Our localized version of Katrina hit around 2:30 AM. I woke up to the sound of rushing water, which was pretty peaceful until I realized what it meant. Mr. Ben, being quicker on the uptake, was already dressed and scurrying around, doing things, while I fumbled for clothes. After a brief debate about whether we should dial 311 or 911, Mr. Ben was on the phone with a dispatcher; soon, three of New York's Bravest were at our door with iron implements and befuddled looks on their faces.
Was this some kind of karmic punishment for our not going in the water at the end of Saturday's "Going Places, Doing Stuff" ride through NYC? I wondered. The tour was led by a brilliant but crazy friend of ours. It smashed together 40 strangers on a vegetable-oil-powered bus built for 30 on a trip from Long Island City, to Woodlawn Cemetary at the end of one subway line in the Bronx, and finally to the beach at the opposite end of another.
Along the way, we broke bread with a Ghanaian king and members of the Federation of Black Cowboys. We tried to avoid poison ivy on a post-apocalyptic elevated train track in Queens. We crawled through holes in fences, did a loop in a Halal slaughterhouse, and deciphered graffiti in an abandoned munitions factory.
All with good cheer! It was a fun day, and it was lovely to end up facing the waves. But by then the temperature had dropped to about 65 degrees, and what with the clouds and the wind and everything it seemed like you'd have to be crazy to strip off your clothes and dive in the water -- especially since you had at least another hour on vinyl seats, cheek-to-jowl with your fellow man, before you'd get to a subway that would take you home.
A sane decision, and yet one for which we were punished: Sunday night, the water came to us.
The firefighters went off the way they came and we spent an hour turning our bayou back into a bathroom as best we could. The effort required two mops, two huge buckets, lots of towels, and a rubber dustpan that functioned as a ladle. It was gross and exhausting, and we were already exhausted; by the time we were done, we could barely stand. We put our filthy selves back in bed (naturally, we had just washed our sheets) and turned off the alarm clock.
Who needs an alarm clock when you have your own personal waterfall starting at 8:00 AM? "We just cleaned that floor!" I moaned as Mr. Ben jumped out of bed to gauge the new damage. At first it didn't seem so bad. Then, as were trying to figure out what to do next, the ceiling collapsed. If I had been using the toilet, I'd have been deader than Elvis. I will never take my safety while on the can for granted again.