Monday, July 10, 2006

The Ceiling is Falling! The Ceiling is Falling!

Chicken Little would feel very much at home at Duloc Manor this week. The sky, or rather the ceiling, was literally falling this morning due to a leak in the air conditioner drain pipe.

Actually, the saga goes back a few of weeks. I dragged my sorry butt back to Chicago for the first time in 9 months in mid-June. I didn't really want to, but I've been putting it off for much too long. We had set up a visit with my sister, a dinner date with friends, and I also had a business meeting in the Loop, so I had to steel my nerves, down some Xanax, and force myself onto the plane.

I was flying alone on a Thursday to join my husband, who'd been there working since Monday. It was my first time flying since the fatal Southwest accident at Midway last winter, and my mind had been concocting all sorts of terrible air-disaster fantasies in the many months since I'd last flown. I'm a nervous flyer at the best of times, and a Flight From Hell (Cliff Notes version: unable to land due to weather, forced to divert for fuel and sit on the plane for hours, and then an aborted landing at our original distination) made me even more paranoid. I'm not afraid of a crash, but rather of knowing that I'm "trapped" and potentially unable to land. But Xanax usually chills me out enough to prevent me from running through the aisles in a frenzy of panic, and I'm not too bad unless the flight takes on some of the characteristics of that terrible, terrible day when I was trapped on the plane for hours.

Fortunately the flight to Chicago was dull and uneventful, just the way I like 'em. I chose a window seat in the exit row and prepared to lose myself in a music CD. But the man in the middle seat was quite chatty, so I spent most of the 2+ hours listening to his tales of life and retirement. It made the time go by rather fast, and before I knew it I was touching down at Midway and breathing a sigh of relief as the reserve thrusters assertively kicked in.

I marveled at the fact that I didn't feel any attachment to the condo where I'd lived for almost a decade. It was somewhat more familiar than a hotel room, but not by much. I feel more at home in 5650, my usual room on the Disney Magic and Wonder ships, than I felt in my former abode. The only thing that tugged at my heartstrings was my comedy/tragedy mask collection that still graces the piano room walls. I reminded myself that someday soon they'll be with me at Duloc Manor.

It was great to see various friends and relatives, but I was more than ready to board a Florida-bound plane on Monday. I popped a calming pill and settled in to listen to some music while hubby watched a DVD. I was pretty relaxed, so the fact that well over two hours had passed didn't sink into my skull until the captain announced on the PA that we were in a holding pattern. We couldn't land due to weather. ARGHHHHH!!!! FLASHBACK! FLASHBACK!

I popped another half-pill of Xanax and fought the anxiety that surged through my nerves like an electric current. I pulled out a book in an attempt to focus my racing brain. Then hubby, who always knows just the right thing to say, announced, "Wow, I'll bet we're running out of fuel by now. We're probably going to have to divert to Tampa!"

It was only through a supreme act of will than I didn't totally lose it right there. Instead, I excused myself to the lavatory, where I splashed cold water on my face and practiced slow, measured breathing. I'm a cognitive therapist, and I was frantically forcing myself to look at the situation in a rational framework: "There's nothing you can do about this, whether or not you freak out, so why waste the energy required to panic?" It helped a little, but I still took the other half of the Xanax pill when I returned to my seat. That large of a dose of "happy drugs" typically puts me to sleep, which I figured would be the best option.

At that point, the captain announced that we had been cleared to land in Orlando. Whew! I could feel my comfort level rising as we glided in over the familiar scenery. I wanted to cheer when the plane entered the airspace over MCO property. But suddenly the engines gave a mighty roar and we swooped up into the sky again! I couldn't believe aborted landing. How much closer could this get to my previous nightmare experience? Worse yet, the captain never explained why we were forced to abort. I'm sure it was some mundane reason, like another aircraft in front of us that hadn't moved quickly enough, but I need some reassurance. I just want to know that the landing gear isn't hanging by a thread or that an engine is ready to explode.

My adrenaline vied with the Xanax for control of my brain, but thankfully we landed after a few more circles. I actually managed to stay awake for dinner, but I laid down when we got home at 8 p.m. and didn't stir again for 12 full hours.

