How does it work? If you are borrowing someone’s stuff while they are out of town, and it breaks, is it really your fault? I’m sure it’s happened to you before, so don’t pretend it hasn’t. That god-awful, sick-to-your-stomach feeling, when the neighbors are returning home from their two week holiday visiting family in Holland. They are happy, rested, and so looking forward to getting home, sleeping in their own bed, taking a bath, and getting unpacked. Not a care in the world except the brutal reality that they have to return to work the next day. Instead, they open their front door to a rank mildew stench coming from the back of their house. They follow the scent of water damage, only to find that the Pergo flooring in their laundry room is swollen and busted and well, ruined.
Yes, this was my nightmare for the past few days. Fretting about my beloved neighbors returning home to find that in my efforts to wash some sheets & towels at their house for them, their freakin’ laundry machine malfunctioned and the tank never stopped filling up with water. I went to check on it about 30 minutes after I turned it on only to find hot water literally overflowing and streaming out. All over the floor and flooding their entire laundry room. It took 20+ towels to sop of the water and I kept two fans running in the room for 48 hours straight. This happened on Sunday and I’ve had a bad stomach ever since. The floor was clearly damaged from all the hot water and appeared to get worse as the days passed. Then mildew started setting in. No matter how many sessions that me, the floor, and my trusty hair dryer had together, water had made its way under the boards and was silently wreaking havoc. I did everything I could to make it better and I must say, I am definitely a new fan of the product Febreeze, although that gunk only lasts a few hours before the stench arises from the woodwork once again.
I’ve been just sick over this. I always house-sit for Fred & Ursula, get their mail, water their plants, make sure everything is just right. I have fresh flowers & home-made soup waiting in their house for their return. We are just really tight like that. So imagine my terror that I’ve felt I had done something to destroy something in their house. It wasn’t my fault, my friends keep telling me. It was a malfunctioning washing machine. It would have happened to them the next time they used the machine if it wasn’t me. But because of who I am, I have carried the guilt of this flood for the past several days and have been so scared that they would be upset with me.
Last night, my neighbors came home and I give them some time to settle in. I call them to welcome them home and see if I can pop over for a quick visit. I bring a full bottle of red wine and 3 glasses with me. They greet me happily at the door and we all sit down. The thought crosses my mind that maybe they haven’t found the damage yet…We have small talk, I tell them how much I missed them, they tell me what a great time they had. Small talk continues, we all terrifyingly dodge the subject. I’m sweaty, I’m guilty, do I bring it up first? Do I act like nothing happened? I mean, I did leave 2 notes for them, one on the washer saying “DO NOT USE” with an explanation, as well as a ‘WELCOME HOME” on their kitchen table, with another explanation. I’m thinking to myself, “You are a brave, strong, woman. You did nothing wrong. You can handle any type of upset they are feeling towards you.” All of a sudden, Ursula looked at me and said, “Don’t you dare worry about the machine, that stupid thing has been giving us trouble for years!”. I nearly crapped my pants. They let me off the hook….and unbelievably easy! They went on to say that they hoped I hadn’t worried about it too much. They were so sorry that it happened to me and it would have happened to them if they were home. They thanked me for taking such good care of their home while they were away and I thanked them for understanding about flooding their home. I nearly died. Their response gave me hope for mankind.
In hindsight I believe that I did everything right. I believe that my wonderful neighbors did the right thing too. In a world where the economy is in utter crisis, people are sue-crazy, and road-rage is an every day occurrence, I feel confident and further-affirmed that good prevails. It is one of those crazy situations that could have gone either way and I would have accepted the consequences and taken responsibility if it had gone the other way. But now, I am simply relieved. I am released. I am OFF-THE-HOOK!
The morals I take from what I have just been through are: Love thy neighbor, as thyself. Be good to yourself, and one another. Forgive…and forget.