Sunday, September 14, 2008

Feeling Blank

This mural that looks perpetually unfinished (like ads or pictures might appear in the boxes) is on North Lamar just south of the Tavern. Where you, my faithful few readers know, I was on Tuesday.

On Tuesday I thought maybe I'd finish 'tricking out' the condo. Oh, I knew something would probably be missing or wrong and need fixing. Big projects are like that. I knew a hurricane was coming and was vaguely worried about how bad the offshoot weather would be in Austin and how our building and our houses would fare. I'd become increasingly disgusted with how our brand new high rise operates, how poor elevator service is and such and so was vaguely worried about getting everything up to the tenth floor on Thursday.

Thursday didn't go too badly. After FFP got the concierge to open the door to the loading dock door and figured out how to operate the freight elevator himself we got the stuff up here.

Then, of course, the unexpected happened. The thing about the flood (or leak as I call it or as the building management calls it an 'incident' or 'water flow' problem) is this: while I escaped damage (apparently) in my condo, many people did not. The water was, quite literally, about ten feet away. The elevators got flooded. They are operating haphazardly still (which, frankly, they also did before). There are dirty streaks inside them where water flowed. Frankly, one is put in mind of an ancient and subsidized apartment. Remediation equipment is all over the place. There are harried residents fighting a battle between the developer and the management with their insurance companies and lawyers at their side.

I feel helpless, of course. I love my condo and except for the unfinished shades (which also need some adjustment) things are just the way I want them. But it all seems ephemeral. I will never feel like it will last. I see water coursing down the walls, damaging the book cases and the books I've so carefully assembled. I see it damaging my art, my electronics. Nothing seems safe.

Of course, people say that we don't want to let this get out (that we have these problems a mere four months after the building is occupied) or we can never sell or lease our property. But, you know, you are required to disclosed anything you know about such problems. Can't escape it.

As time goes by, if they get the elevators working and assure us that they have inspected and re-inspected whatever systems failed and all remediation is done, then I'll become more comfortable and complacent. Probably I won't get flooded by a leak. Something else will happen. It will come out of left field when I'm comfortable. On Shoal Creek I fought water. Water came in the garage in the '81 flood (from the street not Shoal Creek) and we fought it back with a French drain and sealants. (In that flood, water reached into our yard on the bluff and knocked down fences, too.) Water main breaks happened in our front yard three different times. Our pressure step down valve failed and water erupted in the garage where the service entered the house. We had sprinkler system leaks, roof leaks, condensation line leaks and toward the end a leak in the service from meter to house and had to rebuild that. I thought that I'd worry less about water on the tenth floor of a brand new building developed by a company experienced in high rise construction.

Time will pass. I'll worry about something else. Meanwhile I'm going to revel in living where I want to live. Being urban. But I won't forget water. Beside the building is a creek. It is, in fact, Shoal Creek. Of course, it won't rise to the tenth floor (or if it does, you know, goodbye Austin) but it could rise up and lap around the building stranding us here. The lake could come up here. Tom Miller Dam could fail.

After the Northridge Earthquake in '94 my friend who had lived there moved to Austin. She said that for a long time she would look at glass objects on shelves and think 'that is going to break in the next earthquake.' Even though the objects were here in Austin where the earth doesn't move that often.

So I'm seeing water damage. But my future disaster is probably something else.

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