a dramatic hop through the lake of sewage

When I woke up this morning [actually, yesterday, since I didn’t get this posted last night], I did not think to myself, “self, perhaps you’ll be wading through a flooded garage of rain, mud, and raw sewage later.” I mean, it just didn’t cross my mind at all, not even a little bit. Apparently, I should have been thinking ahead. And maybe packed galoshes.

I have this bad habit of not paying attention to anything at work if it doesn’t concern me directly. I never read the all-office mailing list and I don’t go to any of the all-employee gatherings. It generally works out OK. If I really need to know something, I figure it out eventually.

For instance, this week, an admin sent me an email, telling me that she had to move one of my meetings to a conference room in the new building across the street. What? We have a building across the street? When did that happen? (Apparently last week.) Then I ran into someone who asked me if I got my bus pass yet. I seriously have no idea what he was asking me.

This afternoon, I was in one of many meetings, and people were talking about the office closing early and about high winds and network outages. Perhaps that should have been my first clue.

Later, I was doing some work and some instant messaging and was on the phone (I’m nothing if not a multi-tasker) and out of nowhere, a hurricane appeared outside. The trees were bent completely sideways from the wind and an entire ocean was pouring down from the sky. I should explain that I sit in a corner, so both walls around me are windows. And I started to feel like they could collapse in on me at any time.

And the power went out. Everything went black. I may have yelped a little. Which probably was not very professional, considering I was talking on the phone with a coworker in an office in another state, who had no context for my crazy outburst. I tried to explain about the storm and the darkness and my office full of coworkers who were vocaling expressing their feelings about losing all of their work in a single moment of computer shut down. Did I mention I could see nothing except the headlights outside? “Do you want to talk later?” She asked this as though I were perfectly sane.

The power came back. I was grateful that I was working from a laptop chock fully of battery. I didn’t gloat though. I figured my cursing officemates would turn on me in a pack. Instead, they went to the bar. I tried to work out what I really needed to get done before I left and what could wait until tomorrow. The last of the team headed out. “I know you’re going to be here until the bitter end. Maybe you should go find a flashlight before the lights go out again.” I figured I could type a little faster and beat the next power outage.

A few minutes later, my cell phone rang. “Um, is your car parked in the garage?” My coworker again. “Maybe you should move it. The garage is sort of flooding a little.” How bad could it be, right?

I looked outside. The traffic looked really bad. Maybe I should just wait it out until things died down a little. I looked at the trees. They were even more sideways than before. Maybe I shouldn’t wait it out. I packed up and walked down the stairs. I started getting suspicous as I walked down. I could hear lively conversations about water and flooding. I walked by a few people who asked if I was parked in the garage. They asked it in a tone that seemed half amused, half pitying. And then I passed a guy who was wearing trash bags like boots.

The stairs go down to the garage, and there’s this little landing area with a door. And you open the door and go into the garage to your car. Normally. Today, we (this group of random strangers and I) peered around the corner and found the landing area completely flooded. With rain. And mud. And sewage. Yes, the sewers overflowed or broke or did the opposite of whatever sewers are supposed to do. The guy with the trash bags looked unsure. He tested the water with one trash-bag covered shoe. It was a little deeper than he expected. Then he ran back up the stairs. I followed him. Now what?

Once I go back up to my floor I ran into coworkers who I didn’t know. (This happens a lot with me. Did I mention I don’t pay attention a lot at work?)

“Is your car parked in the garage? Mine’s outside. I’ll drive you.” Thank you random coworker who I’ve never seen before! We all went back down the stairs and out the front. The rain had definitely broken something. Half of the parking lot was completely underwater. We went around a large pond and piled into random coworker’s car. He drove us down towards the garage. Which was underwater. And buckets of water were continuing to pour in.

quick pic of the flooded garage with my camera phone

He headed in. We saw a few people wearing those fashionable trash bag boots, wading towards their cars. We got to my car first. I looked at my car. And the water. Everyone in the car could emphathize. They were next.

I put one foot into the water. It was cold. And gross. I knew how countless disaster movie heroines must have felt. I hopped towards my car. Why get both feet wet? The water was at mid-calf. I hopped a little more. Of course, I’ve never seen movie heroines hopping through a flooded garage, but I’m sure it made for quite a dramatic scene. And then I was in. Now to drive out of the lake of sewage. I could hear the water splashing against the sides of my car. I plowed on. I finally made it out and onto the street. Water was pouring out of the storm drains. The intersections were completely flooded. And 30 minutes later, I hadn’t even made it to the next light.

I figured I may as well use the time to return some e-mail. You think I’m kidding. If only the instant messaging had been working on my blackberry, but I couldn’t even get the cell network to stay online. I got to the freeway and inched by all the downed branches and pockets of flooding. I took off my drenched sock. My foot started to burn. What was in that water anyway?

I did eventually make it home and now I’m writing by the flickering lights and the sound of the trees threatening to topple over and smash our house. Maybe when the Internet is back, I can even upload this entry.

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