Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


Dripping with suspense

I have a close friend of 40 years who has made it his job to report on the local weather back where he lives. Most days he’ll upload a photo with a bit of commentary, or a screenshot from Accuweather. It keeps both of us entertained, but I’ve been riding him about this for years.

Now I’ve become him.

Not only am I doing hour-by-hour check-ins on the weather — via apps, and news services, and also by just looking out windows or plunging headfirst into the torrent myself — I’m also talking about it constantly, writing about it here, and openly fretting about it.

Because:  It’s been raining here in Los Angeles for the proverbial 40 days and 40 nights… and my roof is leaking.

On New Year’s Eve, it was a drip-drip-drip down into my family room that drew a friend to summon me with a wheedling entreaty:  “Uh, Leeeeee… I think you’ve got a problemmmmm here….”  Seeing the water plopping onto one of the couches and then splashes onto the floor, and tracing its descent from my ceiling, spotted with water, was unsettling. But, while distressing, it seemed containable. I mean, it would dry out, it wasn’t like it was a cascade of water, and how often does it rain in L.A. anyway? This is a desert ecosystem, and we’re in a drought.

But that was already after a week of steady rain, and now it’s four days later and the rain has reached cyclonic intensity, and we’ve still got tomorrow and also next week of more rain forecast.

I was at my office today, writing an email about all the good things going on in the world (truly!) and how we should worry less about what we cannot control (honest!) when my son texted me to say 1) he’d locked himself out and could I come home and let him in; and 2) oh, by the way, now it was really leaking down into the family room and I really should take a look.

#2 above got me to drop everything I was doing and race home. Clever boy.

Sure enough, water was coming down in a highly disconcerting manner, kerplunking onto the floor and splashing in a way that sounded like trouble. I got up onto the couch and touched the ceiling and it felt soft. Not what one wants to feel in one’s ceiling. So I went outside into the squall and entered the garage, fetched a ladder, hauled it inside, climbed up and opened the hatch leading to the miniature attic whence the leak was descending and thereupon confirmed my suspicions:

It was leaking precisely from the spot where we’d had the house re-roofed eleven years ago…

….which was the same spot where the contractors we’d hired to add a second story onto this house 20 years ago had built a roof cricket, which has sporadically leaked ever since, and which they themselves had tried to fix twice.

I started to feel that vein throb in my head. You know, that big throbbing vein that we all get that pulses explosively when we’ve reached a boiling point about something that truly warrants an overflow of piping hot liquid, with steam coming out of our ears. That thing. That head-bursting vein, like something out of a Warner Brothers cartoon. But:  my daily practice of stoicism (and it’s “practice” because I’ll never fully arrive) came into play, and instead of boiling over, I called out to my son like Joan Crawford in “Mommy Dearest,” “Dietrich! Bring me the tarp!” He dutifully retrieved the tarp we had outside under the pergola, I placed it under the area where water was streaming in, I shaped the tarp so that water would have a large sink into which it would pool, and I instructed him, “Check this every few hours and when it’s nearly full, drain the water into a bucket. And then on Saturday, the one day when it won’t be raining, we’ll weigh down a tarp on the roof and get a roofer to come out.”

I also instructed my son to pull the warranty on the most recent roofing job out of my files. When I got home and read it closely I discovered, to no surprise, that the warranty provides coverage for manufacturing defects of the shingles. In other words, the roofing company provided no warranty. Shingles are shingles — what defect could there be? Whoops, we made one batch from cardboard?

So, the plan for now is:  monitor and drain, put that additional tarp directly onto the roof itself on Saturday, and call a roofing company. The Stoics would be proud:  I’m in control over what I can control, and I’m emotionally letting everything else go.

Further consolations:

The checkout lady at my local supermarket tonight, when I shared my story with her, told me she was in the same situation with a leaking roof, and so did a longtime friend today, via Facebook. So I’m not alone in this struggle.

And, and even bigger consolation of sorts: All those beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright houses we love to look at, designed by one of the foremost architects of the 20th century? On every single one of them, the roof leaks.

One Response to “Dripping with suspense”

  1. Dan Says:

    I suppose you haven’t considered turning it into an indoor water feature, have you? A small fountain, miniature waterfall, or even a fresh-water aquarium?

    Oh, you’ll thank me some sweet day.

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