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Last Friday afternoon, my roommate and I were winding down from a week of work, changing into cozy pajamas in preparation for the first winter storm of the season. My roommate, Shay, left me to go take a quick shower so I wandered off in search of a quick snack.
Imagine my surprise when I walked downstairs to find a rivulet of water on the floor that most certainly was not there 10 minutes ago. Rounding the corner hesitantly, I came face to face with the absolute disaster zone our kitchen and dining room had become.
The entire second floor was flooded, and I mean flooded, with a disgusting mixture of water, detergent, clumps of hair and debris.
The only thing that could possibly be the issue was the washing machine, which sits next to the pantry in the kitchen. Wishing I wasn't barefoot but knowing I had no choice, I unwillingly tiptoed through the water, doing my best to avoid the handfuls of hair and waste collecting around the floor. The old washer put up a fight, but I finally managed to turn it off and scurried back upstairs to find my roommate.
One panicked call to emergency maintenance later, we scrambled to help our favorite maintenance guy, Ernie, get a handle on the mess. The flood made quick work of our floorboards and was seeping into the floor below us, dripping water through our smoke detectors and into the garage directly underneath our kitchen. We grabbed every large bowl we owned to try and catch the falling water, while Ernie called a water extraction team to come help clear the water and inspect the damage.
He told us he’d do his best to remove the water while we waited for the professionals, but he only had a small wet vacuum on hand and it was starting to appear hopeless. Being as cleaning obsessed as we are, Shay and I also owned a wet vac in the form of a carpet spot cleaner (Bissell’s Little Green Machine) so we rolled up our sleeves and got to work.
For the next half hour, we worked suctioning water until the vacuums were full, pouring the waste down the toilet then back to continue suctioning. We gingerly clawed at the floating debris and tried not to gag as we disposed of it.
When the water extraction team finally arrived, Ernie gave us a rundown of what to expect. He was sawing through the ceiling on our first floor to help the water clear out, and the extraction team would likely be leaving us with a dehumidifier to help minimize the damage. My roommate and I retreated downstairs to give them space to work and once we closed the door to our study, we both collapsed on the floor, trying not to cry.
We had been so excited to spend the weekend warm and cozy, cuddled up on the couch watching the snow fall. Now we weren’t sure when we’d be able to relax nor did we know what we would be facing when we went upstairs again.
The noise alone was deafening.
Ernie was sawing away at our ceilings while the water extraction team funneled hose after hose from their van, draining water where they could. Everyone left an hour later, explaining they’d be back on Monday to reassess the damage.
Shay and I stood shoulder to shoulder, rendered speechless by how quickly the house had descended into chaos.
The extraction team had left us with 10 industrial fans in addition to the dehumidifier, and they roared throughout the house, so loud we had to shout at one another just to be heard. Everything was damp and filthy. We couldn’t take three steps without crashing into one of those huge fans and we could barely get into our kitchen.
Needless to say, our washing machine was also out of commission, meaning we couldn’t clean any of the countless towels and blankets we'd used to try to soak up all that dirty water.
We decided to escape to our friend’s house for an hour or two, just so we could think clearly without the fans ringing in our ears (and avoid the catastrophe that was our home).
We returned home around midnight, just as the snow began to stick to the ground. In our haste, we'd left the garage door open so we pressed the button to close it, eager to get to bed and end the day.
Our string of bad luck continued as we realized that the flood had also destroyed our garage. The garage door would not close. We were expecting a significant snowstorm that night, and it was too late to expect any help from our leasing office. We stood in the garage, panicked and shivering, using our phones as flashlights (the water had also gotten into the garage lights) to try and figure out how to close the door. It ended up taking all our combined strength to manually pull the garage door shut.
Our house is still currently being dried out, but we’re taking it one day at a time and doing our best not to think too much about it since there’s nothing that we can do to change our situation.
First, garage doors should not be that difficult to close manually. Ours was simply very broken and more than a little frozen from the water and the snowstorm.
Second, make sure your student knows their rights as a tenant. Have them keep a copy of their lease agreement on hand at all times, so they can refer back to it whenever they’re in doubt. They should also never hesitate to ask questions and communicate with their maintenance workers and those in their leasing offices. There’s no shame in not understanding a situation, especially as first time renters, and it’s better to have a clear understanding of the issues so they can make sure they’re not being taken advantage of.
Third, whenever you have a chance, help your student develop healthy coping mechanisms. When stressful situations pile up, they may find themselves totally overwhelmed before they even know it. It’s important they recognize when they need to step back and practice some self-care before trying to fix everything. Their physical and mental health should always come first!
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