Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Flooding & Finances

On Saturday morning our basement flooded. We live in the "old" part of our small town, a beautiful neighborhood with big trees, miles of sidewalks, and lovely houses dating back to the early 20th century. Our little two-story was built in the 40s, and while we love the hardwood floors, big windows, and quaint design, some things are, well, old. Like the pipes. This is the fourth time we've had water in our basement and the third time our pipes have been roto-rootered. But this is the first time we endured raw sewage beneath our floors and the the first time we'll have to make use of our homeowner's insurance. Sigh.

Before you get horrible pictures of standing water, drenched carpet, and thousands of dollars damage, you should know that though it was a mess, our basement is ideally designed for this sort of catastrophe. The basement floor is laminate (not carpet) and it's suspended a few inches above the cement on a sub-floor. The water just flowed beneath it. All we'll have to do is peel back the laminate, clean, assess the damage, and, if necessary, lay new laminate. I'm remarkably calm about the whole thing. It's so unlike me.

It's also very unlike me to be so nonchalant about the financial crisis (dare I say recession?) facing our country. And yet, I'm cool with it. Of course I don't want my husband to get fired. I don't want my friends to face hard times. I certainly don't want to lose my house or watch our entire country tank. But I can't help secretly cheering for all the things that this sort of financial environment unwittingly promotes. Like frugal living. A return to simplicity. Less travel, more family time. Less consumerism, more self-sufficiency. It means nights around the table playing cards with friends instead of weekends throwing money at restaurants, movies, and entertainment. It means reading more books, turning off the lights, and snuggling in bed at night because the heat is turned a few degrees lower than normal. I'm okay with all that.

It also means less individualism, and that probably excites me most of all. This society ranks the rights of the individual above all else, and if things start to change, we simply won't be able to live like that anymore. On Saturday, when our basement fiasco was in full swing, Aaron stopped by my brother's house to ask if he could borrow a tool. As soon as Andrew, my brother, realized what was happening, he laced up his boots and went up to his elbows in the basement muck. Four and a half hours later, he was still there, wrestling with the roto-rooter and cracking jokes amidst the unbearable stench. I love that. And I wonder what this country will look like six months or a year from now--if we'll step up to the challenge with as much selfless optimism as Andrew displayed when he was crouched in our basement. He helped, no questions asked.

What will we do? Share a meal? Give away clothes that don't fit us anymore and furniture that we don't need? Save pennies in a jar and use them for something other than a new toy? Trade babysitting with our friends instead of spending $5 an hour on a babysitter? Downsize our gas-guzzling SUV and embrace something more financially and environmentally responsible? I think the possibilities are endless. And I think this crisis has the potential to be utterly transforming. I hope so.

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