Recent Splats according to Miz Yank

Basements: yet another reason why it pays to rent

I don’t mind that my house has a sense of humor. I really don’t. I just wish it were more like David Sedaris’s than Larry, Moe and Curly’s.

My house’s idea of a good time is to let long periods pass without incident. The minute it senses that I’ve let my guard down, it comes out of nowhere, pokes me in the eyeballs, and hits me with its best slapstick.

Case in point: For the past year, my house has required almost no maintenance beyond the occasional lawn cut. I should have known it was just biding its time. It made its move on a weeknight in April when I had invited my friend Tish over for dinner.

Just as Tish and I cut into our steaks, a storm moved in and the sky began to unfurl sheet after sheet of rain. The thrum of the downpour added pleasant ambience until my ears detected a beeping noise coming from the basement. I have no appliances there that beep, so I excused myself to investigate. The sound led me to my unfurnished storage area, home to the house’s major systems and a bunch of spiders.

The distress call was coming from the Verizon FIOS box mounted on the far wall, and I soon understood why: rain was streaming down the wall on which the box was mounted, leaving the box surrounded by water and with no life preserver. I grabbed a towel to staunch the flow, a move that diverted the water right into the path of the adjacent electrical box. Panicked, I reached for the nearest absorbent, which happened to be a wetsuit.

While combatting the stream with the wetsuit, I noticed the floor near the back wall was also soaked. This could only mean the ground was so saturated that water was coming into the house through the floor. My house has a sump pump, but it’s so ancient I swear it’s the same model Nero installed in his basement in case the aqueducts overflowed. I watched the pump go through the motions of removing water, but it was doing nothing more than gargling.

“TISH!” I yelled.

My dear friend, who should not have been asked to do anything more strenuous than lift a steak knife, suddenly found herself deputized and in charge of two-woman Towel Brigade.

When we got the basement under control, I went outside to determine whether a mis-aimed downspout might be the culprit. (I brought a cookie sheet with me, perhaps because I’ve watched one too many MacGyver episodes.)  That downspout sits behind dense hedges, diving into which felt like wrestling a wet porcupine. I got to the downspout and found that it had been buried underground, so it wasn’t the culprit. Because I was facing a situation that even a roll of duct tape and a detonating plunger couldn’t fix (you’ll have to read my book to get that story), I turned to the one thing that could: wine. Tish and I opened a second bottle and hoped for the best.

A few days later, I called in the pros, and in just a few weeks, I will be the proud owner of a new drainage system and sump pump. This is almost as exciting–and expensive — as when I got a brand new set of gums.

Thanks to the basement’s shenanigans, I barely noticed that my oven appears to have had a stroke. The digital keypad where you punch in the desired oven temperature is paralyzed with the exception of three numbers. If you have any recipes that call for baking at 789 degrees, feel free to pass them along.

In the meantime, I need to figure out how to get the last laugh around here without bringing the house down.

Sump pump or money pit? You be the judge.

Sump pump or money pit? You be the judge.




  1. Chris lages says:

    I feel for you. My basement plays jokes like those played by Ashton Kutcher’s “Punked” crew. So funny that $40k fell out of my wallet.i try to laugh through the tears.

    • miz yank says:

      YOWCH! Sounds like I shouldn’t complain too much about Larry, Moe and Curly. Maybe we can have a pity party in my basement. We’ll gather ’round the sump pump, light a few candles, and hoist a commiseration glass of water (water being both the cause of our woes and the only liquid we can afford to consume).

  2. Wendy W says:

    Been there, done that, but found it 3 days after the deluge in 2001! Walked in the house after a vacation and immediately said “what’s that smell?” 1.5 ” water sloshing around the basement, wet walls, mildew. Had to pack up the entire basement, have a pool table dismantled, holes drilled in the walls so blowers could be installed to dry them, french drains and a sump pump, new door, outside drain, gutter covers, and 3 months until it was all over! Fortunately, we had back-up storm, sewer, and drain insurance to cover the damage.


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