Saturday, March 20, 2010

So this is the underwater housing market

Here’s something you never learned in your mythology class: When Neptune shows up at your door with his pillow, his toothbrush and a big smile on his face, you’re not sending him off to the local Holiday Inn.

As a house guest, he makes your worst-behaved relatives look like Miss Manners. He lets himself in, heads right downstairs to the basement and proceeds to sprawl right out across the floor—soaking everything within reach. If I didn’t know better, I’d guess he thinks he’s god of the sea or something.

Oh, we thought we were ready for him after his last visit, three years ago during another nor’easter. It was then we learned something about this house guest; let’s just say he needs a little oversight. We went to bed, exhausted, with a few puddles downstairs and woke up to about eight inches. To be fair, I won’t say he had the outright rudeness of stopping up the drain in the basement floor. If only he had blocked all water whatsoever from passing through. The basement, you see, wasn’t draining to the outside; the outside was draining in.

This time called for more desperate measures if we were to avoid a recurrence of the hundreds of dollars of damage we’d incurred in ‘07. Sleep? For losers. Eating? Fuhgeddaboudit. And that’s only half the story. Elena looked as dreamy as ever—and lost three pounds, to boot. But me? By the end of this past Monday, I looked like the Geico caveman without the metrosexual flair.

An editor client of Elena’s emailed to check on her. “Are you still rowboating around your basement?” she asked. But thanks to our diligence and a secret weapon, we at least kept our house guest from doing real damage while we awaited the one good contractor that wasn’t totally…immersed in projects.

The secret weapon few house guests can tolerate, after all, is none other than a baby. As luck would have it, we were one short of the usual screaming, vomiting kind. Instead we learned what an incredibly finicky child a sump pump can be.

An electric sump pump sits in water, draws it up through itself and expels it through an outtake hose. Deny it the one simple pleasure it demands, and the baby really starts to hint that, well, maybe it likes the pleasure of ol’ Neptune’s company. To account for the pump’s standing on rather than in the water, we swept a water at it over and over for hours, actually days, while the drain resupplied all we pumped.

When it gurgled, we knew it was happy, slurping up water like an infant sucks milk. Occasionally it would merely sit there, humming softly to itself—or maybe to Neptune—till we realized it wasn’t pumping. And hadn’t been for several minutes. Nyahh nyahh. Don’t think it’s like a baby? Then tell me, someone tell me, why it sometimes needed me to burp it before it would start pumping again. Never mind how I did this. The bigger question is how, on practically no sleep, I figured it out.

Neptune finally took a powder, but he didn’t go gently. Last I heard, he was out around Little Falls, New Jersey, doing significantly more damage than he’s ever done while under our hospitality . Can you keep a secret? We hope he never comes back. If he does, we might have to take the advice of Elena’s oldest friend: “Have you considered leaving the water and adding some Koi?”


  1. i love it -- neptune sure has been busy this year

  2. I'm sure reliving this fun time brought about a flood of emotions, thank God the incident is now just water under the bridge!

  3. Loved the column. Grew up in a house in East Elmhurst, Queens and we had our share of basement floods! I live on the 17th floor of an apartment building now. Coincidence? I think not! Thanks, Ed, for bringing back those memories, especially of the musty smells!

  4. Thanks, everybody! Sorry not to get here till now.

    Sue, I can't imagine having grown up like this!