MY LIFE - Late-night basement bail out

MY LIFE - Late-night basement bail out

I don't know about you, but around here crises always seem to occur in the middle of the night, and last night was no exception.

I'd had a pretty full day; league bowling in the morning, followed by lunch with a bunch of friends, a few rounds of cards with my sister and brother-in-law, home for dinner, and then the monthly "Parlons Fran?ßais" meeting at 7.¬?Most days aren't usually this busy, but it was all fun stuff that I look forward to, so I was in good spirits when I got home around 9, and ready for a refreshing night's sleep when I climbed into bed at 10.

A distant but persistent sound slowly coaxed me out of what had been a deep sleep, and it took a few minutes to make sense of it.¬?What I was hearing was the sound of the water alarm that hangs suspended just below the lip of the sump pump well in the cellar. It was just after 2 a.m.

"Rats!" I thought to myself, "Not again!"

Two weeks earlier I had been similarly awakened, but by the sound of music.¬?I have a Christmas clock in the dining room that chimes Christmas carols on the hour, and since I find it charming, I haven't packed it away yet.¬?At first I thought that's what I was hearing, but upon listening more closely, I realized that it was a melody by Mozart and it seemed to be coming from the other bedroom.¬?

Thinking one of my daughters may have left an alarm of some sort here on a recent visit and it had spontaneously gone off, I was determined to find it and shut it off.¬?There was nothing.¬?I pulled the bed apart, I checked under the chair cushion, I pulled furniture away from the wall, and still nothing.¬?After crawling around on my knees for over an hour and not finding it, I gave up.¬?I shut the bedroom door, thinking that since it sounded battery operated, the battery would eventually wear down and the problem would be solved.

Wrong.¬?The sound seemed to be everywhere.¬?Further investigation at floor level led me to a heating vent under a table in another room.¬?That's when the "Aha!" moment occurred.¬?It was coming from the basement.

Turns out it was the water alarm, hit by droplets of water that splashed up from the sump pump when it was going full tilt.¬?Unbeknownst to me when I had bought it, there were two settings, the regular screeching alarm or music.¬?Who knew?¬?I dried it off, reset it to "alarm" and went back to bed.

That's why, when I realized it was the water alarm, I initially decided it was just crying wolf again, and I would just roll over and go back to sleep.¬?After all, the sump pump was only 5-months old.¬?It had to be another false alarm.

I tried my best to ignore it, but I finally rolled out of bed, put my slippers on, and went downstairs, only to find the sump pump hole full to the very top and ready to spill over.¬?Middle of the night, no one around to help, and there I was.¬?When the old pump went, just giving it a shake would rouse it, but not this one.¬?There was nothing to do but to start bailing.

Lucky for me, the washing machine sits right next to the sump pump hole, so I started pouring pails full of water into the machine, filling it, and then setting it on spin before starting all over again until I bought myself a little more thinking time.

Ah, I had a spare pump set aside for just an emergency, but the new pump had been installed by the plumber and I wasn't sure where to even start.¬?I began by loosening the uppermost clamp at eye level where it secured the hose to the pipe that leads to the drywell outside.¬?Then I got down on all fours and reached down into the water to see if I could pull the pump up enough to maybe swing it out of the hole.

That's when it suddenly sprang back to life.

You remember the clamp that I had loosened?¬?So did I ... just as water began spraying out like mad in all directions. Cold, soaked to the skin, and thoroughly disgusted, I pulled the plug, tightened the hose clamp back up, plugged the miserable pump in again, and was relieved to see that it had decided to keep running.¬?I kept watch for a bit to make sure it was still going, then reset the alarm and went back to bed.

It's still working now, but I don't trust it anymore.¬?The plumber will be here this afternoon to install the new pump I will buy as soon as I finish this column.¬?

Much of Cumberland Hill is sump pump heaven and I knew it when I bought this house, but had I known how iffy sump pumps could be I don't know that I would have committed quite so quickly.

Rhea Bouchard Powers is a writer from Cumberland.