The Flood

Posted on March 3rd, 2012 by Viveca in Circus Life

2000 and 2010 were the worst years of my relatively good life. I wrote this story near the end of my eight-year tenure at the Big Apple Circus. In retrospect, it contains many signs that the end was near, and I’m not referring to any biblical-type flood prophesy.

My office flooded three times in 2000.

The first time was in February. I was sitting at my desk when I heard a drop. I saw that some papers were wet, so I thought I’d spilled something, only I couldn’t figure out what. Then I saw more drops falling from the ceiling. I put out a bucket (actually my novelty Bulls helmet from Subway) and went for help turning off the “leak.” Some colleagues climbed on my desk, removed a ceiling panel, and examined the now steady stream of water, which was coming from the sprinkler pipe. One of them realized the whole pipe could blow, and we tried to turn off the water and power before it did. We didn’t succeed. Unfortunately the circuit breakers are labeled by number instead of by location, so there was no way to figure out how to just turn off my office. At least we moved out of the way before the pipe burst.

Gallons of jet-black oily water sprayed out with a blasting force that knocked off and instantly dissolved the ceiling panels. My computer, monitor, printer, phone, chair, and bulletin boards were all ruined. Plus, I had on two electric space heaters, which were soon sitting in a growing flood of water. I lost about $300 worth of personal belongings (clothes, pictures, toys, etc.) that were in the office. I don’t even remember the count on the business property; it was much higher. The walls were black, and the carpets were soaked. The insurance did reimburse us, but money could never replace the “Big Book of Circus Memories” that a second-grade class had sent me, my Braille thank-you letters, or my family photographs.

That weekend, after we had cleaned up some of the mess, the same pipe burst again. Since it happened on a weekend, no one was there to turn off the water. The entire building’s water tank, approximately 30,000 gallons of water, ran through my broken sprinkler pipe (bypassing the sprinkler head, which was intact). This time the water was just red and rusty, not black and oily. All the oil in the system had already flushed through. The sheer volume though, meant that all the neighboring offices were also flooded, and our floor collapsed through the ceiling of the office below ours.

At this point, the horse-hair mat under the office and hallway carpets was so full of mold spores that the whole hall stank. It still does sometimes. I don’t have allergies, but everyone who did was having a hard time.

Painters, cleaners, pipe workers, tin thumpers, and contractors repaired the roof, walls, and floor. There were hardly any traces left when it happened again on December 26, 2000. I wasn’t there, but the web camera in my office was running when the water started dripping. When they realized what was happening again, co-workers carried out my computer and as much else as they could. Here is the last picture the camera recorded:

Beginning of third flood

You can see water on the lens, and my holiday cards are beginning to curl from either the wind or the water. The funny thing is that after two incidents, the Circus still hadn’t done anything to prevent a third flood or at least lessen the impact; the circuit breakers were still not labeled, for example. I had though. Every night I put my most important papers inside the filing cabinet and moved everything valuable out of water’s way.

By the way, did I mention that this has only happened in my office? The rest of the company, and I believe, the rest of the building has been fine.

That was about a month ago. I’m still in a borrowed office while the “trades” argue over who is responsible for fixing mine. I didn’t get any good pictures of the office when it was covered in black oil, but I did take some of it now.

Broken ceiling

Yes this is right-side-up. That's the ceiling, gutted.

Hanging insulation

Another view of the ceiling. The insulation was falling all over the place.


There isn't going to be any work done at this desk.

repair tools

The ladder is pretty self-explanatory. But the extra steel?


The dramatic effect wasn't quite so lovely when you realize it's supposed to be a functioning office.

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