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Water, Water Everywhere

"A toilet is something of a feng shui hazard. Flush it and great amounts of ch'i, quite literally, go down the drain." Karen Farrington, Feng Shui: A Practical Guide to Health, Wealth, and Happiness

This is the first time in my adult life that I have lived in a “complex” style apartment. Prior to this I have always rented apartments in houses, duplexes, or other such non-conformist dwellings. The fact that I usually lived on the second floor meant I also did not have to deal with the effects of others’ whimsies and errors.

To try and manage my own space, I try to integrate a little of the Eastern philosophies, one of which is Feng Shui, the Chinese principle for enhancing ch'i in the spaces we occupy. One of the most stringent rules is to keep the bathroom doors closed, particularly between the bedroom and the bathroom. The reason behind this is because water is unpredictable and hard to contain.

Binu was downstairs when I’d arrived from work. He assured me that the blue bathroom, the one with the water heater explosion, was repaired and that it will not happen again. I was still very skeptical. I had, after all, been in the shower when it popped and the event was a little traumatic. I did not plan on using that loo anytime soon.

I got home and walked into the pink bathroom. I put on my flip-flops and I heard the phone ring, so I went to answer it.

“Why are my flip-flops wet?” I wondered.

I went back into the bathroom; the bath mat was wet, which was odd because it usually dries so quickly. I lifted it up. The floor under it was soaking. I looked all around the bathroom and did not see any water elsewhere. I looked in the toilet and I was surprised to see what looked like bits of spinach and maybe...carrot. The water was a greenish blue. I hoped I’d be able to catch Binu before he left the building.

I was walking to the elevator on the other side of the building when I saw him.

“It’s coming again?” He asked.

“No, not the blue bathroom today,” I tried to calmly explain to him. “The pink one.”

He walked with me to my flat as I tried to explain what I saw without sounding paranoid. After all, I have lost track of the number of times he has come to check on water issues for me. Although there always is at least one at the time of complaint.

I showed him the situation in the pink bathroom and at first he seemed confused. He didn’t see where the water was coming from either.

I told him it looked like someone vomited into the toilet. He quickly reassured me that no one had been in my flat all day. I said that was not what I was implying; I was just describing the visual.

He began flushing the toilet. I jumped at first because if the problem was the toilet, then it at some point it was spewing liquid projectile style.

After a few flushes, he confirmed that the drain was clogged somewhere on the parking level. He said that the problem was not my toilet, I just happened to be the recipient of the problem. So I get to suffer for the people who do not know to refrain from putting their food down the drain (we do not have garbage disposals). Sweet.

It was, of course the end of the day. Binu told me the technicians were gone for the day, so they will come tomorrow. He told me not to use the pink bathroom. Clearly. He said just to close the door, and they will fix it tomorrow.

I took the mats and everything else from the floor - my new trash can and the matching bins, all made of fabric of course - and put them outside on the balcony. I mopped up the floor and I closed the door. I was going to have to use the blue bathroom sooner than I thought.

Since I’d arrived in Al Barsha two weeks earlier, I’d learned just how unpredictable and hard to contain water really is. All of us have.

The master bathtubs are poorly designed. When water hits the back wall, where the spigot is, it runs across the back and down the side of the tub. When water hits the inside walls of the tub, it runs forwards and down the front edge of the tub, right onto the floor. We all dealt with this in different manners.

As a temporary solution, I placed small towels along both ends of the tub to absorb the liquid. Lee bought some silicone and applied it herself, but she was quite frank when she said it was ugly. Other apartments had L-grooves, which I still have not yet seen, but are also described as ugly. I called maintenance and the woman said they would apply more silicone to the tub. However, when Binu came to check it out, he explicitly said that he would prefer not to do so since silicone is ugly.

I eventually found some temporary solutions, including using the blue bathroom to shower and the pink bathroom to bathe. Once the blue bathroom had its hot water heater drama, I was resigned to the pink bathroom, and I placed a second shower liner on the inside wall of the tub. It worked wonders.

Others have had their share of water problems as well. Currently, when Kelli and Adam shower, the water comes back up from the drain onto the floor. One day, Kelli did something she had not done before in her green bathroom. She poured coffee grinds into the toilet. When she turned on the water in that sink, it was brown. “Does that connected to the sink?” She asked us Thursday night over cocktails. We all grimaced and could not discuss the implications.

One of Caira’s bathrooms has a leak inside the wall which is coming through on the other side. For this place we gently refer to as the desert, there certainly is no shortage of water.

Following the hot water heater incident, came the backed-up drain, and I made haste to clean up the blue bathroom again so I could use it while the pink bathroom was out of commission. The switching of the bathrooms and showers was getting old.

After one day of using the blue bathroom again, I felt reassured that things were fine in there. The ceiling tiles were a little beat up, but it could be worse.

Wednesday night I came home and Binu said the pink bathroom is fine. Somewhere on the parking level people were throwing things into the drain that should not have been there (construction materials perhaps?), but now the problem was fixed.

We had been at the car dealership all evening and it was now 9:00, so I decided to save the clean-up of the pink bathroom until the next day. The blue bathroom was fine.

Thursday morning I noticed a little water on the bath mat in the blue bathroom; I figured it was wet from the night before. However, once I got in the shower I noticed otherwise. There was water leaking form the ceiling. It was a slow leak, but leakage nonetheless.

I calmly finished my shower and decided not to shave - again. When I got downstairs, I left a key with the watchman and let him know it was for Binu. I had not yet called him, but he would be coming today. Again.

I returned home that Thursday evening and Binu assured me the leak in the blue bathroom was gone, and that it will not happen again. That was two days ago, and so far so good.

Although we are having our share of plumbing problems, which is to be expected due to the rapid rate of building here, it is nice to know that someone will come to fix them, or at least try. Whether this is a benefit of living in an apartment complex or the benefit of living in a city where everyone works very hard in order to achieve the dream, I do not know yet. But as long as the water only comes between Sunday and Thursday and someone answers the phone when I call maintenance, I just shrug my shoulders Al Barsha style and keep the bathroom doors closed.


Melynn said…

You sound totally Zen about it all.


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