I once had a son… well, actually I had two, and I still have them. This is a cautionary tale so I’m keeping to the fairy-tale standards.
I once had a son who took long, hot, showers in the morning. Not that he was particularly dirty each night, certainly not 45 minutes of dirt. It had just became a standard. It was how he woke up to face another grueling day of high school.
His bathroom, the one he shared with his sisters, had a flaw. There was no ventilator fan, and in the winter there was not the option of opening the window. I don’t think that it was open in the summer either.
The room was a virtual steam bath after every shower, and in a way that was also comforting. But this is not a story about a personal sauna. It is a story about soap, or more accurately a soap dish.
One morning at breakfast, before he headed off to school, my son said that the soap dish was loose in the bathroom.
The soap dish was inset in the wall, held by a single screw and some mounting grout. I considered the problem and came up with a solution. A longer screw and more grout. Perhaps I will get to it on the weekend.
The weekend had mostly passed, and now it was late Sunday afternoon, still time to go to the hardware store if necessary.
I tested the screw and affirmed that it seemed to endlessly spin in place. Yes, definitely a case of a stripped screw. As I sat on the tub’s edge I pulled on the soapdish just a little and it seemed as if the entire wall bulged out toward me.
Perplexed, and not quite believing what I saw, this time I pushed. The wall of tile seemed to depress at my push.
This time I pried the soapdish to one side and it popped off, exposing a dark hole in the wall. I was expecting to see the wood two by four where the soapdish had been screwed. There didn’t appear to be any wood.
I combined the push/pull flexing of the tiled wall, and the absence of wood, and I had a terrible feeling. Dry rot! I had two choices. Fill the wall up with some magical foam, plaster, or concrete, or take off the tile and wallboard to see where the wood went.
I went from loose soapdish to major demolition. I pulled the tile away around the soapdish, no wood. I continued to pull down tile and wallboard to find the studs holding up the sliding window. There were no studs holding up the window.
I pulled the tile off the shelf that held the shampoo and rinse bottles. Under the tile and wallboard shelf there was no shelf. I couldn’t find any wood left anywhere.
More tile and wallboard came down. In the far corners I finally found good wood. The tub was completely filled with tile and broken wallboard. The whole wall was gone!
That late Sunday afternoon turned into an early Monday morning with the tub and all the fixtures on the porch, a sawzall cutting through several floor beams, and the window only being held into place by the outside wood siding.
It looked as if a bomb had gone off. It was strange seeing the nails of the outside siding just hanging there in space with nothing to attach. I briefly wondered what was keeping the siding from falling off.
My fable about the soapdish has played itself out in several ways. What is consistent is that things that appear simple, can suddenly go very wrong.
A few years before the soapdish, we brought a dog. She was a wonderful dog… okay, she had issues. but don’t we all? We had Bella for twelve good years. Bella declined quickly at the end, and it was clear that she was aging and getting slower.
One evening she seemed to collapse under the dining room table. She couldn’t stand or move, so we tried to make her comfortable. The whole family was there, surrounding her with love. She died as I was sitting next to her, stroking her fur.
It was a shock, it came so quickly. We hadn’t noticed that she was uncomfortable, and perhaps she wasn’t. She just died because it was her time, surrounded by the family she loved.
It wasn’t long before I began thinking, “Now what?” She couldn’t stay there on the floor, but where should she go?
Who do you call? It was dark, I didn’t relish the idea of getting a shovel and digging a hole at midnight. I finally wrapped her in a sheet and placed her in a black plastic bag.
We discussed our options in the morning. We decided against taking her to the vets for cremation. We wanted to bury her on the property. She wouldn’t fit in a shoebox, but she wasn’t a really large dog. It was certainly possible to find a place and dig it deep enough.
The main discussion was centered around a spot in the backyard, or a spot in the front yard. Little did I know that the “soapdish effect” hinged upon our choice.
We settled on the front yard because she would be remembered here. In the backyard she would be lost and forgotten. In the front yard she would be remembered and loved.
I found a spot just below the front walk, so I got my shovel and pick. The pick was used to breakup the hard earth, and the shovel, shoveled out the dirt.
After about an hour of digging, I thought I had a whole about the correct size. I carefully laid her body in the trench and I could see I had the right length and width, but not the right depth. It had no go at least another foot deeper.
Out came the pickax and shovel. More strokes into the earth. More scraping dirt out of the hole. It looked just about right. I could stop here or hit it one more time to be sure. I took the pickax for one last stroke and immediately pierced the main water line.
The mother of all geysers exploded out of the hole, shooting thirty feet into the air.
I was a little surprised and shocked. Okay, I was profoundly surprised and shocked. I quickly ran to the house shut-off valve to turn it off. It didn’t work, the break was front of the valve, not behind it. The house didn’t have water though, so to that extent I was successful.
I pondered the possibility of shutting it off at the street. It was a good idea, but I didn’t have the right tool and the value was buried in dirt. I had to call the utility company while Old Faithful spewed all over the yard.
The “soapdish effect” was just starting. It took an hour before the water company shower, and after he shut off the water he reminded me that it was my responsibility to repair the line.
I asked what his experience told him. He didn’t know, but probably around $10,000 dollars.
Our dog was going to have a ten thousand dollar burial.
Things can turn on a dime. You can crack the window in the bathroom, and the room will last sixty years. You can bury your dog in the backyard, and you can save 10 grand. Another example of truth and consequences.
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