Metro, Featured Column

Facing the Unfortunate Rule of Threes

They say that bad things come in threes. Whoever they are, I hope that they’re not lying because this week, I really need a break.

It all started with a single drip last weekend. It was an early drip that hit the floor outside of my bedroom around 7 a.m. on a Saturday, making a slight noise that pulled me out of what was already an uneasy sleep. I wasn’t sure what it was at the time, so I ignored it and turned on my side, hoping to get a few more moments of sleep. And I did for a while, but the sound grew louder and faster, until it sounded like the popping noise that a bonfire makes, or a stilted shower. Eventually the sound was so loud that I pulled myself out of bed, disorientedly expecting to see a fire in the middle of our hallway.

One of my roommates poked her head outside of her room at the same moment, and our eyes meeting just before they shifted to the steady stream of water falling from the ceiling and pooling on the hardwood floor. Our mouths dropped, and we sprang into as much action as possible given that we had only been awake for a mere minute. My roommate beelined for the door, rushing up to the apartment above us and hammering on the door to see if the water was coming from their apartment, but no one answered. In the meantime I ran around like a chicken with its head cut off, looking for a bucket or a bowl—anything to stop the lake on the floor from getting any bigger.

After a moment, I pulled one from the cupboard and I rushed it back to the hallway, frantically positioning it under the stream of water. Once I did, I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking that the situation was at least somewhat under control, and then I noticed the second leak. And the third leak that was flowing out of the light in our bathroom. As I located each new leak, they were getting stronger and stronger, unleashing an unbelievable amount of water onto the floor below. I frowned, realizing that we definitely didn’t have enough bowls to deal with this.

My roommate returned—no one above had answered. We frantically searched for the emergency number for the apartment complex, and made the call, finally getting through to the building’s super who informed us that he was an hour away and still in the PJs—the earliest he would be in the building was 9 a.m. In the meantime, there was nothing we could do except find more bowls and watch the destruction continue.

As more and more water collected, filling the bowls we had gather with a liquid the color of a rusty pipe, the flow of the leaks increased and our hallway became an indoor version of Niagara Falls. As we looked on unhappily, the ceiling in the bathroom cracked, and water and plaster showered the floor below. I wanted to cry.

After what felt like a small eternity, we heard heavy boot steps quickly making their way through the apartment above us.

“He’s here!” my roommate cried as we tilted our heads up to the ceilings, following the path of the footsteps. After some movement back and forth above the leaking, the water slowed, a mere tickle instead of a waterfall.

Minutes later, a knock sounded at our door, and the super arrived. Dressed in jeans and heavy work boots, he explained that the leak had not come from a burst pipe, like we had guessed, but from our upstairs neighbors who had obviously had quite the party the night before.

“They left the clogged sink in their bathroom running the entire night,” the super said gruffly. I rolled my eyes.

We all stared unhappily at the mess—we would have to wait for it to dry before fixing the lighting and the ceiling—and another knock sounded at the door. This time it was two girls dressed in baggy sweatpants, their blond hair pulled into messy buns, and a boy dressed in pastel shorts and boat shoes.

“Hi,” said the girl on the left. “Our landlord said that we had to come down and look at the damage we’d caused.”

“Oh,” I said, wondering if they wouldn’t have come down to apologize anyways.

The trio shuffled into our apartment, making their way back toward the flood. The boy bent over a cup of tea that I had sitting on the table, and inhaled deeply.

“Whoa, that smells amazing,” he said. This made me uncomfortable, so I snatched away my tea, cradling it in my hands. After a minute of staring down the hallway, they shuffled back to the door.

“Sorry we guess,” said one girl.

“Yeah, sorry,” said the other. “You guys understand though, right?”  My roommate said yes, but I wanted to yell no. No, I definitely did not understand.      

The second thing arrived in the form of a fifth roommate. As repairmen trooped in and out of the apartment over the day, I discovered a small mouse that scurried between the trashcan and the oven after 10:30 p.m. I would see him flash across the white floor from the corner of my eye, gone by the time that I turned my head. I was the only one who ever saw it, so for the first few days I doubted my sanity. But we called an exterminator, who arrived midway through the week with a battery of mouse killing equipment. I started feeling guilty, but I rationalized that it was for the best.

We had almost made it through the week when the third thing happened—a selective power outage on a Thursday night. For a minute this seemed kind of fun, it would probably fix itself in a minute, and in the meantime we could just light some candles. But the minute passed, and we realized that the fridge was off, and we had no wifi. I looked at my phone and realized that I had 8 percent of my battery left—meaning no alarm and no clock (let alone no phone) once it died. My laptop was on a similar point of death, which was problematic given the paper I had to write. It became evident that I needed to undergo a radical life change when it came to charging my electronics.

Panicked, we called the emergency number for the second time this week, and they told us to flip the breaker—this did nothing, so we voyaged town to the mother breaker in the basement of the building, and flipped that too. This also did nothing. We called the number again, telling them in high pitched voices about the food that was slowly defrosting, and the woman on the other line sighed. There was nothing she could do, and we just had to wait until the morning when the electrician could come in the morning.

Unhappily, we all tried going to bed, depending on the single person with a charged phone to wake up the others, but no one really slept anyways. I kept waking up and wandering to the breaker, fruitlessly pressing it in hopes that power would suddenly return—it didn’t.

In the morning we congregated, afraid of opening the fridge and allowing precious wisps of cold air to escape. Suddenly, an idea occurred to one of my roommates. She rushed to the bathroom, back through a now dry, but still plaster coated hallway, and flipped the light switch that had been defunct since it was hit with an avalanche of water.

The power came back on immediately. Someone had left it on, shorting out the entire apartment. Irrationally, I decided to blame the girls above us, because you know, might as well.

So like I said, I’m really holding out for the rule of threes, or at least I was until last night, when one of my roommates screamed in the kitchen.

“I just saw another mouse!” she yelled over the sound of popcorn popping in the microwave.

I wanted to cry.

Featured Image by Meg Dolan / Heights Editor

October 29, 2017