Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Great Flood

 Next on our list of excitement was the leak in our kitchen ceiling. My mother and I both had a friend staying over for Shabbat (not the same one obviously) and both wanted to take a shower Saturday morning. My mother's friend went first (and last for the next week as it turned out). I passed by the bathroom and heard a strange gurgling noise, so I looked down and noticed that a brook had sprung up in the bathroom doorway within the last 5 minutes where none had previously been. I mentioned to my mother that we had a slight problem and she just sighed. A few minutes later I was sitting downstairs with my father, Michael the aforementioned engineer (among many other things), and Michael's son. Suddenly we heard a dripping sound and I cringed. The ceiling in between the kitchen and the living room was dripping. I stuck a rag underneath the drip and ran upstairs to tell my mom's friend that her shower had come to an abrupt end. By the time I came back down, there were two other drip sites. I put down some more rags in the hope that it would stop dripping once the shower was off. About 5 minutes later, we all heard a whoooosh. Whoosh is a nice sound to hear if you're standing next to a waterfall. Whoosh is not a nice sound to hear in your kitchen. Although when I walked into the kitchen, I was in fact standing next to a waterfall. I ran to get a bucket since everyone else was still sitting frozen on the couch. The waterfall had formed in the nice new light fixture we had installed when we redid the kitchen. Even with the buckets (I'd gone for a second one), there was water accumulating all over the floor.
Something had to be done, so Michael and I went out in the hall looking for the water meter closet with the meters for every apartment. We found it on the bottom floor (I would recommend to everyone to figure out where their water meter is in case of an emergency such as this). Michael found the meter that was rapidly spinning and turned it off. Then we followed the pipes and realized that we had turned off the neighbor's water. So we quickly turned it back on and then stole the knob, since for some reason ours doesn't have one. I noticed however that our meter wasn't really spinning all that much, leading us to conclude that there probably wasn't any purpose in turning it off anyway. I returned the neighbor's knob and we went back upstairs. My mother, in the meantime, had turned off the water in the apartment from the box in our kitchen with all the water pipes.
Finally our senses returned and we realized we were expected somewhere for lunch. My father, my friend, and I rowed out ahead to at least let our lunch hosts know that we had not been gored by rabid wildebeest on the way over and that the rest of the crew would arrive after dredging the kitchen.
At some point we realized that we had invited about 8 people for the Purim feast the next day, and that it probably wasn't going to take place in our dining room as planned since we didn't have enough life jackets for everyone.
After shabbat we called the insurance company, or left a message for the insurance company anyway. While we waited for the plumber to come the next day, we decided to take the light fixture off so it could dry off. We hadn't turned on the light since the ceiling flood for fear of short circuiting the whole house. My mother attempted to get the light fixture off but was unsuccessful so she asked me to give it a try. I gave my father the task of holding the light fixture so that it wouldn't fall on the floor when I unscrewed it. I figured that was probably all he was capable of- standing there holding stuff. I was wrong. The phone rang and he thought it might be the insurance company so he ran to get the phone. Without telling me that he was letting go. So the metal side of the light fixture bent and I had to get pliers to bend it back. The plastic had also cracked which I couldn't fix, so I had to fire him and dock his pay. Actually I just yelled at him for 5 minutes for not being able to do the one task I had given him, which had involved not dropping what he was holding. I now know better. Ask my mother to handle these kinds of tasks and leave my dad alone to cook in peace.
The plumber finally came and located the leak. A pipe had burst outside our upstairs bathroom so he had to remove about 8 floor tiles and a small chunk of the bathroom wall. Which is what everyone needs of course, a hole in their bathroom wall and a channel of dirt in their hallway. They had to be left open for a few days to dry. It looked like an archaeological dig, especially with 30 year old rusty pipes lying around. I also found what I thought was a fossil but apparently it was just an old chicken wing. The guy was supposed to come back on Thursday, but didn't. He didn't come back on Sunday or next Thursday either. By the time he did come back I had planted geraniums in the channel of dirt. He put new tiles over the channel (almost matching but not quite). Whatever. My flowers hadn't been getting enough sunlight anyway.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

“Can Your Husband Do It?”

