A Bitch Named Irene…


[box type=”download” icon=”none”][Editors note. Sometimes life on earth makes us want to kill everyone else who lives there. I have been there a couple of times. Our best wishes go out to Izzey, a long time supporter of the AVfM Mission. May it all pass quickly. PE][/box]

…a betrayal, and the almost landed right hook.

I knew she was coming. I also knew I would do everything in my power to kick her ass. I boarded up my windows (eighteen of them, anyway) while neighbors peeked out of their own windows scratching their heads…like I was going too far. A man pulled up in a car with a microphone in his hand and asked if he could interview me. He also wanted the sounds of the saw cutting the wood boards in-between talking to me. It was for radio, not television, so I said “sure, why not” It was a good interview, and he left without telling me what radio station I would be on. I laughed, because it didn’t even matter. I had Irene on my mind.

It figures, a hurricane barreling up the eastern seaboard would be named after a woman. She wasn’t going to ‘turn’ either. She had me in her crosshairs, and I was going to have the eye of that bitch coming right over my house. She chose the highest tide to announce her arrival. She did not want me to forget her….ever.

I was prepared. The new sump pump was installed into my basement, three back-up pumps and a generator were standing by. Everything in my basement was up high on shelves, or in heavy grade plastic bins. I have danced with the high tide and hard rains in my basement before, but this was going to be a different dance; so different that I was not sure I was up to the task. I weighed my options– Leave, and come home to a drowned house. Stay, and maybe become a drowned statistic.

I work on boats, and my partner is a commercial plumber. Two people that know the water from different perspectives professionally. He installed the new sump pump as his crew cut it into the waste lines. If you pump out flood water into the street, you get it right back into the house. The waste line was my best bet. The floor pumps had hoses propped over the big tub sink, also going into the waste line. They only had to be turned on when the time came, and they were strategically placed around the most vulnerable parts of the foundation.

Whatever I could carry in the way of lower shelved power tools, artwork, precious personal items, and boxes of frames for my poetry art, were brought upstairs. I even loaded my car, and also put things in the garage up on a big table using the leftover uncut boards from the windows on top of saw horses. I filled my bathtub, had gas cans ready for the generator, and bought dry goods, bottled water, and had more batteries than any one store had on the shelves in the last week. I also had a ‘ditch kit’ with toiletries, clothing, important papers, cash, my blood type info, and phone numbers for family…etc. I was the epitome of “prepare for the worst, and hope for the best”

I set the clock for 3am. I took ‘a nap’ for a couple of hours thinking it may be the last sleep I’d get for maybe the next 48 hours. When I woke up, the winds were pinging debris against my boarded windows, the sump pump was already jammin’, and the rain was hard. Trees were doing a hula dance.

Game on.

I went downstairs and was smiling. I thought this was going to be a walk in the park. The water started coming in briskly by 4:30am. By 5am, I had to turn on the floor pumps, and get ready to man a big shop vac. I had my coffee, and was wide-awake-ready. But something was wrong. The sump pump was filling up, and so was the tub sink fed by floor hoses. Suddenly water came rushing through holes in the cement foundation like someone shot them with bullets. The side door to the basement, which was a tightly sealed double locked steel door, had water gushing in from under it. It is then that I fucking panicked. Nothing was pumping out, and the tide surge was coming in. I was up to my knees in water in just a few minutes. Within an hour, my waist.

Suddenly, things were floating all around me. I was trying to throw plastic bins up the stairs from where I was. I could not believe it. I knew I had already lost the oil burner and water heater. Washer and dryer were next. They were still plugged in. The outlets were all overhead. When I heard the sizzle of outlets being blown I was still in the water trying to navigate floating objects. My freezer filled with meat and other food, came right off its blocks and almost pinned me into the steps. I thought for sure I was a goner. I was going to drown or be electrocuted.

My dehumidifier slid across the floor tripping me up. I fell backwards, and almost could not get out from the floating freezer. I was trying not to panic. Everything was falling down around me. The washing machine came off its block and just fell forward and sunk. I was grateful it wasn’t coming after me. The dryer is a front loader, and filled up with water and pretty much stayed put. The hoses from the pumps were like snakes all around me. I started freaking out. Wood shelves fell over with all of their contents spilling out.

I knew I had to get out. I was now a star in a disaster movie. Sometimes, the star dies. I was up to my neck in water, and there were two steps left at the top of the stairs not yet submerged. The whole basement would be filled to the top within a half hour. I had nine full steps down. I suddenly started laughing. I remembered that I went to school with a girl named Irene. What a cunt. A real bitch on wheels.

There was some stupid irony in that.

