As the lady on the phone explained to me last week, at some point on Jan. 10 over 40,000 gallons of water poured into my little college house, raising the basement sea level at least an inch, and slapping me and my fellow residents – all men of great character and poor finances – with a bill the size of an iPhone repair (or a rusty pickup if that’s more your thing).
Because I’m terrible at reading people, I didn’t realize until the end of our conversation that the Hillsdale Board of Public Utilities employee was patiently waiting for me to explain whether the basement had drains. It turns out that while water itself is expensive, those holes in the ground are where the utilities bill actually soaks up paychecks. As the house was built centuries ago with no basement drains, it had simply shoved 40,000 gallons of water into the ground, earning itself a senior discount on the drainage bill.
To review, it all begins with the furnace. A clogged furnace filter inadvertently let several pipes and a toilet tank freeze, resulting in the largest BPU baptism this year. Fortunately for me, it happened at the dear old West Bank, my humble abode across from the local radio station. Had this incident occurred instead at one of the neighboring residences, I might not have had the privilege of anxiously sitting in my living room while a few plumbers solemnly carried the remains of the veteran toilet out the door.
When in college, one does not consider that every appliance in the house is primed to destroy its peers before they get the chance. Since students began living in it, the West Bank has been the site of a home appliance battle royale. Last semester the toilet, may it rest in peace, attempted to drown the washing machine with its own drainage pipe. My clothes, and all parties involved, haven’t been the same since.
Apparently, there’s a gadget that prevents homeowners’ hair and bad breath from hurting their furnaces. When this thing becomes clogged, the little heat factory in the basement can’t keep winter from going bull-in-a-china-shop on the helpless water pipes. A filter constructed from cotton paper has the power to destroy everything plumbers hold dear.
The most frustrating part of this incident is that it isn’t unique. At least two other houses experienced similar problems over winter break. Because they have not disclosed the depth or volume of their respective pipe explosions, we must conclude that the West Bank was at one point the only man-made basement waterpark in the city of Hillsdale. With the recent flooding, the naturally-occurring category is sure to have some outstanding entrants.
Since I have yet to break my nose and regain my sense of smell this year, I can neither confirm nor deny that my basement is now a thriving mold colony.
In times like these, as winter begins to wrap up, it’s important to keep a close eye on anything with pipes coming out of it. Leave no leaky sink uninspected. Let no random basement pipe go unchecked. And, most of all, do not assume the furnace is “taking a break” or “just doesn’t work in that room.”
If columns like these are any indicator, Spring Break is going to be brutal.
Joe Pappalardo is a senior studying marketing.