Sunday, July 27, 2008

First It Rains, Then it Pours, Then It Floods

You know what they say about the best laid plans of Mice and Men, right? That no matter how well you prepare or plan for something, chances are something will inevitably go wrong. But what happens when everything goes wrong all at once? Because that’s exactly what happened to me last weekend when I tried to throw a relaxing afternoon pool party for nineteen—Ten adults, nine children. (And whoever said throwing a party was relaxing anyway?)

The sad thing is, everything started out great. I’d spent most of the week trimming bushes, weeding and dead-heading all the flowers, so the backyard was as close to Paradise as I could get it. (See photo above) I’d also prepared all the sauces, dips, and hor duerves the night before, so I wouldn’t have to be working up until the last minute. The weather was supposed to be perfect for a pool party, a hot and humid 95 degrees.

In fact, the only issue that week involved my boiler, which seemed be turning itself off for no apparent reason. The plumber had already been to the house twice over the last few days to try and fix it, but it was still not working properly. So on Saturday morning, I called in a panic, because I wanted to make sure I had enough hot water in case people wanted to take showers after they got out of the pool. The plumbing company assured me they would have someone over between 10 and 12 that morning, and since my guests weren’t arriving until one, that would give the plumber plenty of time to fix the issue.

And yet at one o’clock, when people started arriving, the plumber had still not shown up. But I pushed forward anyway, asking my guests to please use the bathroom in the basement to change, as the first floor bathroom door (the folding variety) was having some kind of issue as it was no longer closing and the inside of the door would not hold a proper handle. In other words, no privacy. (Home Depot was supposed to replace it two weeks prior, but screwed up the order, so now it wasn’t arriving until three weeks later.) And I didn’t want anyone to use the bathroom upstairs, because the second floor had only been “selectively cleaned.”

Anyway, as people began arriving and making themselves comfortable by the pool, I was moving around at the speed of light handing out beach towels and trying to fill drink orders. And that’s when the first disaster struck. One of my guests, a rather charming woman in her early seventies (Yes, I do know such people) came running upstairs out of breath to inform me that the basement toilet was overflowing and would I mind going down to stop it?

In horror, I ran down the stairs just in time to step in a large puddle pouring out from the bathroom area. I quickly took off the lid of the toilet and found the problem—the chain on the rather old toilet had decided today was the perfect day to come apart. As I was hooking it back to where it had been attached, the toilet automatically flushed itself again, pouring the already overflowing water even faster on the wet tile floor. At this point, I’m sure I screamed a few expletives that were no doubt overheard by the youngest attendees at the party, ages 4 and 6. After hooking the chain back on, I ran upstairs and emptied the entire closet of towels into my arms to help mop up the mess.

And that’s when the plumber arrived. So at the moment, I had only one other bathroom I had offered for use—the first floor bathroom without any privacy—and a busload of arriving guests, all apparently needing to use the facilities immediately. Naturally, I had to offer the use of the second floor bathroom, which meant guests would also be privy to my “selectively cleaned” second floor. But what else could I do?

So while guests splashed and laughed in the pool, I mopped up the basement bathroom floor and adjoining areas with all the towels, mops and handy wipes I could find. Once that was done, I threw everything into the washer and was finally able to go upstairs and rejoin my guests, forty-five minutes after the party began.

The plumber continued to tinker around in the basement before he finally asked if he could take a look at the manual for the boiler. While he was busy brushing up on the intricacies of my heating system, I busied myself with passing out hor duerves and filling people’s drinks. I also fired up the grill and began cooking hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken, while my guests continued to enjoy themselves in the pool. At one point, the plumber came upstairs to tell me I needed a new part, but that the stores were all closed, and I would have to wait until Monday to fix it. This meant there would be no hot water for my guests. Great!

A half hour after the plumber left, the poor woman who had suffered the original toilet overflow came to me again in a panic. The toilet was overflowing again. At that moment, I didn’t know which was worse. Having the toilet overflow again, or having it happen twice to the same elderly woman, who no doubt blamed herself for once again recreating Niagara Falls in my basement. So once again I ran downstairs to deal with the problem, leaving my guests and a few hamburgers burning on the grill.