Our apartment has been going through many changes lately. The addition of my father's new “Big Mac” (a two year old Mac with a 27 inch screen) required a place to put it, since the dining room table was not really a very good option. Instead, he commandeered the t.v. room. He needed a desk, so I gave him mine, and I bought a new desk instead. I decided to buy a real office chair too since my butt was falling through the cane folding chair I'd been using. It took three weeks for the chair to arrive and I wasn't able to answer the door when it did come because I had fallen through the folding chair and gotten stuck two weeks before. The new desk arrived the same day (even though I had actually ordered it two and a half weeks after the chair). The shipping company called me and asked me if someone was home to sign for the desk. I told them I was home, and they asked me if there was someone there who could help bring the desk up to the apartment. I was like, “well I guess I can help,” And the guy answered, “no, not a woman. Is there anyone else home who could help?” Would I have volunteered myself to haul a desk up a flight and a half of stairs if there was someone else who could do it? I told them that my father was home but that he's 71 and it would probably be better if I helped. The guy on the phone went, “hmmm, can I call you back?” He called me back a few minutes later to tell me that the company decided that if there was no one to help him take it upstairs, then he'd just leave it at the entrance to the building. I'm like, “so that it will never in anyone's lifetime make it upstairs? How is that helpful to anyone?” Then I understood why the shipping and handling was so cheap. Because it was just shipping, no handling. A few minutes later, the door bell rang and there's a guy standing there next to a large box. I'm like, “so what was the whole deal about bringing it upstairs?” The guy rolls his eyes and answers, “If anyone asks, I left it downstairs at the entrance to the building.” I just nodded and said, “gotcha.”
First I put together the chair. It had about 4 pieces, and 6 pictures on a piece of paper which comprised the “instruction manual.” I put it together in about 10 minutes or so, sat on it, and tried to raise the seat up so I'd be able to see over the desk (I had to imagine the desk since it was still in the box at this point). I stood up and raised the lever. Nothing. I sat down and raised the lever. Nothing. I turned the chair over and peered at the lever. I poked it a few times. Lifted it, lowered it, pulled at the base of the chair which is supposed to be a piston but apparently is a piston that doesn't work. Also called a useless hunk of metal. I looked at the pictures again, scratched my head, got distracted by coloring them in, got frustrated that I still can't color in the lines, went back over the pictures trying to figure out what I did wrong, then realized that I'd have to be a complete moron to have screwed this up. Which is not outside the realm of possibility considering I can't even draw inside the lines. So I decided to move on to the desk. I brought it up a few pieces at a time because those shipping guys were right, that box was heavy. I finally got all the pieces upstairs and realized that there are about 900 pieces to this thing and a variety of different screws. There's even some furniture glue. I'm not really a fan of furniture glue. I'm always afraid I'm going to accidentally glue the instructions to an important piece of the furniture. Or glue it all in backwards or upside down. Glue is permanent.
An hour and a half later, I've got the whole thing put together. I found good places to screw in the extra pieces and even figured out where the oddly shaped plastic bits were supposed to go (I made a collage on my wall). I've got a few extra holes in the desk drawers, but that's ok because I'd realized pretty early on that I'd put the tracks on the top of the drawer instead of the bottom and you can't really even see them unless the drawers are open. It's not really my fault though because that's how it was in the picture. I was just so intent on the picture that I didn't notice that next to the picture was written “warning, this picture is upside down.” It did come out mostly symmetrical however, and hasn't collapsed yet, so I guess that's a pretty good sign.
I figured that if I could put the desk together, I had probably put the chair together just fine too. So I decided to call the company the next day to tell them that the chair didn't work right. The guy I spoke to was like, “ok, let's see if we can fix this. Sit on the chair.” I sat on the chair.
“Which side is the handle on?”
“The right side. I put the part that said “front” in the front if that's what you're asking.”
“Ok, good. Now stand up and pull the handle.”
Pull the handle?! Pull the handle?!!! Why didn't I think of that?! If I had just “pulled the handle” to begin with, I wouldn't be wasting his time and mine! I could put the entire chair together myself, but I guess pulling the handle that says “lift up” was past my mechanical ability.
He goes, “the piston probably just needs to loosen up a bit, but I guess I can send you a new one.”
I was like, “well I don't have all year to wait for it to loosen up on its own, and as far as I know they don't have yoga classes for pistons so how about if you just do that.”
He says, “can your husband replace it when it comes?”
“I don't have a husband but I can probably manage it.” I spent two years taking apart and putting together M-16s with at least 50 little metal pieces, springs, and pins. I can handle this measly 4 piece chair. Ok, actually it has 8 pieces now that I count, plus wheels and a few screws. The instructions were still 6 pictures long though.
I spent the next week peering over the top of my desk, waiting for the new piston to arrive. My former desk was now downstairs, being covered by “Big Mac,” and the t.v. had found a new place on the floor where the cats could watch Animal Planet if they so desired.
Finally the piston arrived in the mail. Unfortunately, the old piston was still stuck to the bottom of the seat. After spending 5 minutes trying to remove it by bracing my feet on the bottom of the seat while pulling on the legs, I finally gave up and got a hammer. I succeeded in scaring the pants off of Moby (to this day he doesn't wear any) and after clearing the cat fur out of my eyes, got the base off of the chair.
I attached the new piston but was afraid to sit on the chair for fear of getting it stuck and then having to pull out the hammer again if it didn't work and I had to remove it. So we had my father's friend Michael come over to deal with it. I figured that as a fairly large engineer, he could both figure out how to work the piston and remove it if need be. Thankfully, it worked because I was not ready to call up the company again. If I had, I'd have sent the entire thing back and to hell with them.