We were having such a nice weekend.
We had dinner and watched a movie together on Friday night, spent Saturday morning at an elementary school Fun Fair, followed by lunch out, and were home for a brief stop.
My wife and daughter were attending a bridal shower the next day. I was going to do some yard work when they prepared, and then help my brother in law with his swing set assembly after they left with my sister and mother. We planned to continue our time together with another Harry Potter film after church that evening. My daughter was reading, and my wife was resting. If I had joined either of them, I would have descended into a twenty minute nap and been refreshed for the night. Instead I descended into a personal version of homeowner hell.
I wandered into the playroom to feed the fish. My daughter has two mid-sized fancy goldfish in a ten gallon tank. Nibbles Nakedfish received his first name a year before he was a present from her cousins, back when she first decided she wanted a fish. He received his last name from my niece based on his loss of color on the drive over when the presentation of him and his bowl kicked us in the butt to get our daughter an aquarium set up. Once we upgraded to a full tank system, my sister’s family bought her the second fish. Scribbles received his name upon arrival in the new tank…because it rhymed with Nibbles.
|Spoilers: Everyone's OK|
I noticed the filter wasn’t running correctly. The water was low and filthy, prompting me to think (which may be too strong a word) that I could try cleaning the tank alone with both of them in the house as practice for when they were away in the summer. This way, if I hit a snag, I could call for help.
There are snags, and then there are snags.
I drained, cleaned and refilled the tank. It was done perfectly, spilllessly, and without a hitch. The algae blooms were gone, the treatment drops added, and the main part of the job was done.
This is by far the most annoying part of this episode.
Because if I didn’t clean the tank alone in a very tiny time window, the EXACT SAME THING would have happened. However, because I did, I joined with the other men in my family history in getting in a tremendous amount of trouble for an event I had no control over simply because I picked an inappropriate time to do something.
With the tank full, the filter still didn’t work right, and as I was trying to fix it, I bumped my head, hard.
In my defense it was never planned or designed to have a large metal fire extinguisher over the fish tank. The extinguisher was in the room first, and over time we slid the tank further and further out of the sun until it ended up in its final position.
Basing this guess on the bumps and scrapes on my head, which may not be very accurate due to the extremely large number of previous bumps and scrapes there, I believe I smacked the back of my head into the metal canister, which then popped out of its bracket, bounced off my noggin a second time and fell onto the tank.
Initially I believed that there was only a crack allowing water out, but that the tank itself was intact. This either indicated the break got worse very quickly over time or, more likely based on later evidence, I was disoriented from having a fire extinguisher bounce off my skull.
I ran downstairs to get towels (again, at this point thinking I was only cleaning up a large spill, not, y’know, stuff that would ruin towels) and the wet vac to contain what I thought was a continuous but manageable leak. My daughter ran in and let out, and then repeated, a scream that I will hear the rest of my life,
“WHERE ARE MY FISH…THEY’RE DEAD!”
I got her out and away from the glass, which I was just starting to notice, and realized for the first time that while the backdrop picture was there, the entire back wall of the tank had shattered and blown out. The fact that I managed to track glass and gravel downstairs with me indicated that it was an immediate break, and further supported the “addled by cranial impact of a large metal cylinder” theory. My wife came in the midst of our screaming, joined in, and with me moving items and furniture managed to find one fish behind the tank and the other on the floor between the shelf and a cabinet. I was very impressed that she picked them up by hand while I grabbed bowls. I withheld compliments because I was more impressed that she didn’t actually kill me, and wasn’t about to push my luck.
She then checked downstairs and reported the obvious to one who hadn’t just smashed his skull on a fire extinguisher - the water ran down around the holes for the baseboard, into the comic book room directly below. Ten gallons looks minimal when contained in a rectangular tank, but it’s quite astonishing how voluminous it is when it explodes throughout a home.
We took turns positioning receptacles and moving things around the comic room while dealing with the other serious issues occurring. Once the fish were safe in a five gallon pail, my wife got our daughter out of the glass and trauma filled house to calm down and buy a new aquarium and accessories.
The catch buckets seemed to be working in the comic room once the pachinko like flow of water through the pegboard ceiling had stabilized allowing me to focus on the scene of the crash. I moved the towels bit by bit to suck up the water, glass and gravel on the floor…
Which allowed me to sadly dispose of each now lethally sharp towel…
Which allowed me to open each cabinet…
Which allowed me to pull out and dry off each toy…
Which allowed me to vacuum the inside of each cabinet.
And so on throughout the room.
My mother and sister showed up in the middle of the clean-up to pick up the shower gifts we were no longer going to be able to transfer into her car at church. They looked at me and said,
“Are you OK?”
They countered with, “You don’t look OK.”
After staring suspiciously for a moment they asked, “Do you know your knees are bleeding?”
- “I’m fine”
They left and I continued to find more evidence for the instantaneous explosion of the water, this time around the book cabinet. While the books themselves were dry, the flow had hit the wall behind the tank with such force that drenched glass and gravel bounced back into the small space between the upper and lower book shelf sections. This required the cabinets not only to be emptied, but disconnected from the wall and separated for a total small-sharp-wet-objectectomey.
