Or, the Relaxing New Years’ Break that Wasn’t.
Happy Belated New Year! It sure is good to be back – back in the city, where life is calm and nothing ever really happens. Yes, back to the peace that you just don’t find out in the adventurous country where we’ve been for the last week.
You see, last Friday we arrived to Camp Davis to learn that while we were gone someone drove a car into our farmhouse. [Pauses for dramatic effect]. Yes, you read that right. The area received several inches of snow (probably eight or so), and before the plow found our street someone managed to miss the turn in front of our property and instead drove up our driveway, slammed into the side of our house and then rammed our large propane tanks. They fled the scene (but not before backing over our nice new flower plot), and left us to arrive to a significant (and rather terrifying) propane leak amid all the other damage.
We showed up like we do most Fridays – the kids in the backseat hanging on to their sanity by a thread after two-plus hours in the car, ready for dinner and only an hour or so from bedtime, the parents excited but desperately in need of a good pee after a coffee-fueled rush hour trip. The snow fall and subsequent plow meant I’d need to shovel the driveway before we could get the car off the road. It was nothing we hadn’t been through before. And then, as I stepped out of the car my nose was filled with that unmistakable sulfur propane smell (despite standing over a hundred feet away from our tanks).
I immediately sprung into action mode (which largely resembles a full-on panic). Bounding through the snow in my slip-on seasonally-inappropriate, no-tread or insulation summer shoes, sniffing at the air like a bloodhound as I went, surely looking like quite the scene as I inspected and unlocked doors and grabbed digging tools and ran back to the car. I shoveled with abandon, hoping to get the car off the dark bend in the road, and to get the kids into the cinder block (and thus presumably bomb-shelter-like) Hytte before the inevitable action-movie explosion occurred the moment I made a wrong move and ignited the tanks with the static electricity from someone’s footie pajamas.
After a while it occurred to me that, this being Camp Davis, we were out of cell phone range and thus a call to the fire department would require either going into the farmhouse (which I assumed was basically a boobie-trapped house of propane doom), or getting back in the car and letting my caffeine and adrenaline pumped body drive until I had enough bars to place a call.
It was amid all this (largely self-induced) chaos that our weekend guests, Brian and Dara (and their two little ones), arrived. Hi, welcome to Camp D, here’s your Hazmat Suit, now run and find cover.
Fortunately, on their way through town they had stopped to grab dinner for everyone. The extra calories helped provide a little clarity to our disoriented crew. Brian calmed me down enough to get the two of us on the road so that we could (safely) make the call to the fire department. He drove. Wise move.
The fire crew arrived shortly thereafter, with our propane mechanic in tow as if he had been hanging at the firehouse when we made the call to dispatch. He quickly stopped the leak, and I let the firefighters in the house to assess whether it was safe for us to enter.
In a minute I followed them in. Walking through your home in the dark, seeing it via flashlight and surrounded by emergency responders is a rather unsettling ordeal. Oddly, a few of the cabinets were open and there were dishes broken all over the floor. One of the crew places a call to dispatch to report a potential break-in and asks for someone from the sheriff’s department to come out to investigate. But the TV is still there, the laptop is in plain sight (stupidly), no booze is missing from the liquor cabinet (thank god; I really needed a drink at that point), and there doesn’t seem to be any signs of forcible entry. Just some open cabinets and some broken dishes.
Moments later we were back outside and huddled around the propane tanks when we started to notice the damaged siding and broken glass all over the ground. It was then that we all realized that the crime wasn’t a burglary, but a hit-and-run. “First time I’ve ever seen a hit-and-run with a house” I hear from behind me. The glass is clearly from a car; some tinted window pieces here, a few side-view mirror pieces there. The sheriff’s deputy confirms our assessment. So did the propane mechanic (who happened also to be a retired MP).
Brian goes down to the Hytte to fill the ladies in on all the excitement that was taking place while they were trying to corral and entertain four children in the freezing little house. The fire crew leaves, the house is safe to occupy, the propane is actually still usable after one of the tanks is shut down. It’s close to nine o’clock, we have cranked every heat source possible to bring the house up to a reasonable sleeping temperature. We somehow get all the kids to bed in short succession. Us four parents huddle around the fire place and commence our much deserved drinking. The adrenaline wearing off combined with a little coping alcohol send the rest of us to bed by eleven.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight!
All week, after our drama-filled arrival, I thought I was going to come home to DC and cathart my brains out all over this blog. I mean, someone drove their f-ing car into our house!
But in the ensuring days, Camp managed to work its magic on me yet again, and by the time we were driving home to DC this past Saturday afternoon, I’d simply lost all the venom I gained the week before.
My blood pressure spiked for several days, but it came back down to reasonably normal levels eventually. The 100-plus year old farmhouse is still standing strong, if maybe not exactly where it used to be. The damage, while extensive, wasn’t bad enough to keep us from staying there for the week (or even to keep us from hosting guests – who didn’t even seem to think twice about staying as planned despite the madness that welcomed them). Instead of finding a car in our dining room, we found a lot of cracked tile, split drywall, leaking but not exploded propane tanks, and an exterior wall that bent a lot (moved several inches off the studs it seems), but didn’t quite break.
All things considered, this whole incident could have been a lot worse.
And if the early interactions with our homeowners insurance provider are any indication of how this turns out, what at first seemed like the biggest shit sandwich imaginable, might end up having the potential to press fast-forward on a long-dreamed about renovation project that we didn’t expect to begin for another 10 or 15 years. This whole lemon may in fact make for some decent lemonade.
Which means a lot of planning and a non-stop stream of Pinterest activity on our Camp Davis board. Who knows, if it all works out (and we don’t have to pay for too much of it) I might have the police send the driver a thank you card along with the warrant for arrest.
Probably not, but it is a new year and I’m trying to look on the bright side. No cathartic writing needed. There’s been enough gas leaked already.