There’s a toilet in my dining room.
It was Christmas morning at my parents’ house when I got a call from a DC number. Not that I picked up—I have a strict code against answering unknown numbers, particularly on national holidays. Plus, my parents’ house still doesn’t get cell phone reception. Yes, in 2017.
I hit the number in my voicemail, where that handy preview feature transcribed the following words: water, leaking, apartment, Chinese. That four-word combo is enough to warrant a callback. From my parent’s landline.
I could not understand a single word after “hello,” but I immediately recognized the voice on the other line. Which leads me to this:
The Chinese restaurant and I have mended our relationship.
Hold tight now, because I need to pause the toilet-in-dining-room story to tell you this one. If you know me at all, you know I have gone to great lengths to make friends with every person working or living on my block. But this was only after I had a rough start to the neighborhood.
First, I called the cops on the Ethiopians who own the liquor store next to me for a noise violation (which, in my defense, was totally just—after two weeks of dealing with construction until 11PM, I actually looked up the law and discovered residential construction is only permitted until seven). My dumb ass didn’t realize the couple who owned the store have lived here for twenty years. The cops who came to my rescue were friends with these people, and asked if I wanted to COME DOWNSTAIRS AND MEET THEM IN PERSON. Like yes, I would LOVE to come face-to-face with the people who I just got written up, and who know where I live. The store owner gave me her CELL PHONE NUMBER, and asked that I please call her if it ever happened again. Like she was Zach Efron and I was Seth Rogen in Neighbors.
My second strike against my neighborhood was against the very man calling me Christmas day. When my power went out last summer and I couldn’t find my fuse box, I was convinced it had to be in the Chinese restaurant I live above. I’m paraphrasing, but basically I strong-armed the owner into letting me into their basement, only to find out he was right the whole time. You can read the full version, here.
Anyway, I’m not sure how or why this man forgave me, but somewhere between now and then this man went from HATING MY GUTS to being my neighborhood best buddy. He says hi to me each and every morning. His English is pretty spotty and I don’t speak a word of Chinese, but I like to think we understand each other. I baked him Christmas cookies before I left for Iowa.
Back to Christmas morning.
My neighbor passed the phone off to someone who introduced himself as the fire marshall.
He informed me a valve broke on my toilet, causing the toilet to overflow, which flooded my bathroom and leaked water in the Chinese restaurant below.
Now my voicemail made since. Although to this day, I have no idea how the restaurant owner got my cell.
I tried to give the fire marshall the code to my lockbox (yes, this adult has a lockbox and about 13 spare sets of keys. You do that after locking yourself out four times in one year). He cut me off to inform me they were already inside, that they had gone up my fire escape and THROUGH MY LIVING ROOM WINDOW (which I swear was locked), and that my apartment was “very easy to break into.” Like I hadn’t already drawn that conclusion.
He assured me the damage was limited to my bathroom (no idea how that’s possible) and no, my living room rug was not soaked in toilet water. He wrote my building owner up for roughly three fire code violations (which was hilarious to listen to), and I came home the next day to find the hallway light—which has been burnt out for ELEVEN MONTHS—miraculously fixed.
My parents got to listen to the entirety of this conversation Christmas morning, and I have no idea how my mother doesn’t drink.
Best of all (and merry-Christmas-to-me), I get a new bathroom floor!
Which is great, because if you’ve ever been to my apartment, you know my bathroom is atrocious.
The only casualties were EVERY SINGLE TOWEL I OWN, which the DC fire apartment quilted together over my flooded bathroom and LEFT THERE, for two days. There is no amount of bleach that can clean towels left to soak up toilet water for thirty-six hours. Which reminds me—I need to go to Target.
So right now, the toilet that started it all is in my dining room. The cast iron tub that weighs roughly 283 tons and has probably been in that apartment since the building was BUILT IN THE 1800S, is in my entryway.
And thank God, I mean literally THANK GOD, I live above a Chinese restaurant, the only business that would ever be open for business Christmas day.
—And to all a good night.