Sunday, April 19, 2009

You Can't Make Up Stuff Like This....

I'm in San Luis Obispo right now, visiting my mom. This morning, I'm online, working on Atlas Quest, and I hear her call out for me from the front. She sounded rather urgent, so I dropped the keyboard and went rushing outside into the front yard. There was a geyser near the side of the house!

As soon as I saw it, I knew what had happened. Last night, when I came into the house, I noticed a backhoe in the yard, and I asked my mom about that. "What the heck are you doing with a tracker?" She had some ideas for yard work, and I asked, "How do you know you won't hit a water main or something?" And she assured me that she's done this before.

Yeah, okay. So when I saw the geyser of water shooting up into the air--kind of at an angle into the garage door--with a backhoe sitting at the point of origin, I knew what had happened. She hit a water main.

My mom had already pulled up the cover for the water shutoff for the house and was trying frantically to shut the water off. The wrenches we had weren't really ideal for the job, but in cases of emergency, you make do. We took turns trying to get it off, but it just wasn't working. I wasn't even really convinced that the part my mom was trying to turn would shut off the water. There were several nuts and bolts down there, none of which have been moved for years so far as I could tell, and none of them were conviniently labeled.

My mom tried calling a friend of the family--Terry, who works with CalTrans and knows a little about this sort of thing. Except Terry was at church. Terry would later tell us that she had forgotten to shut off her phone and embarrassingly turned it off during the service, not realizing the severity of the situation here.

That wasn't going to stop my mom. No, she left me to continue trying to work to turn off the water while my mom started up the car and rushed off to church.

I decided to do a couple of quick Google searches, trying to find a diagram of one of these darned water thingys online and find out exactly which piece needed to be turned. I found something that somewhat resembled what we had, and it suggested turning a different piece than we had been working on.

I went to the garage to find a tool that would better fit the knob that needed turning. The wrenches we had been using were so large, it was hard to move them in the confined area. The smaller wrenches, though, didn't seem to have enough leverage to get them to move. It was very frustrating.

While I was doing this, of course, my mom rushed to the church. It's pretty close to the house and only took a couple of minutes to get to, and my mom goes barging in looking for Terry, not exactly dressed in her Sunday bests. Terry's sitting near the front of the church, and my mom gets her attention. "Follow me. Now!" Nobody else knows what's going on, but clearly there's an emergency happening, and even the other members of the congregation were pushing Terry out to my mom. Terry left all her stuff there on the pew.

Outside, she stuffs Terry into the car and hitails it back to the house, explaning about the broken water main. I'm still meddling trying to get the water turned off, and Terry confirms at this point that I'm messing with the knob that I should be messing with, but we still have trouble getting it turned off. We aren't even sure which is the correct way to turn it. But a couple of minutes later, we finally get the water off and can take time to admire the damage.

The pipe was remarkably small, I thought, given how much water was gushing out of it. Looked all of about half an inch. Must have been under a tremendous amount of pressure to make a geyser like that! It wasn't even six inches underground--I always thought they were buried deeper than that, but what do I know?

At this point, there's no running water for the house, but the immediate crisis was certainly over so my mom drove Terry back to church to finish the service and retrieve her possessions. Turns out, things really started hopping there at the church when Terry left.

It seems a couple of people who knew Terry assumed there was an emergency. Perhaps a family emergency. Maybe even her ailing dad took a turn for the worse. They tried calling Terry, to find out what was the problem, but she had turned her phone off when my mom first tried to call so there would be no more embarrassing interruptions during the service. So they assumed the worst.

So her friends told the paster about this, and they all started to pray for her and her dad, having no idea that the 'emergency' wasn't really the kind that needed prayers, but hey, we'll take what we can get!

When Terry returned to the church and found out what all had happened in her absense, she was kind of embarrassed over the matter, but how can you NOT laugh after all that? After the services were over and Terry explained that nobody was dead or near death, I guess a couple of the congregation were upset over the incident, and she came back to the house to help with figuring out how to fix the broken water line.

So that's what's been happening here in the normally sleepy town of San Luis Obispo. Broke a water main, crashed a church, and got a whole bunch of people praying for someone that didn't really need it. Good times!

As of now, it doesn't look like I'll be taking a shower today. Maybe not tomorrow either?


Anonymous said...

Since you can't take a shower for a day or two, you and your Mom might as well go backpacking together! Just don't leave your cellphones off or someone might assume you were eaten by bears or cougars. Then the prayers will really soar.

Grumpy Grinch

sarcasmo said...

