Drip, drip and deja vu

In some ways it feels like the past 15 years never happened. I am sitting at a desk in my home office, with everything that’s absolutely essential to running my business set up haphazardly around the room. This morning I got up, made coffee, put some toast in the toaster and walked down the hall to go to work.

I am back to running a home-based business.

But the differences loom large. No slumbering boys in bed across the hall. No happy sounds of staff members who have become like family greeting each other with laughter, stories and hugs.

Just before 9 a.m. yesterday, I got a call from Operations Director Debbie Davis. She rarely calls me before the business day begins, so I knew something was up.

“I just wanted to give you a heads up,” she said. “We have a situation at the office.” Katie Charland, our community relations manager was already at work and had called Debbie in a panic.

The office was flooded.

I quickly threw on my jeans, put my hair in a ponytail and drove to work. I parked in the underground lot next to our entrance and stepped out of the car to a strong, musty odor. Our office.

Katie and Debbie were rushing around the hallways, already in triage. “What do you want me to do?” I asked helplessly.

“We’ve got to get the computers off the ground,” Debbie said. “I can’t get Michelle’s to shut down!”

I went into Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams’ office and confronted the worst of the mess. Swollen ceiling tiles had held on valiantly before they burst, spraying water over three computers, two scanners and an oversize printer. Bookshelves full of CDs, magazines and files were completely soaked. Water was still dripping from the ceiling. It sounded like rain.

I started to unplug one of our Macs and then had a frightening thought. We were all standing around in an inch of water in our bare feet, pulling electrical cords. “Debbie!” I shouted. “We have to turn off the electricity!”

I was closest to the circuit breaker but for some reason couldn’t make my body do what my mind was screaming needed to happen. Debbie charged into the room and quickly shut off all the circuits except for one stubborn one that wouldn’t budge. Now I was standing in a rainstorm in the dark, groping for plugs.

The next three hours went by in a blur. Several other staff members arrived and started hauling our equipment and essential files to drier areas. Boxes of sopping letterhead were piled against the wall outside our door with false hopes that we could salvage it. Our conference room had more angry, bloated storm clouds overhead, so we quickly moved the wooden furniture — including two expensive dining-room side tables I inherited from my mother-in-law when she moved to California — into the front hallway.

I grabbed the file for our liability insurance and called our agent. I wanted to know what I was supposed to do — and when they could send someone to assess the damage. The guy in the claims office explained that he first had to ask me some questions. He proceeded to ask for our location (“It’s on the policy!”), our phone number (“The phones are down!”) and , in a moment of pure absurdity, “Where can I send an email survey so you can give us some feedback on our services?”

The owner of the salon upstairs came down to take responsibility for the burst pipe and offer the services of a specialized clean-up crew already doing mop-up overhead.

I called staff photographer Daniel Friedman, who was working at home, and asked him to bring his camera so he could document the damage.

Marketing Director MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb sat on a bench with Account Executives Susie Drake and Catherine Griffiths. As I walked by with my videocamera, she smiled at me and said, “We’re having our meeting!”

Bonnie (the office mascot, a sweet-natured chihuahua) was completely stressing out, so Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist ran her home and returned with a huge stack of beach towels. She and her daughter Solvay spent hours toting boxes and supplies, wiping furniture and taking pictures with their videocamera.

Production Manager Tina Gerami grabbed her July issue folders, which were completely soaked, and took them home to spread them out to dry, hoping they would be readable. Michelle took her computer tower home and continued to work from there. (Our production deadline for the July issue is tomorrow.)

Katie, whose job encompasses social media, grabbed her iPad and ventured out to find wi-fi access so she could post an update on our Facebook.

Debbie summoned our IT expert, Leon Hauck of Fulcrum Enterprises. The three of us sat in my office and held a disaster-recovery meeting as the crew from J&M, Inc. tromped in and out through my door, which was closest to their truck, with their big orange hoses.

Leon reminded us that we had to do something about the phones (we had Quest temporarily forward them to my cell phone; Leon is setting up Internet-based lines for us today) and helped us transport two critical computers to my home. By 2:30pm we were fully functional. I posted a photo of our hallway — and my cell phone number — at the top of our home page.

And today, as Dan Friedman so aptly described in his daily “DYK?,” we are going with the flow.


5 responses to “Drip, drip and deja vu

  1. Very nicely written disaster coverage on deadline (old habits die hard). If memory serves of you in action you’ve got the goods to turn this into a plus. Good luck!

  2. Pingback: Day 4 after the flood – the mystical aspects « behind the 'zine

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