Once my daughter’s playroom was clean and dried (although “shoe free” entry into the room was barred for weeks afterward, due to the occasional bit of glass that would pop out of its hiding place within the baseboard heat vanes) I gave the comic room a once over with the wet vac as well, discarded a couple papers I should have thrown away years before, towel dried and buffed some action figures, and found my long lost Vader lightsaber, alas smashed against the other equipment when it was tossed out of harms way, in my old fencing bag. (Where else would it be?)
I took a quick drive over to my mother’s to borrow an extra dehumidifier (again) and my sister was good enough to meet me there with the giant Tupperware she uses when cleaning the tank for her turtle and out of control ginormous Koi named Soup, who pretended to be a goldfish when they bought him.
With Nibbles and Scribbles safely in the large purple bin containing an aerator, the reconstruction could begin. My wife kept my daughter calm and then put her to bed while I started assembling the new tank. Besides acclimation time, we couldn’t put the fish back in because we needed to let the location it belonged in completely dry. We also made sure it was no longer threatened by the Fire Extinguisher of Damocles.
The ladies had bought more varieties of gravel than the original set up, plus some “Gems” in addition to the fancy stones my sister provided for the first tank, which added a great deal more color when it was all finally assembled at 3AM.
NOTE: Between exercise, reading, blogging, e-mailing, and the PlayStation, staying up until 3AM on weekends was not the unusual event. Focusing on a single task for the entire duration was, however.
The next morning we had to go to church, eliminating my idea for doing yard work while they got ready. They were picked up, and before I headed over to help my brother in law with his swing set, I decided to follow my wife’s suggestion (which if I did to start off with, this post would be three sentences long) and check some of the comic boxes in the “dry” part of the room.
Good News: No water got on to the comics.
Bad News: Some of the cardboard boxes were wet.
This meant it made sense to move everything out and give the room a thorough cleaning, drying and other maintenance it needed. I lugged eighteen long and twenty two short comic boxes and multiple other bits of paraphernalia (aka, Crap Jeff owned before he got married) into the garage at joint crushing speed before leaving. The plastic comic boxes did provide much better protection against water, but also had weak handles which meant they needed to be carried by the jagged underneath part, carving deep scratches at the base of both arms.
Driving over to help with the swing set was a pleasant little diversion and period of rest for the day. My main function was to remember which directions for the similar models I put up in my and my parents’ back yards had the order of operations completely backwards from the easiest, and in some cases only possible, way to assemble them.
I got back to our home to do our yard work in the afternoon. The beginning of the task was two phased:
Phase One) Identify the building materials on the palette left behind by the new fence installers in order to let the vendor know what they had to pick up and bring back.
Phase Two) Move the pallet out of the way of the new fence and across the lawn to allow access to the back yard for the mowing and weed eating that was grossly overdue.
Phase One very easily yielded its results -
A bag of rocks
And five hundred pounds of cement
Phase Two was considerably more challenging than originally anticipated.
After what will likely become an event in the next Strongest Man in the World Contest, I gained access to my backyard. Lawn care was lawn care, and even in amidst this string of disasters was far too boring to delve into details of.
With the grass cut I looked at my next task: disassembling the play house that my daughter no longer fit in. It looked to be an easy job, as there were only eight screws holding the roof on, the walls being connected by “quick release” plastic tongue in grooves. Based on pretty much everything else that occurred over the weekend, I really should have known better.
The screws all came out very easily.
The plastic tongue in grooves…did not.
After an extended period of pushing, prodding, poking, stretching, jumping, throwing, leaning, and swearing I discovered the way to do it required multiple focused blows of my fist near each latch point.
Fortunately, I had some Taekwondo lessons and knew the proper way to punch was to lead with the heel of my hand.
A) The Taekwondo lessons were in grammar school
B) There were only six of them
C) I got strep and missed one.
Therefore my aim was less than stellar, adding several large bruises around the gouges the comic boxes had left in my lower arms.
Thanks to all the visible damage, people accused me of deciding,
“My comic books got wet so I tried to slash my wrists.”
I managed to finish everything in time to have a small salad with Vicodin croutons just before they got home, keeping me on my feet long enough to take care of my daughter and put her to bed.
Over the next days to weeks normalcy returned.
The tank was CAREFULLY slid back into position and the fish deposited in their new home.
The playroom was reorganized and mostly put back together in a group effort.
The comic room was thoroughly dried cleaned and dusted by both of us. I shampooed and vacuumed the rug multiple times. My wife spackled and painted where needed. (Because she once painted the wall over the TV without a drop cloth and had no incidents, whereas I once painted part of a single closet interior and got a giant blotch of paint on my back - underneath my shirt.)
Everything was moved out of the garage in a much slower; less back injury inducing fashion.
I received one final punishment at a juggling show weeks later. I kept most of my equipment in the garage, but the animal balloons were in the comic room to prevent them from weakening due to temperature changes. Well…running the dehumidifier continuously in the intervening weeks produced the same problem and I was forced to watch four or five sculptures explode in my face in order to get each child an animal. (I could hear the fish laughing…or maybe it was the kids.)
Speaking of Nibbles and Scribbles, they were mostly unchanged. I don’t think the new Gems fit in with their “Fish-shui” as in very short order they pushed them all to the far back corner of the tank, and hid them behind a plant. Scribbles had some scratches over one eye. At first this change upset my daughter because he looked creepy - until she realized it reminded her of a character she liked in the Avengers. This yielded his surname, and he is now known as “Scribbles Fury”.
That’s my Girl.