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Saturation point



This didn't happen to you. It was my nightmare. Oh sure it rained everywhere you were, too, last month. But it really rained where I was. Here's my story:

The alarm rang bright and early at 4 a.m. I was up to drive my wife to the airport. No problem, it just meant my day was a bit longer, just went to work an hour early, always plenty to do.

Plenty was right. Walking through the front door I noticed a few tables and computers unplugged and askew, a few notes left for me in Magic Marker. The roof had leaked in the previous evening's downpour, probably a backed-up down spout. Had the power outage hurt our back-up? It took three hours to get our computers running and talking to each other, our Internet cable untangled, all the wiring and passwords sorted out. The roofers came by, spent equal amounts of time caulking flashing, tarring drain pipes. By lunch we were good to go.

That night at home, I spent a quiet evening tucked into our old dishwasher, trying to solve the problem of the broken second rinse cycle. It leaked on the kitchen floor.

The following day I arrive at work, flip on some music, log on to my favorite computer and start crunching numbers. A co-worker arrives. We make small talk about all these heavy evening squalls. Then, "What's that sound in the staff lounge?" he asks. We turn on the lights and see a flood. But that's not possible! The roofers were here half the day just yesterday. The floor is soaked, a couch is covered with weird tar-colored stains, and a steady drip-drip-drip is coming from the sagging insulation and ceiling tile.

This time the roof leak is just on furniture, not hardware. The computers all work. Life goes on. The roofers return, with cement this time. All this is happening where our mondo AC unit sits on the roof. I get this irrational fear that the whole unit is going to crash through the ceiling. "No, no," say the roofers, "This is a good roof." An hour later, a saturated ceiling tile--now a cardboard sponge--slams to the floor, splashing everything that wasn't already trashed in the staff room.

I leave early that day. Perfectly understandable, everyone says. On the way home black smoke starts pouring out of my truck's hood. My oil gauge starts dancing. I pull over. The engine is bone dry. No oil. I've blown a gasket, maybe the whole engine.

Some good Samaritans give me a ride home. A tow truck pulls my sad truck to a local garage. That night my mother calls to ask how I'm doing with my wife out of town. "Oh fine, everything's fine," I tell her. She's past the age of fixing roofs, troubleshooting computer networks or rebuilding Ford Rangers, so why bother her with the details?

Borrowing a car, I drive to work the next day, leaving early to stop at the garage and make sure my truck made it there OK. Walking in, the mechanics give me this slow, sideways look.

"That your truck that was towed in last night?" they ask. They know my truck well. Sometimes I think my truck would rather be at their garage than at my house. "Well, we had a break-in last night. They got your truck. Let's go look at it."

Wait a minute, I'm thinking. I'm a good guy. Are the stars aligned against me, or what? My truck's window is smashed, the door is bent, probably by a crowbar. The dashboard is in pieces on the floor, the CD player--a birthday present--is gone, all the wiring cut and pulled out. Oh yeah, and the floor is covered in broken glass and a half inch of water. You know how it's been raining a lot?

I now have pages of phone numbers to dial. Everyone's great, the roofers, the car guys, the toll-free Kim at claims. This isn't life and death. This has just been the monsoon week from hell, a fair counterpoint to the end-of-summer, back-to-school nuttiness.

When my wife returns, the first thing she'll say is, "So how was your week? I heard it rained a lot." I think I'll quickly change the subject and suggest we go out for ice cream.

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