Posted by: Brenda Kula | April 23, 2008

Another Calamitous Day

Today I have no beautiful photos of garden flowers for you. But I do have a giant hole in the middle of my house. Jackhammered up just today.

I sit with my two dogs and two cats waiting and listening as my house becomes a disaster area. Carpet is being cut up and discarded. That metallic soldering odor hangs heavy in the air here in my beloved, and as yet thankfully untouched by bad karma, garden room. I hear the doors opening and closing as workmen track mud through my house and shovel it out.

I have finally been told, after having installed a brand new and still-in-warranty water heater last evening, that I actually have a hole in my hot water line down in the iron-rich dirt that is the soil my house resides on. Unfortunate for me, it seems. As, after water filled the back part of my home, they were to discover, (in their own inestimable good time and as water continued to rise), that it was not after all the hot water heater at fault for yesterday’s flood disaster. It is the iron-rich dirt that eats at my copper piping. And that has been jackhammered more than once. This you can see from the cement patched in the concrete floor.

Is this house haunted? Is it bad karma on my part? Did I short-change a Meals On Wheels client on a packet of salad dressing and didn’t realize it?

I sit and watch the dollar rise on my bill as rapidly as that for the war in Iraq (or whatever they’re calling it these days). The plumbers apparently make more money than my doctor husband. After having asked how they can charge this much money in a phone conversation last night, they told him that they do indeed charge more than medical care. This followed by a cursing match between said husband and irate and should-be-retired-by-now-and-hopefully-receiving-Medicare plumber standing in my front yard. Yes, where likely all the neighbors overheard the exchange.

"So why did you remove my hot water heater?" my husband ultimately asked the owner of the plumbing company?" (Who did not have to absorb the costs of medical school, but still charges more anyway.) "Well," they tell him on the phone that seems to be rife with bad news the past few days, "your wife said you wanted a new hot water heater."

My wife? How does my wife know we need a new hot water heater? I can see he is thinking as his blood is curdling with indignation. He looks at me. I look at Clyde, the cat. Surely he is somehow accountable for something on this horrid day. After all, he killed a rabbit two weeks ago, and a Carolina chickadee last weekend. Clyde licks his behind with great enthusiasm. I’m glad I’m not the only one kissing butt on this day, with the very culprits who originally brought into my home the deranged man urgently needing money at my front gate at 2 a.m.

Remember? The one I found at my dining room window several weeks ago? The man who met me through this company. The company I wasn’t smart enough to phone before I hired him as my handyman, to inquire as to why he no longer worked for them.

I obviously didn’t learn with the handyman now indicted for manslaughter. My female instincts must be bludgeoned somehow by the lack of hormones lost to menopause. Have scientists now begun to deride the notion that brain cells die as we age? Or did I get that wrong too?

Back to the original unsettling story. "No, I called and said there was water on the floor around my hot water heater."

Duh. And you came and removed said hot water heater. Then brought me a brand new free one due to my warranty, and then charged me nearly $600 to install it. Then forgot to put the pan underneath it that I was unfairly charged for. Of course I don’t say this out loud. After all, if they leave me in the lurch here at 5 p.m., I’m am more than up the creek. Literally.

I ask you, dear blogging friends, if you know someone who is a plumber, please ask them how much a "pan" costs, will you? My bill was unfortunately not itemized, and was paid per check promptly. As everything must be these days since people are no longer billed for labor or costs.

I worked till I couldn’t any longer soaking up the mess last night. No matter how much water I soaked up, it seemed to multiply. I finally gave up and took a mighty cold shower, since that’s all I had the option to do. Have you tried a completely cold shower lately? I guarantee that no matter how many Ambien CRs you swallow down (and I am dutiful and take one as prescribed), you will be awake most of the night due to the ignited nerves in your tired body screaming at the assault on your senses.

I have carried the dogs around for much of the past four days now, as workmen come in and out. Let’s see, Sunday and Monday it was to clear the drain between my washing machine and brand new kitchen sink. Tuesday it was to install a new hot water heater that was not broken. (But the wife said it was, apparently. Who knew I was so smart? My husband is already moaning that he should have become a plumber and not a doctor.)

And today, I am absorbing the fact that this broken pipe will likely break again, due to my iron-rich soil. (This we surmise from looking at the foot of pipe they took out. It already had two cuts soldered back in it from previous breaks.) And, guess what? Homeowner’s insurance does not cover the jackhammering or ensuing costs that come in the aftermath. Because? Because they don’t.

I want you to remember this, fellow Americans, as you stand and vote for your choice for president mere months from now. You are voting for the powers that be I am now envisioning that, unbeknownst to tax payers, must hold hands and romp in a circle of joy with insurance company executives. By now, weary but rallying, I am all but convinced of it.

