The Great Flood by Mark Stone
February 2018. The mind's reaction to impending crisis is interesting to observe in retrospect. I woke up yesterday morning at my usual 5:45, and my phone had a notification from my Google Wifi that internet access had been lost 3 hours ago. Odd. But Comcast has its ups and downs as an ISP; I resolved to look into after coffee. After getting out of the bathroom, I made my way to the dresser and start donning my running gear for my morning run. I noted two paw print sized wet spots by the closet door. "Willow hasn't started marking her territory again, has she?" I wonder to myself. But it didn't smell like cat pee. Odd. But I shrugged it off, and certainly don't connect it to the internet issue. I opened the bedroom door to step out....
... and I'm greeted by a hallway filled with every available towel from the linen closet, and they're all soaked. A long moment passes while I'm trying to process what it is that I'm seeing. The scene makes no sense.
"Alex!" I shout out. "What's going on?"
Bleary eyed, and obviously just roused from a deep sleep, he stumbles to the door of his bedroom. I can see more towels on his floor.
"Uh, I got up to go the bathroom in the middle of the night and the toilet was overflowing. I couldn't get it to stop at first. But it's stopped now, and I sopped up what I could, and went back to bed."
Okay. Not necessarily the course of action I would have hoped for, and certainly not the course of action I would have taken in his place, but okay. At least he "stopped the bleeding."
As best I can figure, after having some professionals look over the situation, we had an unfortunate sequence of coincidences. Some time around 10:00 PM the previous night someone (could have been either Alex or Nathan) used the toilet and failed to notice that the float in the tank didn't engage and cut off. This didn't happen because a piece of plastic in that mechanism chose last night to break. All of this would have been fine, and resulted in no worse than the equivalent of leaving a faucet running all night, except that the toilet also chose this moment to get stopped up. By the way, no feces were involved in the sequence of events; thank goodness.
The net result was that from about 10:00 PM until about 3:00 AM our upstairs toilet steadily and quietly poured water into the house while we all slept. Water being what it is, this seeped from the bathroom into each of the three bedrooms and the upstairs hallway. Gravity being what it is, water seeped through the floor upstairs, through the ceiling downstairs, causing water damage in the family room, downstairs bathroom, kitchen, and garage. Notably, the spot where water dripped into the garage is right above the furnace, which is no longer working (it's snowing today, by the way). Yet to be determined is the water damage to the crawlspace under the house, where heating ducts and a lot of insulation are packed in.
We are temporarily homeless, staying at the Hampton Inn in Puyallup, while all this is being dealt with. Cats are boarded at the vet.
There's a lot I'm thankful for in this experience. Bad as it is, it could have been worse, and all the damage is recoverable. Traveler's Insurance has been amazing to work with. I called them at 7:50 AM on the Saturday of a holiday weekend, and shortly after 9:00 AM we had a restoration professional at our house starting to work the problem. By 10:15 we had a crew in the house moving furniture, pulling back carpet, setting up blowers, and repairing the toilet. When all is said and done we'll be out of pocket about $1500, and insurance will cover the rest. We'll be mightily inconvenienced for days to weeks, but inconvenience will be the worst of it.
In the midst of so much negativity about the world we live in, this experience reminds me what an amazing country we live in, and how grateful I am to have been born into such an advanced society. The response to this whole episode really was market capitalism at its finest.
Traveler's Insurance was ready with quick response, even on a holiday weekend. Because that's what their business model requires of them.
Roto Rooter was equally quick to respond, because this is their business day in and day out.
Their crew lead was calm, reassuring, professional, and funny, making a point repeatedly to tell us that everything will be fine, he does this kind of work all the time, and ours is far from the worst he deals with on a regular basis. It was also very comforting to realize that there was a well established process for all of this, that we didn't have to figure it out on our own, and that we could just trust the professionals to guide us through it. All of this works this way because it is in Roto Rooter's business interest to operate with this kind of professionalism and customer service.
Finally, it's worth noting that we ended up with Traveler's Insurance because we are AAA members, and AAA acts as our insurance broker, recommending insurance companies for us. So while Traveler's may not need to worry that much about keeping one individual customer happy, they care a great deal about keeping AAA happy. And AAA, as a not for profit, membership based organization, prioritizes our needs and concerns. There are no share holders, there is no profit margin to fret over, just a membership base to grow and keep happy.
These are highly evolved safety net structures that keep our society functioning. They are a blend of different business models, yet they work smoothly in concert. But they are all business models; there is no government program in any of this. It is, of course, an imperfect system, and on another day the flaws will show. But it is the best system the world has come up with so far, and on this day, when it mattered most, it served my family perfectly.
A strange and unexpected place to end up from a day that started with "Huh. Our internet connection is down."