We were scheduled to go on a three-day Disney cruise on Thursday for my husband's birthday. Unfortunately, on Tuesday I noticed an ugly brown stain on the family room ceiling. Just great...that gave us 48 hours to deal with it before we had to leave for Port Canaveral. Thankfully, we had purchased an extended home warranty, so even though it would be a major inconvenience, at least it wouldn't cost us any more than $50 to repair.

The warranty company sent a serviceman out on Wednesday. He pronounced it a clogged A/C drainage line, which seemed ironic since we flush it out with Simple Green every month per the builder's instructions. There was no dampness around the mouth of the drain pipe, but water had definitely found its way underneath the A/C unit. The serviceman unclogged it and pronounced it "sound," but I couldn't help a nagging feeling of paranoia that something else could happen while we were away on the cruise.

Like my flying phobia, my house fear is rooted in a past experience. When we were first married, I moved into my husband's townhome. It was a creepy 1970s throwback with an avocado-painted exterior and a vibe inside that would have sent any self-respecting psychic running in panic. Ever seen the "Bad Dream House" episode of The Simpsons? I'm sure that townhome was the inspiration; if I'd seen blood running down the walls, it wouldn't have shocked me in the least.

I always felt that we'd come home someday and find it burned to the ground. While that didn't happen, it did get destroyed by a second-floor flood while we were in Ohio for the weekend. The toilet tank cracked, and the subsequent damage was enough to leave us homeless for three months. The drywall was destroyed, as was most of the flooring. They had to strip Bad Dream Home right down to the studs and rebuild most of the interior. We sold it shortly thereafter and moved into a nice, non-haunted condo.

But obviously water-based destruction is a reocurring theme in my life. Our ceiling had a big, brown stain in the shape of a giant, mutant ameoba, and the paint on the beam between the dinette and family room was cracked and peeling. We put it out of our minds and focused on enjoying our cruise.

Upon our return, we purchased supplies to attempt a do-it-yourself repair job. But we didn't want to start it until we were certain that everything was dried out, so we let it sit for a few more days.

Good choice!

On Sunday morning, I heard hubby grumbling in an annoyed sort of way, tinged with mild panic. The stain was spreading like the lethal slime in "Creepshow," and the whole area was soaking wet again. The cracks had now worked their way almost halfway across the beam. Why oh why does this sort of thing have to happen either a) two days before we leave on vacation; or b) on a weekend?

I called the warranty company, and they had the repair shop call me back. I was assured that we'd be a priority call on Monday morning. There was one call before us, so the serviceman showed up around lunchtime. After eliminating the less destructive possibilities, he realized that he was going to have to cut into the ceiling. Turns out that the pipe joint had come unglued and separated, so all the run-off water was draining right into the ceiling. Ugh!

The serviceman fixed it and patched the hole temporarily with a taped-up garbage bag. It can't be fixed until it drys out completely and until we make sure that there is no repeat performance. Hopefully the new glue will be more effective than the old.

So now Duloc Manor looks very classy; outside, most of the front lawn is dead (perhaps Davy will replace it someday, but I'm not holding my breath), and inside you can sit on the family room couch and admire the "decorator white" plastic trash bag that is nicely counterpointed by a frame of black electrical tape. Perhaps if the beam cracks extend any further, I can pass them off as a new sort of designer rough finish, sort of like distressed wood.

Oh well, I can't complain to much. It looks like the problem is really fixed this time, and since the ceiling had to be cut into to make the repair, part of the restoration should be covered under our warranty too. Not too much of a trauma in the cosmic scheme of things, but I'll still feel better when Duloc Manor is pristine once again.

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1 comment:

BobnMissy said...


My late husband and I lived in a "Villa" just like Duloc over on Greenlawn in 2003 & 2004 and we had the same problem happen on New Years Day, 2004. However, ours was blamed on a toilet backup fm Nov. 2003, that the plumber said sat in the ceiling and finally soaked through. Thanks to your issue I now know what happened to ours... and it's sitting there waiting to happen again in 912 Greenlawn. The unit is up for sale right now, and the new owners I'm sure won't be told about our drama by our previous landlord (a shifty type to be sure!)

Anyway, keep up the Cele updates, I miss home so much and want to come back some day.