Medical costs in this country are horrendous. We have a higher infant mortality death rate than many unheard of small countries, which shouldn’t be happening in such a powerful nation. Hurricane Katrina is but a memory to some. But to others who are still misplaced, or worse, sick from the mobile homes furnished to them who made the mistake of breathing, it is still a catastrophe. And insurance companies stand at the top of the hill, gleefully yelling the rules down to the rest of us. And perhaps also to those who are supposed to come up with the rules. While they laugh all the way to the proverbial bank.

Yes, I am on my high horse today. Writing (and heart racing, but as of yet not dancing), as fast as I can, with contempt being my motivator of the day. To hell with all of them.

I think, since this flood disaster is likely to occur again due to the iron-rich-and-deadly-to-pipes ingredients in my soil, that perhaps I should just plant a garden in the hole. Yes, place beauty where ugliness now resides in the middle of my normally tidy home.

I told the carpet men to just drag the mess out. Take it to the curb. I will live on concrete (and not the pretty kind that has been finished out and is considered eco-friendly) for awhile.

"Will that make my costs go down a bit?" I ask the man, who was perhaps sixty, but somehow looked like a movie star that I can’t place at the moment. "Considerably, I’d think," he tells me with a rakish grin.

"Then go forth and do so."

They are all gone now. The house is quiet. My hot-water-heater-that-now-sits-in-a-pan-and-has-a-flood-sensor-on-it is building up hot water for my shower this evening, praise the powers that be. I’m assuming the carpet is in the alley, though I haven’t had the heart to walk out and look just yet. My yard is soaked with the water they pumped from my house, so I shouldn’t have to water for awhile.

But wait, there may be a silver lining to this tumultuous day after all! If the soil is iron rich, and the carpet was soaked with water…And they pumped the water out into my side yard where my gardens reign…Then perhaps I will have even more beautiful blooms to show you!

And I will admit, in an act of sheer perversity when the plumber handed me my bill, at the bottom of the check (third one I’ve written them in three days), I wrote "Check for…Succinctly put, disaster!"

(I know you can’t see me, but I am now stepping down from the makeshift podium that I got up on at the beginning of this tirade.) The End (See?)




  1. Oh, Brenda, I am so sorry for your calamities of the past days. But I find myself grateful for your immense writing talent, sharing and passion. You sure better be keeping these for a book!

    Hugs, and prayers that all is fixed and quiet now.

  2. Such a tirade! You earned it with all those calamities! And you are dead right about those nasty insurance companies and I think Health Insurance is the worst offender! xo, suzy

  3. Gee – Brenda,
    And I thought I’ll go visit Brenda for a lift… Now I feel like I could take on the world. Yes, I can envision you stepping down from the podium and a movie comes to mind. Have you ever seen Network? I think I just got “I’m Mad as Hell and Not Going to Take it Anymore” speech!
    I may re-read this post tomorrow morning if my coffee doesn’t get me going for my morning walk!
    I hope things look up for you soon sweetie, you’ve got good ole gumption girl!
    And keeps those four-legged friends warm and dry (I know you will!).

  4. Unfortunately this price gouging happens all too often. I love all the extra costs for bringing appliances “up to code.”
    My water tank was installed in this old house right above the washing machine. When it broke, I luckily had the lid to the washer open and all the water ran right into it. Too funny.
    We decided to go with a Bosch tankless water heat to replace it and have been extremely happy with it.
    I’m about to tear up the carpet in my family room. My dogs have completely ruined it. So, I will be looking at a concrete slab too. I’m thinking about staining or painting mine.
    Sorry for your woes with the repairman. You hang in there.

  5. Good Grief, Brenda! I wish you well and hope your calamities subside soon. Hang in there …

  6. Oh boy, you’ve had quite the time of it. Hopefully the disasters are behind you and you can concentrate on gardening from now on in!

  7. Amazing how you can still write an extraordinary post after all the madness you’ve been through. Let me just add I know exactly how you feel, I might be only young but I had an army of all sorts of plumber-wannabes, builder-wannabes and the likes of them storm through our house restoration, charging as if my income was such of Bill Gates for instance, and then all you had to do is get another army of similar nutjobs to fix everyting that the previous ones have managed to scr*w up. Not to mention what they have done with our yard. I still wonder if there’s any decent repairmen out there who are actually qualified to do their job, I thought it only happens in my country but I see there’s no difference elsewhere in the world. May all of your troubles soon disappear and may this be just another of your memorable podium speeches that make Brenda’s place worth a visit even on an unfortunate occasion like this.
    You all hang in there.

  8. My God Brenda! I guess it didn’t just end with that. What a mess!

    I hope it gets better…


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