Wow that's hilarious AND unfortunate all at once. You should post a picture or two so that we atlasquestonians can learn from the mistakes here. Enjoy a sparkly week! Sparkly waters that is...

DC Stones said...

6" deep? That's a no-no here in VA. Needs to be at least 18" deep minimum to avoid the "freeze-thaw" cycle in order to not be illegal.

Of course, digging without calling "Miss Utility" to mark the underground lines is also illegal.....

Hope in all the chaos you did snap a photo or two of the lovely yard fountain that mom installed!!

Anonymous said...

In this East Coast state, the water lines are required to be 42 inches deep. It does seem to have its advantages.

Renee Fister-Lee said...

This story had me laughing Ryan, thanks for sharing with us! Wonder what the water bill will run this month with all that water gushing out...glad you managed to get it turned off!
Turtlelove :o)

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I couldn't resist.


Responding to the rites of Spring
My Mom renews her landscaping
Of things to make her garden grow
There's little that she doesn't know.
She must prepare her planting beds;
Mulch and compost round she spreads.
With hoe and rake and trusty spade
Her garden plots are quickly made.
Sometimes bad judgment she will show,
And tries to run our old backhoe.
We've warned her once and often twice
But she ignores our sound advice.
Old pipes and wires oft are found:
Dangers buried underground.
And so today, to no surprise
A geyser sprang before my eyes.
Tween irises and blooming rose
From fractured pipe a river flows.
The cutoff valve, of course, is stuck
To staunch this flow, we're out of luck.
For helpful friends we need to search
And interrupt their time in church.
Perhaps this small embarrassment
Will cause my mother to repent.

ASL Girl said...

This is just one of the many reasons I enjoy reading your blog, Ryan. Never know what stories or updates are around the bend with each blog post. You Can't Make Up Stuff Like This... had me smiling and laughing right up to the end.
Thanks for sharing this with all of us!!!!

ASL Girl

Anonymous said...

Sounds like her dad could use prayer no matter when it is and it's nice that she was able to help you. people in church;s get upset a lot, take it from a preacher's daughter in law...

goofy girl

Kristin aka Trekkie Gal said...

While reading this post, I happened to glance over at the random AQ photo on the right, and it was the one title Through Hell and High Water. Seemed rather appropriate! :)

ipsquibibble said...

Had a similar event (sans the church drama) happen at our old house- it was a defunct sprinkler system that was the culprit. My mom snapped the line while she was digging up the yard with a garden fork. (Yes- she was forking up my yard!)
It was our bizarre luck that whoever installed that system back in the day used non-standard piping that is no longer made and we couldn't find anything to cap it off with. We were without water for a week while we jury rigged something that would work!
I hope they'll let your mom back in that church!

Michael Merino said...

What a frustrating day Ryan! We've all had our similar stories especially those of who have remodeled.

If you still haven't fixed it yet and you want to do it yourself, I used this site before It sounds like you just need to connect to PVC pipes back together.

Anonymous said...

Thank teh Lord it was only a WATER main and not a gas pipeline or she might not have had any house or car left. So yeah I think there is a good reason for all those "Call BEFORE You Dig" placards that public utilities like to post.

Good point someone made about the waterbill. She needs to tell the water co and they will make an adjustment to the bill for a one time serious leakage.

Actually, in this emergency I guess I would have called the water co so they could shut off the main at the street.

You are right that water pipes are buried more than 6 inches down in SOME places- those that freeze in winter. But I know from my former boss the lawyer in Marin Co. NorCal that his were only 6 inches and they did burst and freeze one winter. When he checked, the contrustion industry standards & bldg codes said 6 inches enough.


erichr said...

What a funny experience! So did you have tons of water running down the street?

Anonymous said...

A couple of folks have pointed out that you need to call the locaters before you dig. This is good advise but note that locaters typically only locate the utilities up to the meter and do NOT locate from the meter to your house. Gas and electric meters are typically at the house, so that isn't a big deal but water can be a problem.

Wendy In The Eastbay said...

What an absolute hoot... nope... you just cannot make up stuff like this.... I giggled all the way through... and love Marjorie in the act.... good thing the little gal was tucked safely away some where... I can just see her on top of a geyser!!! and yes.... yelling WEEEEE all the time doing it!

Thanks for today's chuckle... Wendy In The Eastbay

Unknown said...

Too funny... sounds like something that would happen to us! There is a new stamp in S.L. planted by yours truly... It's a hot hike, minimal shade, but a pretty cool destination. Check it out if you get a chance. Team Eye Spy

Anonymous said...

Haha!! Your stories are so entertaining, Ryan!

♥ Lady Lilac