So here’s a little story of something that happened the other day. I’m not saying it’s entirely Costa Rican in cause but…
When we first moved into our little mountaintop house the pedestal on our main bathroom sink seemed loose and then quickly fell off. I mentioned this to the landlord as it seemed that the sink now had only the most tenuous of connections with the wall. I asked if he could fix it, emphasizing that it seemed dangerous. He nodded blandly and said he would take care of it. Now, let me be clear. We really, really like our landlords. He is generally highly responsive with any of the myriad issues that arise. His wife is great, and has been my walking partner and impromptu language teacher. However, in the case of the sink, he never fixed it. And, to be fair, I never followed up.
Fast forward to last month. We had just completed an epic 5 hour drive from the beach and were stinky, sticky and sleepy. We were getting ready for bed. Suki was brushing her teeth, I was stepping into the shower. I am not sure where Matt and Django were at that moment. As I was coaxing warm water from the shower I suddenly heard a simultaneous shriek, crash and roar. As Suki was leaning over the sink to rinse her mouth it suddenly became detached from the wall. Fortunately Suki has, as she herself describes, “cat-like reflexes”. She jumped out of the way before the heavy ceramic sink could land on her feet, which was wonderful and amazing. Less wonderful was that the sink had sheared off the water pipe that connected the sink to the wall. There was now a high pressure jet of water roaring out of the wall with no way to turn it off.
The pandemonium that ensued! I shouted, Matt ran in and we stared stupidly at the unending stream for a moment. Then I sprang forward, uselessly trying to block the water with my hand. Matt ran from the room, looking for the main water shut off. I yelled for Suki to bring me a pot. She brought me back the salad spinner bowl and I tried to throw bowlfuls of water into the shower. Did I mention that I was naked? There was such an unbelievable amount of water coming out of the wall that stopping to get clothes was out of the question.
I yelled for Suki to get the bucket from the laundry room. Long moments later she came back with it and we got into a rhythm. I would fill a bucket and she would dump it in the shower while I filled the salad spinner. In this way we captured about 60% of the water out of the wall. Matt had rushed back in to say the water shut off was nowhere to be found and that he was going to get our landlord. As Suki and I continued to bail water she expressed deep concern about the impending arrival of the landlord and my state of undress. I agreed with her wholeheartedly but there was nothing for it. Stepping away from the wall for even a moment was out of the question. How could there possibly be this much water gushing into the house?
Long minutes later Matt returned with our landlady. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more embarrassed than I was at that moment when I looked over my cold and goose-pimpled shoulder to see my landlady’s look of shocked amusement as she took in my naked form trying to stop the flood issuing forth from the wall. I snatched up a towel and let Matt bail water for a moment as I tried to explain what we needed. Where was the landlord?? Where was the water shut off? How on earth do you say that in Spanish??? At this point we were exclaiming and gesticulating in 2 inches of water covering our bedroom floor.
I grabbed some clothes while she tried to call her husband. After a few more minutes her aunt wandered in and then her uncle. Matt had at this point used a hose to redirect the water back into the drain pipe, slowing the flow onto the floor by about 95%. I took over and Matt and the uncle disappeared outside. Matt told me later that when the flood first began he had gone outside the gate into our driveway where he knew the water meter and, presumably, the shut off valve to be. When he lifted the cover, however, all he found was the meter, no valve. Matt showed this to the uncle, who calmly assessed the set up. Then he apparently slowly and deliberately began to dig into the earth outside of the box containing the meter. There, buried under the soil, was the shut off valve. He languidly looked at Matt and said, “Here it is,” as though a buried shut off valve was the most obvious thing in the world. Matt told me he fairly shoved the uncle out of the way to reach the valve and shut it off. It would appear we were the only ones who felt the urgency of the situation.
With the emergency of the flood removed we were left to contemplate the aftermath. I, for one, was completely overwhelmed. There was water all through our bedroom, throughout the living room and into both the kitchen and the kids’ room. In that moment I was so thankful to my landlady and her aunt. They started sweeping out the water in a businesslike manner. Had they done this before? It seemed we didn’t have enough rags to really sop up the remaining water but eventually my landlady suggested we use the spinner on my semi-automatic washer to ring out full-size towels. Another chain system was established. While she mopped up water with one towel, I spun down the other. In less time than I would have thought possible the water was cleaned up with no damage to any of our possessions, thanks to all the platforms and furniture Matt had built.
While we had been cleaning a steady stream of people had come through the house. The neighbor who has done plumbing repairs for us came with his son, a classmate of Suki’s. At some point our landlord arrived, rather stony-faced. While it felt like he thought this was our fault, I’m going to assume he looked so irritated because this was something else he had to deal with. At one point there were four men gathered around where the sink had been, making a plan of attack. In the end, the pipe was capped off and we were without water for the rest of the night. We were assured that a new sink would be installed the next day.
More tired than before, we looked at our dirty and deliriously riled-up children. We called some expat neighbors who run a bed and breakfast and asked if we could use their shower. It may have been the best shower of my life. We filled water bottles at their house and slowly trudged home to bed, finally.