I got out, and flooded my kitchen with my clothes. I started to cry. I didn’t understand why the water didn’t pump out. I was now at high tide with a five foot surge accompanying it. The wind was beating the shit out of my house, and I had only one small window to peek out of. I had boarded all the large ones. I changed my clothes, and prepared for the main floor to take on water. The street was a river, and there was no escape. I hoped I had a phone to at least check on my family and maybe say goodbye. What a fucking nightmare.

I looked into the basement. High tide peaked and I had one step to go. The water looked calmer. The freezer was lodged on two steps against a wall that had my workbench on the other side. ‘Christmas’ rubbermaid tubs were tightly closed, but flipped upside down, and water was seeping into all of them. My back door to the kitchen had a foyer with a window. The wind was not coming from that side of the house. I was on an open corner, and three sides caught the wind. Not this side. I could see my garage. There was five feet of water against it. I knew I lost everything in there below that.

The betrayal was the town. They shut down the waste lines. They did not tell us they were going to do that. As soon as the tide started to move out, they put them back on and the sound of my sump pump kicking in almost made me cry again. Once the water started to go down, I had to get back in it to make sure the freezer and other floating large objects landed close to their original spots. If they were no longer floating I could not move them back. I needed to clear the floor for pumps and their hoses to get the rest of the water out. I did my best, and was successful. I was finally able to open the door. I worked most of the day pumping only. the streets went down, but suddenly again. I had more water coming in rapidly. I could not understand this. I was working my ass off, filthy, wet, tired, hungry, thirsty, and pissed off. Others, were doing the same.

I took a break and walked around the corner. Two houses over from my corner house on the other street there was a monster generator sitting in a driveway, pulling out water from a firehouse size hose, with no hose guiding its extraction down to the street drains. It was just spitting out gallons and gallons of water like and uncapped fire hydrant. The driveway sloped down on the right side, flooding my neighbor’s house and the runoff from his yard went betweeen our houses – and right back into my basement.

I fucking flipped out. Pure rage took over my whole body. I banged on the door…no answer. I yelled at the house…”Come on out!!!” Nothing…nobody home. So, I did the next best thing. I shut the fucking thing off and waited. Still nothing. Then a big white shiny brand new truck pulls up, with two young muscle jocks – hair perfectly gelled, skin tight t-shirts and jeans on, get out, and are looking at the pump. I said “is this your house…….mother-fucker??”

He said,”It’s my father’s house, and he rents it out, so I am taking care of the flood for him” (I had fire in my eyes as he said to me, “what’s your problem?” I said, “My problem is that you have no hose on this thing, and it is pumping water back into MY basement” He looks at the flooded neighbor’s house, and realizes the streets are clear, and he is flooding the houses and not draining into the street. “Oh, I did not realize you guys are lower than me, and when I put this on early this morning, there was water all over the place” (It was now 4pm, and I had been pumping hours and hours of his fucking water out of my basement) “Put a fucking hose on it, or I will break off the switch, and you’ll not start this thing again today” I said.

He said –“Calm down lady, I didn’t realize I was flooding you” My answer to that, was, “Look around, asshole…what do you see? HOSES everywhere, pumping to street drains.” He told me to go home, and he would fix it. I told him I wasn’t leaving until he did. He told me to “fuck off.”

I told him “there’s two ways of doing things: The right way, or you ain’t got no business doing it at all, way” (I almost couldn’t speak, and thought I was going to have a heart attack or kill him right on the spot) He was in my face with his clean shaven face, and stinky after shave. I was filthy muddy, and felt my right fist clenching. If I were a man in the same situation, I would have landed the punch at “fuck off.” I walked away.

He put on the hose, and my basement pumped out completely. I then helped my other neighbors pump out with my own pumps. I came back home and took a cold shower because I now have no water heater, and then I sat down and had a real good cry. Today was the first time in my life, that I really wanted to punch someone, and knock them out cold, for being so fucking inconsiderate.

These guys just turned on a pump and walked away. They worked at nothing. They were squeaky clean, whilst everyone else in the street was filthy, wet, and exhausted, just like I was. The old man on the other side of this house, was left alone by his family to ‘ride it out’ and take care of the aftermath. Most of the women fled. There were a few left, that worked with their husbands like a team. How real relationships were meant to be. Those people are a rare breed these days. I also have to add, that my other neighbor (single mother) left her sixteen year old son in the house with three cats and a dog, no pumps, or staples and went on a business trip two days before the hurricane. I boarded up his garage window, gave him some batteries, flashlight, food, and told him to RUN or swim to my house if it got too bad at his. What a fucked up world we live in.

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