This time the flood got even bigger, spreading out into other areas of the basement. And because the toilet was old and somewhat antiquated, you couldn’t even turn the water off to stop the flow. The valve just spun in place like a merry-go-round without any intention of doing its job. So I once again employed the use of my towel collection, which had never actually made it from the washer to the dryer yet, leaving them a little wet and soggy. Nevertheless, they were the only things I had to use, save a very ineffective mop and a box of paper towels.

Thirty minutes later, I had the situation under control and the basement bathroom was quarantined for the rest of the day. Thankfully, that was the last major disaster I had, and the rest of the party proceeded like a dream. Everyone ended up having a great time, even the charming elderly woman who finally recovered from her two bathroom drenchings to get properly wet in an actual pool.

And when the day was over and the last guest had finally left, I fell on my bed and went into a nice long deep sleep, from which I’m not truly certain I’ve awoken yet.

But that’s just me. Have you had any horrible disasters take place at one of your perfectly planned parties?


ettarose said...

Oh my Gawd. I would have cried like a baby. You seem to have done a very good job handling the unforeseen mess. So well in fact if it ever happens to me I am calling on you!

Daisy said...

Oh noes! Well, I am glad the party ended up being a success anyway. Your back yard looks like a paradise!

Azure Islands Designs said...

Oh my goodness...what a day!!!

You seem to have handled everything very well...I've never had anything happen to that degree before!!

By the way you back yard looks wonderful...take a little time to enjoy it! :0)

Roxiticus Desperate Housewives said...

Oh no, Henson, so sorry to hear about your plumbing problems. I have the same type of bad luck. Our most accessible toilet in the powder room always (3 years running?) backs up the day before Thanksgiving, and our central air has broken down twice during the hottest week of the late spring just before our Roxiticus Sunset Party.

However, I'm sure everyone had a terrific time at your pool party, as I suspect you're as much fun as a party host as you are a blog host.


P.S. -- You are looking quite relaxed on my EntreCard widget today. Enjoy your stay with the hard-partying Roxiticus Desperate Housewives!

Matthew S. Urdan said...

Damn Henson! That sounds like an episode of I Love Lucy! Sorry you had such a hard time of it!

BTW, how come I wasn't invited?

tashabud said...

What a heavenly paradise you have in your backyard. I can live in it forever.

So sorry to hear about your mishap. Like Ettarose, I probably would have cried. But you seem to have handled the situation very well. And it's good to know that your party ended well anyway.

desperateblogger said...

great backyard! do you actually live alone? no wife, no girlfriend, no mom to help you out?

you handled the emergencies well. so, i missed it, who were your guests?

Joy said...

wow very beautiful backyard. Love the flowers

Designing Hilary said...

If I were a guest at a party in a beautifully landscaped like the one in the picture ... exploding toilets wouldn't have phased me one bit!! ;)

Gypsy at Heart said...

I was exhausted just reading about it. Glad you kept your cool. That's the trademark of a good host.

Henson Ray said...

ettarose--Heh, heh. It was horrible, but I was glad I had very understanding friends.

daisy--the backyard is beautiful. My pride and joy.

azure islands designs--thanks. I spend a lot of time in the backyard. Lots of weeding. Heh, heh.

Roxy--I can't believe you would ever have an issue at one of your parties. Or if you did, I'm sure no one would ever know it. Being the perfectionist you are, and all.

Matt--May sound like "I Love Lucy" from your point of view, but I assure you, it was no comedy at the time. And you weren't invited because I thought you would be busy with the ABBA world tour. Plus, you don't exactly live close by, now do you?

tashabud--the party was a success...ultimately...but the first two hours were sheer Hell for me.

desperateblogger--I take care of the backyard all by myself. But if you'd like more insight into my personal life, and who was invited to the party, you'll have to go to That has more information than you'll probably care to know.

joy--Thanks. The photo only shows a small portion of the backyard. I will have to include another picture at some point which gives a better view.

designing hilary--Thanks. I'm glad to hear it. I'll keep you in mind in case I ever have a bathroom themed fiesta in the future.

gyspsy at heart--I didn't really have much choice. Don't want my guests to experience the pain that I was going through. Everyone pitched in to help with drinks and food while I was taking care of the bathroom, so I was very grateful for that.