Friday, February 22, 2008

Living with Water

The sump pump has been going since last Wednesday, at first near-continuously, but the last couple of days just every three minutes or so. This despite overnight lows in the teens.

Because I talk so much about sump pumpery, I get a fair amount of search traffic looking for tips, products, news on the subject. I’m no expert, of course. But if you’ve come on a search for “sump pump keeps running continuously,” you might be ready to pause and think about what the sump pump means. I know you’re panicking. That periodic sound, the toilet flush signature, is nerve-wracking. But bear with me a moment. Because our reactions to the sump pump are perhaps more important than whatever’s happening downstairs.*

My son has asthma. He takes one medicine every day, two if he’s got any kind of respiratory illness like a cold or cough. Our bank account flirts with zero every month or so.

Point: the water in the cellar is like this undercurrent of fear, an ever-present reminder that the surface of life, the routine, the good health, the things working right of life, is fragile, and only surface. As the thin film of the atmosphere is to the rocky bulk of our planet…this tiny envelope is all that protects us from the savagery of cold space.

To stave off the flood, the asthma attack, or the poverty, we’ve got the sump pump, the medicines, jobs. And I find myself hating the sump pump, disliking the medicines, being irritated by the job. In other words, I despise the the very things for which I should be grateful.

Which is absolutely pointless, because these events or potentials — the flood, the asthma, the possibility of hardscrabble living — are the events that spell out a life. And the mitigators — the sump pump, the medicines, the jobs — are the tools we develop and choose to navigate through the events. They’re the oars and the raft we use to steer among the rocks, upon the water of time, which rushes forward and provides the exhilaration we came here for in the first place and my analogizer just overheated.

Not only is there no reason to dislike the life-preserving medicine, but — because the medicine fortunately exists and we can get it — there’s no reason to hate the asthma. Because if it wasn’t the water, or the asthma, or the vast dark bulk of being broke that lurks just beneath the bank account, it would be something else, wouldn’t it? Everyone worries about something. You’re famous and you worry that your next film will suck. Your interest rate just ballooned and you worry that you’re going to suffer foreclosure. You’re homecoming queen and you worry that you’re getting fat. You’re happy, healthy, and well-heeled, and you worry that it could all come crashing down because you’re a talentless fraud. And yeah, you were seen talking to some American soldiers the other day and you’re worried you’ll be killed.

I barely know where I’m going with this, except that if your sump pump is running continuously, as mine is, then GOOD FOR YOU; IT’S WORKING. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit to see about stopping the problem at its source, or remove allergens from your home and take action to improve air quality, or buckle down and put some money into a regular old no-interest-earning savings account, for just in case. But for now? It’s working. If you’re reading this, it’s working.

And of course, if you’re reading this and some aspect of it stopped working — you lost a loved one, your home was destroyed by fire, there’s a security guard standing next to you holding a file box — well, that’s it working, too. And you have my sympathy. Truly.

Last week, on Day Two of the continuously running pump, I called the fire department to confirm that they had pumps, checked our spare sump pump, made sure the generator was at the front of the garage — essentially did everything I could to make sure that the system and the backup system would function. And then I went to bed, and I actually slept.

A flooded cellar, lost furnace, lost electrical panel, all this would be bad. But it hasn’t happened.

(*Or go here if you’re desperate.)


Claudia in Toronto said...

I really don't need to know about sump-pump but I read voraciously everything you offer. I might be reincarnated into a young entrepreneur living away from a big-city-never-fail-hydro-system.

I also worry about things. This winter, I worried about falling and breaking a bone. At 78, it could happen. Lots of ice on Toronto's sidewalks. Like you do, I prepared myself. I got special boots and I bought a cane with crampons. I fell very safe. If you ever want any of that, I'll tell you where to get it.

Do you know what? The impossible happened. My cane got caught into something. I fell. I got up on my own. A bit stiff, no bones broken. Gave up the cane and the unfashionable boots. It was a lousy back-up system. I walk on my own now, as good and as chipper as ever. Just careful where I'm going.

I have great confidence in your abilities and your back-ups. Things will go well for you. All the best to you and family. Keep writing, I'll keep reading.

honestyrain said...

well, exactly.

how is it that i have never read you before?

Suzanne said...

What a great post, man. (I even liked all the analogies.) Good on ya', finding the good in the ugly. We have no need for a sump pump, but I think that may become my new mantra anyway... if the sump pump is running, everything is good.

I hope that pump keeps running, and all stays well.

chrissoup said...

Nice philosophy of life!

I offer up thanks every time I hear our trusty sump pump go on. It really is a miracle.