Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Basement Blues

My basement exists like a parallel universe, separate but uncomfortably connected to the warm familiarity of my actual house. It is your basic old house basement - half rock-walled mustiness and half dirt-bottomed crawl space. Most of the time I manage to forget it is even there. It has been my experience that only bad things happen in the basement. Like, occasionally, my pipes freeze and a Salamander has to be rented and drug down the steep steps and trained on the location the blockage is believed to be. It usually takes five seconds for the water to run freely again but there is no minimum charge for a Salamander if you return it in 10 minutes or less.

I sense that the basement may be home to creatures I don't even want to think about - spiders and centipedes and crunchy bugs - as well as other and sundry vermin, like mice or possoms.

If the water heater and the furnace didn't live there, I would be tempted to buy a million tubes of that stuff that you put around pipe seams that comes out like foam and then turns hard. I'd squeeze it into the basement until it filled every crack and crevice and the basement essentially didn't exist anymore.

Twice since I've lived in this house, I've gotten water in the basement high enough to cover the pilot light in the water heater. I wouldn't have thought a house on the highest hill for blocks around would get water in the basement but there you go - there is obviously some geo-physiological principle going on here that I don't understand. Both times I ended up without hot water, we'd been inundated with torrential rainfall but this last time, it didn't seem as if it had rained that much recently, so my first thought was that my hot water heater had simply died of old age.

But Mom, who can access the basement from a door through her bedroom, went and peeked, coming back with a "water in the basement!" alert so perhaps, it was our recent steady rain that had caused the problem. Worst yet, continued rain was forecast for the next several days and even worse than that, my furnace is only a few inches higher than the hot water heater. I could, barely, afford to replace a hot water heater if I had to but there is absolutely no provision in my budget for a new furnace.

Panicked, I called John. I was just leaving for work when he walked over to to the outside basement door. I saw him do a double take. Then he lifted up the hose and shot me a look of pure frustration. "The hose is running!"

Mom called me later to give me an account of the follow up. Turned out, she remembered leaving the hose on. She'd watered the flowers on the porch and then got distracted. As near as she could remember that had been about two weeks before. Your scientific fact for the day: roughly half of month of steadily running water will fill a small basement to a height of about a foot and a half.

John and Larry got a sump pump and pumped the water out of the basement. They got both the hot water heater and furnace pilot lights re-lit once they'd had some time to dry out. Furthermore, the water in the basement evidently flushed out the corpse of our most recent rat from wherever he'd holed up to die. They'd removed the body, along with the mouse that was collateral damage from the rat poison we'd put out.

Larry had some words of wisdom, "if you ever get another rat, trying to drown it to death is probably not the best option." Ha-ha.