19 July 2007

The Downside Of Living On A Low-Lying Island

I woke this morning to the sound of thunder, and no, I'm not about to go all Bob Seger on you. But there is something especially spooky about a storm that comes crashing in on you at dawn, especially when it parks itself directly overhead and rolls balls and well of bolts of lightning down your street accompanied by window-rattling bursts of thunder minus the usual delayed reaction that you get when the lighting is striking a few blocks or miles away.

I'd only slept fitfully all night anyway, and now there was no way I was going to sleep at all; even with the blinds closed the lightning was still illuminating the room like some satanic strobe light, and the thunder was so loud that even when I turned on the radio to see what time it was and to find out if Armageddon had been declared without my knowledge, I couldn't hear anything but static.

I turned it up louder, but there was still nothing but static, and there for some reason picked up the phone - I don't know why; when I was a boy I was constantly fed horror stories about lightning striking your house and coming out the receiver of the phone and blasting away the brains of whoever was foolish enough to be talking on it - but it was dead. The sound of the rain smashing on the window and roaring down the street in a newly formed river was now almost as loud as the thunder.

Ever since I moved into this basement apartment, I've had a gnawing fear of hurricanes - not everyone knows it, but they do strike New York from time to time - and the possibility that if one did hit I'd be put through my own mini-New Orleans. And apparently I wasn't the only one this had occurred to; the landlord had installed two heavy duty pumps under the bedroom floor after the last bout of high water sometime in the 1990s.

And so far they'd worked. Any time water begins to rise underneath the house, the pumps are set in motion by a float device not unlike the one inside your toilet tank. But in order to operate, they need electric power, something which seldom is in ready supply during times of hurricane.

But it's not hurricane season for a couple months yet, and the electricity was working just fine, so there was no reason I couldn't lie back and enjoy the celestial pyrotechnics. Or so I thought until the voices on the radio, which had inexplicably started to work, were nearly drowned out by a deep gurgling sound.

At first I couldn't tell if it was on the radio or outside or from the pumps under the house. Eventually I decided that it must be the pumps, but decided to get out of bed and investigate, at which point I stepped into a pool of fast-rising water. The bedroom, which is slightly higher than the rest of the apartment, was just beginning to go under; in the living room and kitchen, rugs, waste baskets and shoes were beginning to float away.

I tried to call the super; oops, phone's dead, remember? The cell phone worked, but guess what, no answer. Meanwhile the water is starting to rise over the numerous power cords that run this computer and the host of other machines and gadgets one finds in the modern home. I yanked one set of plugs out of the socket, but my foot got a distinct little electric shock before I could get near the cord powering the TV, and I retreated.

I tried the super again and got him; he'd be right there, he said, but when he arrived, all he could say was, "Everybody on the block's flooded. What can I do?"

He did a lot, actually, once the water started to recede, helping to mop out the whole place, pick up stuff off the floor, etc., and even offering to pay for my computer power adapter, which had been destroyed. A few books and magazines were lost causes, one or two items of clothing, and a whole lot of tax and bank records which I'd unwisely spread out on the floor in preparation for working on them.

Probably a bit more damage will make itself known in the days to come, but so far it's nothing too drastic, just a rude reminder of what havoc nature can wreak when it gets a mind do, and a rather more sobering illustration that if a real hurricane should ever land on us, this place is likely to be filled to the ceiling, and everything I own and can't get out of here in time will probably be destroyed. Good thing I don't own a lot of stuff, isn't it?

But I'd miss this little computer and all the info that's on it, not to mention my electric piano and my guitar. The prospect of having to swim out of here in the dark is less than heartening as well. Not to mention the fact that every time it starts to rain - which it did several times today - I risk going into full-on panic mode. Oh well, at least I've got a better than average excuse for not getting anything done today.


erika said...

SO. You gonna let us know when you're coming to the East Bay??

Amy said...

Your first sentence immediately made me think of Ween.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah: the weather! Doh! No wonder people moved to California.

Larry Livermore said...

::Oh yeah: the weather! Doh! No wonder people moved to California.::

Because of course they never have floods or droughts or wildfires or earthquakes in California.