Never Really Prepared

Nine years ago, we returned from a vacation to find our back guest room in the basement had sprouted a bit of mold. We didn’t spend a lot of time downstairs in those days — we were still finding our footing as parents of two kids, and we hadn’t even experienced a full year in the house. We only found it because of the smell.

March 2019: Never Really Preapred

  • “Hands of Time” — Margo Price
  • “Escape is at Hand for the Travellin’ Man” — The Tragically Hip
  • “Nakamarra” — Hiatus Kaiyote (w/ Q-Tip)
  • “Mastermind” — Deltron 3030
  • “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” — The Cardigans
  • “Cool” — Soccer Mommy
  • “Sunshine Rock” — Bob Mould
  • “When Something is Wrong With My Baby” — Sam & Dave
  • “AQUARIA” — Boots (w/Deradoorian)
  • “Every Ghetto” — Talib Kweli & 9th Wonder (w/ Rapsody)
  • “Hits Me Like A Rock (Depressed Buttons Remix)” — CSS (w/ Bobby Gillespie)
  • “Girl, Why’d You Run Away?” — Reggie and the Full Effect
  • “Dear Boy” — P.O.S.
  • “Golden Dream” — Snail Mail
  • “Jed the Humanoid” — Grandaddy
  • “Eclipse” — The Flaming Lips/Stardeath/White Dwarfs (w/ Henry Rollins)

We tore out the carpet. We threw down a big rug. We blocked the window wells and went on our way.

Three weeks later, we — and thousands of others — experienced what were called “once in a lifetime” storms. The ground had reached full saturation, providing no relief for several days as we received inch after inch of rain. But this time, instead of rushing into the closest available window well, we saw Mother Nature attempt to take back what was rightfully hers, forcing water into our home from below.

It seeped in through cracks in our basement floor. It filled in behind our fireplace. It took an entire half of our basement and made it a water feature, and we spent weeks attempting to keep it from the other half. We vacuumed. We pumped. We moved things into the garage and we ran ourselves sick.

We had a three-year-old, and we had a one-year-old, and we eventually had a seven-hundred-dollar electricity bill. We struggled to keep things in order. But the water subsided, we gutted everything, and we began again — starting this time with some drain tile to help lead water away from our home and into the sump hole where it belonged.

We fixed the landscaping. We thanked our friends and fellow co-workers. We felt anxiety over every rainstorm for a while, and then … we were safe.

But Not Safe Enough

And then, this week, the basement flooded again.

Our backyard had slowly collected feet of snow, and as that snow melted and froze and melted again, it created a kind of frozen swimming pool. Water was trapped against the house. This time, it wasn’t interested in taking back the dirt — this time, it just barged back in through the windows.

Nine years of dryness had dulled the edge, letting us lapse in our diligence; I came home afraid there might be a little bit of wetness in the sump hole and walked into three actual waterfalls. I was stunned. I wasn’t prepared for this. I ran around for ten minutes wondering what I could do, and then clicked into action.

I vacuumed. I pumped. I moved things into the other room. I ran myself sick.

We had taken every precaution we could have, but still got hit. We still got sniped by the weirdest weather winter I’ve ever experienced. I have spent much of my life preparing for something; building the foundation to make sure something happens or something doesn’t happen. I thrive on security, hardly ever take risks, hate being unprepared, and here I am bailing my basement.

The thing is … we were the safe ones.

Elsewhere in town, at the bottom of hills, houses flooded. Their owners and renters — mostly lower-income, day-by-day paycheckers — were forced to the street, pulled away by fire rescue in boats like you see on the news.

New construction on the edges of the city were blasted as a lack of landscaping (and too much concrete) forced water into basements that probably weren’t even finished.

In Nebraska, where every river is spilling over, where the majority of people in the middle of the state live on reservations and family farms, where things are only a disaster away from failure, floods are decimating entire small towns.

Most of us thought we were prepared. Those who can afford it the least are hit the hardest, and the rest of us are lucky enough to escape with our lives inconvenienced. We all thought we were safe, but none of us really were. None of us really ever are.

There’s a moral here somewhere. Until I figure it out, here’s a playlist.

This was lovingly handwritten on March 17th, 2019