I wake to the sound of dripping water. I look outside. It’s raining. I roll over and close my eyes. I love morning rain on a Sunday.
But the dripping is getting louder. And I realize it is coming from inside the apartment. I open the door to find one roomie relocating the trash can* under the leak, and another is in my wake emerging from her bedroom to the same scene.
There is a leak in the ceiling from the sprinkler system in the kitchen. And one outside the pantry. And another in maintenance cupboard which is locked and we can’t get to it. And one behind the paint in the hallway, which creates this fascinating bubble inside the paint membrane. The kitchen and laundry floors are flooded. The carpet is wet and creeping silently outwards into the living room and bedrooms.
Roomie 1 has already called the Front Desk and they are sending someone. 10 minutes pass. We call again. Yes, they say, we already noted this. 10 more minutes pass. No one comes. The dripping is getting worse and now resembles a steady stream. Uniform lines of droplets and damp patches are forming along the ceiling. I call The Front Desk again. Yes they say, we called the fire department. 10 more minutes pass. No one comes. I call the Fire Dept. Someone is one the way.
Outside in the carpark, a lone Fire Department pick up truck pulls up. A sole fireman walks in. He has only seen half the damage when he says: Oh man, they didn’t say it was this bad! This is a major hazard.
After 40 minutes of waiting, and calling, and bailing out the buckets, pots and pans, finally someone listened to us when we said it was ‘serious’.
An army of personnel – fire department workers, plumbers, electricians, residential hall assistants, the hall directors, cleaners and nosey neighbours – descends upon the apartment. Finally some action.
Due to the smell, the damp, and the absence of electricity we can’t stay here. The RAs (Residential Assistants) have taken over.
We are told to pack our bags. We will be relocated on campus.
Where to? They don’t know. For how long? They can’t say. Do we need to take linen and towels? They’re not sure. Will we be placed with other graduates? Hopefully, but not definitely.
To complicate things, I have my first visitor arriving tomorrow to stay with me. A cousin from Australia. After making her dinner, I had planned to put her in my bed while I slept on the couch in the living room. Now I have no bed, no couch and no kitchen.
All the food we bought yesterday is slowly going off in the refrigerator. And the leaks have spread to the pantry, so we salvage what we can.
I go outside to tell one of the RAs she needs to arrange dining hall passes so we can eat. I catch her unloading on the phone to her Dad. She is 21 and way out of her depth managing this situation.
Returning to my packing I discover the leaks have spread to a corner of my wardrobe. Goodbye favourite pair of suede boots.
After a very calm response to the initial situation, my patience is gone. You mess with my shoes, you mess with me. I have hours of work to do and no way of doing it. I can’t study as there is no power and no light. I can’t walk to the library as it is raining. I can’t get a shuttle bus to the library as they don’t run on Sundays. I really, really wish I had a car.
We get news that the other apartments above us are just as damaged. The leak appears to have come from a faulty toilet on the third floor. Apparently the tenants had reported this three times in six weeks, and only once had a plumber checked it out. An expensive consequence of lazy maintenance.
Good news. We have been allocated new rooms. Bad news. We roomies are being split up. Just when I had settled in to living with these girls, we are being separated.
My temporary apartment is a single room on the opposite side of campus. It has a kitchen, an armchair and a private bathroom. The bonus is that it has a spare bed for my visiting cousin. Things are looking up.
I get my first taste of a college dining hall. South Campus. This is nothing special to the other roomies who all lived in residential colleges for their undergrad degrees, but to me it is fascinating. The dynamics of the groups of students, nearly all undergraduates, laughing, flirting, and conforming with each other makes for great people watching.
There is a huge variety of food to choose from. And it is all-you-can-eat. Suddenly I understand the phrase ‘the Freshman 15’. Who wouldn’t gain 15 pounds when you can eat all you want, all day long, every day of the academic year?
Best of all I don’t have to cook, and I don’t have to clean up. We just have to place our trays on this mechanized contraption that works like a luggage carousel in reverse. You place your tray with dirty dishes, cutlery and glass onto the rotating shelves and they disappear around a hidden corner where I imagine an efficient contingent of tiny elves are scraping, washing, drying the dishes and loading them onto those spring loaded dish trolleys ready for the next meal.
Roomies are staying in touch via text messages. Two of them went to a friend’s house to watch a prime time TV show as our new rooms don’t have a TV and, after all, it is fall premiere season. We agree to meet up for dinner tomorrow and swap stories. For someone who is so used to living alone, I find I am missing my on-campus family.
Before it really got bad.
Water in the walls.
Found at the bottom of the pantry.
Packed to relocate.