It was very fortuitous that Mister still had a week left of his Christmas break. Originally it had been set aside to work on lesson plans, reading, and writing papers. But the morning after their arrival Mister went back into the basement to test the water, and when the leaks (which seemed to be slowing down and drying up) grew worse, he had a suspicion that much of the next few days would taken up with finding a leak and fixing it.
The leak itself wasn't surprising--it had, apparently, gotten extremely cold the week before the Millers arrived back from Alaska, and burst water pipes were a common occurrence. Surely it wouldn't be too complicated to find the source of the leak... (insert Darth Vader theme music)
Project number 1 and Problem number 1 came together...out of the wall. The water valves (yes, plural... and even the plumber had no explanation for why there were two!) were located in the wall, and when Mister turned them on, the water started gushing out all the open faucets and the drips in the ceiling above the basement. The problem, if that wasn't problem enough, was that the water valves chose that opportune time to break. They couldn't turn them off!
Mister dashed upstairs to find the county water supply phone number so they could come turn the water off. And Kate dashed downstairs to set pans and buckets underneath the increasing drips.
For the next hour, Mister all but paced back and forth as he waited for the water man to come and save their house from imminent flooding...which was all accomplished in due time. Project number 2 was accomplished the next morning, when the plumber was called to replace the valves with the more reliable and user-friendly quarter-turn valves. Problem number 2 came fast on its heels. When the plumber left, he wasn't able to turn on the water at the street--even though the Fairfax Water man assured Kate and Mister that he would be able to do so. So another call in to Fairfax Water, and another hour(+) wait...and another hour wait after the guy arrived and what did the man say when he knocked on the door?
Something reasonable would have been, "You're all set to go! Enjoy your water." But no, what Kate and Mister heard through their young and mostly reliable ears was, "I'm sorry, I wasn't able to turn it on. And now I have an emergency call, so I have to go. But I called another guy to come turn it on for you."
Confounding! That's what it was. It was like a bad joke: "How many plumbers does it take..."
Another hour later, the second man arrived. He investigated the problem for a while and then knocked on the door and told Mister that the water valve had been broken somehow. He would call out a team and they would have to replace the whole thing. As each hour passed, more people seemed to congregate on the sidewalk outside the Millers townhome. Around 7PM a huge truck appeared with and generator and bright lights, probably retired from a football stadium. At 9PM, Kate peeked outside and saw five men working on (and in) a large hole in their front yard, about 2 feet in diameter and at least 4 feet deep. There was mud everywhere. The wind was blowing, and it had started to snow or rain a little.
Kate felt a little sorry for them. But she couldn't keep out of her mind how strange the situation was. She felt like she was walking around inside a Peter Bogdonovich film, and any moment, someone would come along and accidentally spill blue paint over everyone, while another person poured cocktails from a thermos. Well, life is never boring, that's for sure! she thought.
That evening, she boiled some water (from the neighbors) and used it to wash their dishes in some disposable aluminum pans. Growing up in Alaska, Kate's family occasionally lost their running water for a time during an especially cold winter when their creek would freeze all the way to the bottom. It wasn't easy, but she knew what to do. It was like camping...only harder, since there was no running water. But at least there was heat and electricity for the refrigerator and freezer. Kate felt sure that if she had to pick between electricity and running water, she would pick electricity.
At 10PM the workers were done, the water was on...but off, because of the leak. Kate and Mister went to bed with a renewed hope that maybe the next morning they could make some progress in dealing with the actual leak.