August 28, 2011

Speaking of Disaster...

Hurricane Irene was not nice to us.  Actually, I can't even blame the hurricane.  I never saw the winds get over 24mph, which DS and I experienced while walking around today.  24mph is not that big a deal as far as winds are concerned.  It rained fairly consistently, but it didn't flood; at least it didn't in my neighborhood.  I blame our little disaster on the guy upstairs and the maintenance people who told my landlord everything was fine.  The hurricane was just an inconvenience.

So here's what happened.  DS and I started getting rain from Irene early, around 1 in the afternoon.  We thought it would be a good idea to take photos of the view periodically.  That would give our families some  idea of how things progressed based visible distance and tree movement.  We took some videos.  We laughed at the balcony door (which is 10ft tall mind you) being hard to shut.  We remarked on the whistling noise around the door.  But most of the excitement felt had more to do with the idea that this was the start of a hurricane, and not because the storm was particularly exciting.  We've seen a lot worse from the thunderstorms that roll through here.

When we moved into this apartment, we had noticed evidence of water damage over the balcony door.  We alerted the landlord (who conveniently lives below us), he called the building manager, and masons were sent out to check on things.  I remember laughing because I had used my master degree training to hypothesize on the cause, and DS "pff"-ing me, and then the mason explaining the problem to me using my exact wording.  That was the last we heard about it.  Apparently these same people told our landlord the problem was fixed.

I tell you this so you understand why we did not immediately freak out when our ceiling started leaking. We texted our landlord, but didn't really expect a response since we could hear him having his own hurricane party downstairs.  We had been partaking of DS's latest batch of sangria ourselves.  I took some photos since we were documenting stuff anyway, threw a bucket and towel down, and went back to my video game.

Not long after that, DS went to bed.  As he does.  I continued to loosely monitor the leak and play said video game.  To avoid Leak 2 from exploding all over the floor as the paint broke, as Leak 1 had done, at some point I pricked it with a pin and drained it.  Leaks kept appearing, all over the balcony door, and I kept rearranging the buckets so our wood floor wouldn't be totally ruined.

This is what I was doing around 11:45pm when the ceiling collapsed on my head.  I remember kneeling on the floor, moving buckets, and then hearing loud noise.  There was a sensation of being covered, like a bucket of water had been dropped on me, and also kind of like a sheet the way it clouded my vision.  Except it hurt.  And I screamed.  Not an "oh shit, you started me" kind of scream.  An "i'mdyingohgoddon'tkillmeMURDERER" scream.  I felt my glasses get knocked off my face.  I felt like someone dropped a book on my head.

My eyes were full of grit, and burned, and I was afraid to open them.  I'm not sure I could open them.  I held my arms out away from me, like you do on instinct when someone drops a can of soda at your feet for example, and I stood there and screamed.  At this point, I wasn't entirely sure what all had happened. It was really fast and I couldn't see almost immediately.  I was barefoot, in pajamas, and I could feel that I was covered in something and standing in rubble.  I was terrified.  My adrenaline hit so hard I honestly didn't feel any pain from that first book feeling until at least a 1/2 hour later.

I heard DS stumble out of the bedroom, yelling for me.  I couldn't stop screaming.  He's not very coherent when he gets woken up that soon after falling asleep, no matter what the circumstances, and the screaming doesn't help.  I know this from past spider experiences.  So looking back, I'm sure a lot of the noise I heard after that was him running into walls trying to run to me.  He kept telling me to shut up, to tell him what happened.  I remember thinking he should tell me and that it was probably obvious based on what my feet were feeling.  He can see without glasses after all.

I must have gotten out that I couldn't see, and I guess he realized I needed to rinse my eyes out, because somehow we made it to the bathroom.  He turned the water on for me, and I spent some time rinsing out my eyes while I sobbed uncontrollably.  Not even tears, just loud noises that sounded like sobs.  It was like my body could not help crying out in some way; pure panic noises.  I calmed down a lot when I could finally open my eyes.  I tried to get some of the grit out of my hair, but it was hopeless.

We went back out to survey the damage and were floored.  White fluff was everywhere.  There was a 2.5'x4' piece of sheetrock broken in half on the floor.  What looked like mud was covering everything within six feet of the door.  I immediately grabbed the camera and started taking pictures, because I didn't want to take any chances of later being told we had exaggerated something.  The apartment has a way of not getting fixed...  DS was on the phone, trying to get the landlord, even though I was sure he had heard the noise.  I found out that pieces of the outer brick wall had come with the ceiling, which explained why I felt like I'd been hit with them.

The landlord came upstairs right away, and his face held the same shocked expression I'm sure ours had moments earlier.  He asked if we were alright.  We said we were.  This is when I found out I was bleeding.  There was an inch long gash on my forehead and I didn't even feel it.  My landlord said, "You should probably put some ice on that.  You're bleeding."

Over the next hour, I attempted to clean myself up some more, administered some first aid, took a bunch of ibuprofen to fend off the pain I figured would come when the adrenaline wore off.  DS and the landlord worked on cleaning up the living room and attempting to tarp off the upstairs balcony to help minimize further damage.  We asked why the masonry problem hadn't been fixed, and the whole "it is/it isn't" thing mentioned at the beginning came out.  While tarping off the upper balcony, the landlord found out there's actually a hole in the outer wall of the upstairs unit and the dude never did anything about it.  So a lot of rain, 150 year old bricks, and a hole in the wall meant a leaky ceiling for me.  My landlord is super mad at that dude (this is a condo building, and the landlord only owns our unit and his own) and the maintenance people for basically lying to him.  I think he's afraid we'll sue too, but we won't.

Today we tried to clean up as much as possible and covered the hole since insulation (the white fluffy stuff) kept falling out.  I feel like you'd probably expect after having a ceiling and bricks fall on my head.  Thankfully, the cut is pretty minor all things considered.  Right now is the first time I've let the ibuprofen wear off, and I can tell it was a mistake.  There are a lot of sore spots on my head and shoulders.  I wish I had a photo of how I looked when DS found me.  Apparently he had a moment where he honestly thought I'd been tarred and feathered.  That image would probably provide some comedic relief about now.

The rain stopped earlier, but not the wind.  We chanced it anyway and walked around a bit outside with camera.  My neighborhood seems to have been really lucky.  We didn't find any real flooding, or downed trees or anything.  The last of the clouds should be gone by 7pm, and the winds will drop under 20mph then as well.  We're supposed to hear on Monday when the masons and contractors will come fix the ceiling.  Thankfully, the 10 day forecast is rain free, so more leaking shouldn't be a problem.

I'm going to take some more painkillers and chill the rest of the day.  I hope your hurricane experience was better, and that my story will be the only scary thing you hear about.

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Audit Princess said...

Wow! What a mess! You're lucky you weren't hurt worse! Love you!

mlk said...

What a shocking story! I'm glad it wasn't worse. If you have an injury, you may want to discuss with a lawyer. The guy who said everything was fine pitted your life against having to do some work. Good luck!

tRuCuLeNtWoMaN said...


Code name: 1% said...

Gah! Don't go throwing yourself under any more collapsing ceilings, 'kay?