Last night I was safely ensconced in my air conditioned bedroom, cold beer in hand, recently started epic action on the tube (Braveheart) when the heavy rain started. I cursed it. I’d started the long movie early on purpose so I’d have time to watch it all. The storm began with distant thunder, then elbows of sudden lightning through the window, then the inevitable deluge. I happen to live in an old house, which means my basement frequently takes on water in heavy rain or rapid thaw. Not up to your knees or anything, just a nice soppy gloss. I’ve tried in my own male I-can-do-anything kind of way to solve this problem. Just give me some sandbags and a forty pound bag of Quick-Rete and I can do anything. Or not.
See, my backyard patio slopes in a bit and creates a nice place for water to pool. When it rains really hard, you could turn the left half of my slate patio into a coy pond for about an hour. If you’re water, you don’t want to be contained by some sucker’s back yard. You want to go places. So you look for the nearest outlet, which in this case happens to be under the bulkhead door, down a short hallway, and into my basement.
Upstairs in the air conditioning, I paused Braveheart, muttering woe-is-me curses under my breath, then tiptoed into the basement, quite certain what I would find. Only it was worse. Water was cascading into the basement from underneath the bulkhead door at an alarming rate. Just ripping through in small angry tides, breaching every available opening in tiny white caps. Mice could have windsurfed on this shit. There was so much water I kept imagining that there was a lake or dam on the other side and that if I opened the door to see where the water was coming in, I, my sleeping children, and the whole house would be washed away like so many Lincoln Logs. I briefly thought of my beer upstairs. Of the epic Scottish ass-kickers about to do battle with those oppressive English fucks, thinking, man, you have to be some kind of bad ass to fight in a kilt. Then I started furiously bailing water from my basement floor into a tall plastic brew bucket, then lugging the full bucket up the stairs and dumping it into the sink. I did this until my back literally grew a mouth and told me to stop it before I hurt myself.
If you’ve ever done this, and you probably have, you can summon emotional links to my helplessness. The feeling of scooping up water at a far slower rate than it’s arriving. There’s nothing quite so sad as a man fighting nature alone and losing badly. But as Hemingway instructed, a middle aged homeowner can be destroyed, but not defeated.
Eventually, I realized I was doing absolutely no good bailing. My only chance was to stem the tide from outside. From the source. So I ventured out into the pouring rain and hauled some sandbags out of the garage and pinned them where the patio meets the bulkhead. I was shirtless by this point; there was a flashlight pinned under my arm. It was pretty bad ass, actually, and though I wasn’t quite Mel Gibson, in my own mind the whole thing was heroic and cinematic. Even better, the sandbags did the trick. Then I spent an hour back in the basement mopping up the rest and reveling in the hidden glories and hard won victories of home ownership, having long stopped thinking I was going to get back to Braveheart, thinking, William Wallace was a pussy.