When I was a kid we lived on a sailboat in the summer. Behind the big boat we towed a dinghy. The dinghy was our equivalent of a bike: it offered us kids freedom to explore and play around harbors.
Sometimes during these adventures the dinghy would start to take on water. Maybe someone was screwing around (I’m looking at you, Brother) or maybe a small squall picked up and dropped rain. When that happened, Dad taught us to bail and keep bailing until we didn’t have to bail anymore.
Fast-forward to my adult, landlocked years.
While a lot of people have fancy shmancy finished basements, ours is more, um, utilitarian. We have finished walls and heat, but no pretty ceiling, no paint and no pretty flooring. (Unless you think gray cement is pretty, then it’s gorgeous.)
Our storage is metal shelving; our media room is a corner with an old, boxy TV and a weather radio. Our basement is where we store all the holiday decorations, luggage, honking big packages of toilet paper and far more childhood mementos than necessary.
Basically we USE the basement, we just don’t SHOW people the basement, but when I went on a TP run last Sunday we had to show someone the basement.
“Brian, is this floor supposed to splash?”
“Then we need to call the plumber.”
Our usual plumber told us he didn’t do what needed to be done, but he knew a guy.
That guy did do what needed to be done, but getting it done on a Sunday was going to cost a little more than on a Monday.
But we were calm, mature. We bailed the standing water, tossed soggy items and moved storage units to clear around a large white pipe against a wall. We happily chatted with our new friend Mike as he dragged a big wheel o’cable over the sea of marigolds we have outside our basement door, turned on the motor and sent the cable through our pipes.
Sunday, despite the used water that had backed up, we were mature homeowners who knew their home repair limitations and swiftly found assistance.
On Monday the shine was chipping away at the mature part and the repair was incomplete. Brian was at work, I had kids to shuttle, meetings to attend … and another small pond in the basement. I bailed … again … and scheduled Mike to come out … again.
Again he dragged the big tool through the now-crushed marigolds and fired it up, the air filled with the not-so-delightful scent of oil and drain grime with a base note of pickle from the marigolds.
I will admit to being a little snippy and harried and sighed, “Do what you must, Mike, do what you must.”
Before he left we flushed every toilet, filled a bathtub with water and let it drain … dry basement success. So long Mike! You’re very nice but I really don’t want to see you again.
Until Tuesday. Tuesday I needed to see him.
Tuesday’s mood while bailing was whiny and childish. I swore.
Mike came back and tried to clear it, again, but if that didn’t work, he knew a guy.
That guy came on Wednesday.
That guy used his super expensive equipment to diagnose the problem and within a few hours of arriving, my basement was on its way to dry.
On Thursday my brain was dingy from scrubbing the finally dry floor with too much bleach, but even through the fog I realized that sea-earned wisdom works here in Kansas City.
Just keep bailing until we don’t have to bail any more.
Susan Vollenweider lives in a house (that smells more like bleach than the beach) in Smithville. For more of her writing and to hear the women’s history podcast she co-hosts visit www.thehistorychicks.com or www.susanvollenweider.com.