Life Face First: Negotiating One Calamity at a Time

“We’ve broken the word irony,” I snapped shortly.

My husband Brian’s only response was a wordless grunt that shook him from scalp to soul. He was getting good at those. He’d had a lot of practice lately.

It was the only movement he’d made in 45 seconds.

I poked him.

“Trees are more mobile than you are right now.”

He turned slowly to stare at me. Too angry to speak, he gesticulated at the kitchen trashcan. It was in the center of our dining room.

It was filling with water that roared like a geyser from our ceiling. More water poured from the pendant lights over the bar in our kitchen. It leaked from a light switch in our hallway to puddle on the floor.

One week after our garage flooded, our apartment was flooding.

“I know it’s flooding,” I responded. “That’s why I said we’ve broken the word irony.”

I’d had a box full of wine stems in storage. I’d cleaned them and they were drying on the bar, drying until the second flood started. Now, they were wet again.


“Seriously,” I insisted. “No one can use the word irony again. We’ve ruined it.”

I tossed a beach towel, one fresh from the dryer because I’d used it in the first flood, on the puddle under the light switch. I hoped the puddle appreciated the fabric softener.

Brian blew out a sigh and slumped on the couch.

Maintenance was on its way. We’d contained the flooding and shoved the couch, computers and bookcase as far from the water as possible.

I poured us each a stiff adult beverage. We sipped our drinks and silently watched the water fall from the sprinkler in the dining room.

No fire had caused this sprinkler to erupt. We feared a burst pipe in our ceiling.

Hopefully, it would be the only one. If more pipes burst and sprinklers began spraying throughout the apartment, we would lose everything: our bed, our computers, Brian’s guitars, my grandmother’s piano. There would only be time to save the important things: us and our pets.

I didn’t want to think about shoving wet, angry cats into carriers. I gulped my drink.

Maintenance arrived soon thereafter. It was 9 p.m. on a Sunday. He’d gotten there as quickly as possible.

“Great news!” he said happily. “You don’t have a burst pipe. Your upstairs neighbor was filling her sink and forgot it. It overflowed.”

I poured several gallons of water from the trashcan into the sink and counted my blessings. We didn’t have a burst pipe, but we did live below an idiot.

After, we cleaned up as much of the water as we could. We left the furniture where it was out of the flood zone, in case our upstairs neighbor decided to do dishes again.

Brian poured us each another drink.

He finally spoke. “Waterside Greene,” he muttered.

“What?” I asked.

“Waterside Greene,” he repeated, “the name of our apartment community. It should be called WaterINside Greene.”

“Yup,” I agreed. “We’ve sunk the word irony.”


Nora Blithe

Nora Blithe is the author of the syndicated humor column “Life Face First.” Read her blog online at