raincoats on and had fashioned some sort of hose system to suck the water out of the window well and into the street – pretty clever. It seemed as though their progress was much faster and less exhausting than mine. I glanced over to see Marge peering over the edge into the window well completely oblivious to the show she was giving the entire neighborhood.

The water level in my window well had gone down significantly, so I decided to head back inside to assess and mop up the situation inside. As I was crossing the yard to the gate, I heard a distinct *thuwump* sound followed by the even more distinct screeching of Mrs. Amish Farmer.

“Waaaaah, squeeee, eeeeeek!” She screamed like a soaking wet, pissed off cat with a strange tinge of echo in her voice. I looked across the street and saw two legs sticking out of the window well, flailing about in the air like a cartoon character…Large Marge had fallen headfirst into the window well.

The brilliant and astonishingly accurate artist rendition below has been included to help recreate the scene:

Aw, what the hell are you doing, lady? Are you freaking kidding me? I thought. My first instinct was to run over there and help, but I froze in mid stride as I watched both of her sons and Mr. Amish Farmer rush to her aid. With three men in the mix, I wasn’t sure how my scrawny ass could be of any assistance. What could I do? Grab an ankle and try to pry her from the wicked jaws of the evil window well? Ridiculous. I’d probably just be in the way – too many cooks in the kitchen, if you will.

Before you chastise me for being a bad citizen, because I did feel bad after hearing the rest of the story…although my theory still stands…think of it this way:  How the hell anybody falls into a window well past the age of 6 is beyond me, let alone gets stuck in one. While it is not pleasant to have your torso submerged in one, speaking from experience, the wells on the houses in our neighborhood are quite shallow. If an adult happens to fall in one, you'd just put your hands down and push yourself out of it, even if there’s water in it…or you swing your legs into it and crawl out. Ta-dah! She was in no danger and clearly there is something not quite right with this lady. Why she was even outside to begin with is a mystery. It was far more of a circus sideshow than any sort of emergency.

Shaking my head yet again, I decided to mind my own business and start the interior clean up. I worked from home, monitoring the window well and bailing it out every hour or so until the future hubs finally made his way home from the airport in the midst of washed out streets, standing water and closed highways to help.

But, as I mentioned before, that wasn’t the end of Marge and company’s saga. After talking to another neighbor, Pat relayed the rest of the train wreck later that evening:

Apparently, when Mr. tried to help her out of the well, he slipped and put his hand through the window prompting an actual trip to the emergency room. Our neighbor saw him sitting on the porch later that night, hand bandaged and raised, smoking a pipe full of Colorado’s best medicine and wearing none other than one of Marge’s famous nightgowns.

What. The. Hell.

When neighbor asked, “Dude, what are you wearing?!” Mr. replied matter-of-factly, “My gout’s actin’ up and I can’t bend over to put on my pants.”

Well, at least Marge’s collection of muumuus is getting put to good use.

Since then, our basement has dried out without any signs of permanent damage as of yet and I’ve seen our quirky neighbors, surveying their yard and acting like their normal, yet bizarre Amish Farmer selves. Everything has seemingly gone back to normal as though somebody was not “stuck” in a window well just a few days prior. That’s what’s funny about life – we all have our fair share of problems – small, large, disastrous, waterlogged, freakish and maybe even kinda funny – but somehow we figure out how to keep going. Humans are one of the most resilient creatures on the planet and even after being put through the ringer, we continue to survive, regroup, rebuild and make everything OK again.

So, yes, everything will be fine and the Colorado flood survivors will figure out a way to be OK, but they could still really use some help right now. Here is another website with a list of reputable agencies that would appreciate a donation:

I’m sure Marge and her transparent nightgown would approve.

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