Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Night the Dishwasher Broke

This is a tale from a different time and a different place. 

We were living in Oklahoma. It was a quiet night, much like this one. Kristina was a year and half, Adrianna was yet to be conceived, and Peter was spending the week on base for military training purposes.

It was about 10:30pm when I clicked the dishwasher on as I headed off to bed. I liked to shower in the evenings, but the hot water tank in the rental house we were living in just wasn't sufficient to support both of those things happening at once, so I had waited to run it until after my evening bathing routine was completed.

It was truly an unremarkable evening as I climbed into bed. 

I dozed and drifted for a while in a phase of not quite sleep. Kristina woke frequently during the night, and my ears were always straining to hear her. Suddenly I was fully awake. I listened. Something was off.

It took me a minute. Was that... water splashing?? It must be raining, with a clogged gutter on this side of the house... but, the moon is out, I can see it from my window.

I got up and looked in Kristina's room. She was soundly sleeping in her bed, but the sound of water was noticeably more clear in the hallway.

I followed it out into the kitchen, where water was pouring out of the dishwasher at an alarming rate.

I sloshed through the quickly-becoming-pond-like galley kitchen and opened the dishwasher door, to find my clean dishes inside and the hot rinse water still flowing in at full force.

Oh shit.

Um.. a shut off valve? There should be one of those... somewhere........ right?? That would turn off the water from the main source?

I gingerly peered underneath the sink. Having no idea what it was I was actually looking for and failing to see much of anything that looked particularly convincing of "all important valve", I went over to the boiler closet and looked at the various pipes coming out of the water heater.

Again, there was nothing that struck me as an "all important valve", so I quickly grabbed the phone and started making some calls.

The emergency line for the rental company took three tries before anyone even answered, and they were not particularly helpful and said they would see if they could get a plumber out tonight, but it would probably be tomorrow. My father, despite being woken up by this and living in another state, was at least able to tell me where to find the all important shut off valve (turns out it WAS under the kitchen sink).

Except that I couldn't get it to turn. Like, at all.

Another call to the completely unhelpful rental company later (seriously, an on call emergency number should connect you to people capable of handling your EMERGENCIES, how much of my stupid house has to flood before it counts as one??), I started to panic a bit.

I called several plumbers in the phone book, totally not caring that we would have to pay for their services of shutting off the water ourselves right then, and left several messages on after-hour emergency lines.

I tried to shut off the water coming into the house from the main street line, and was completely unsuccessful in that endeavor as well.

I called water company, and was stuck in the business hours and bill pay options recording.

I called the police department, and quickly regretted not setting something on fire to get SOMEBODY to come out to my fucking house and help shut off the water.

And at some point during all this, Kristina woke up and came out to the kitchen and started playing in the water that was now several inches high and covering over the entire kitchen and dining room area.

Soon she began to giggle as she ran and jumped through this personal horror of mine, and her slipping onto her bottom guaranteed that she was soaked from head to toe even before she started to "swim" along on her belly. 

It was about that moment I started laughing hysterically, watching my little girl gleefully splashing in the middle of the kitchen, because the whole situation was just reaching a level of ridiculousness that you have to either laugh or cry at it. 

And I did observe that our living room appeared to be on ever-so-slightly on higher ground, which kept the bulk of the furniture and carpet from suffering water damage.

Eventually, through more sheer desperation than any real expectation of it doing anything, I started banging on the stupid shut off valve under the sink with a wrench, and miraculously it finally started to turn and I was able to get it mostly turned off.

The sigh I gave when the water slowed down to a mere trickle from the full on rush it had been is one of the most relieved sighs I have ever made in my life. 

The culprits of the night.
I had just come back out to survey the damage and figure out what on earth I was going to do with a house full of water at midnight after getting Kristina into a dry sleeper and putting back to bed when a plumber showed up.

(Thank you rental company for bothering to tell me you ever did get a hold of someone who would actually show up that night. I might not have been quite so panicked for like, an hour in there, had I known someone was actually going to eventually come help me.)

He tighted up the water shut off a little more, poked at the dishwasher for a minute, and said someone would come back out tomorrow with the needed new part.

And then I began the process of moping up stupid amounts of water for the next few hours.

Finally, about 2am, I found some dry pajamas for myself and crawled back into bed, still cross at all the forces in the world that had completely failed me that night. My own physical limitations and lack of plumbing knowledge, the military and subsequent lack of on-hand husband and other support figures, the property management company we were renting from, the local plumbers who never answered/returned my phone calls, the lack of help within the city services, my lack of knowing the neighbors and not feeling comfortable going over to their houses in the middle of the night to ask for help. 

However, I did learn the very important lesson of where the dishwasher water shut off valve is in most houses and that when all else fails, just hit it with a wrench.

And in retrospect, the flood of clean warm water was MUCH better than the flood of sewage I had to deal with in our house in New York. 




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