Sunday, February 03, 2008
Years ago, late on a winter Friday, I was at work in New York when I received a panicky call from my wife. She in turn had received a call from the police on Long Beach Island. They told her that a pipe must have broken in our summer house. They could see from the outside that the living room ceiling had fallen and that water was running out under the front door. I, too, panicked and hurriedly called our real estate agent on the Island. I asked that he call a plumber, give him a key to the house and send him out to turn off the water.
On the train going home I started to think straight and remembered that I had brought one of those long socket wrenches. I thought I remembered turning the water off out at the street. It was dark by the time I got home. If the ceiling had fallen, I reasoned that the electricity would be off. So after a restless night, our son and I set out at 4:00AM for the shore. By then I was imaging that a rogue wave had hit the house (the front steps had been washed away in a storm in '57).
We arrived at the island just at dawn. Thinking to save time, I drove the back way to our house (a mistake). There it sat, pretty and perfect. We went in and found no sign of damage. The faucet wouldn't deliver a drop of water. We relaxed for awhile and decided to go the local diner for a big breakfast. As we drove a different road to the main drag. we saw it! A house on a corner in the same relative position as ours. It had the same house number as ours, Its ceiling was hanging, and water was pouring out the front door. The cops hadn't known their streets and had reported the wrong address. Those were pre-cellphone days, so we drove to the police station. How do you tell a big police sergeant, "Hey, you guys screwed up?" But we did and as the adrenaline subsided we ate that big breakfast and grieved for the people whose house was really largely destroyed.
We went back to the house, got out our gear and went surf fishing for the rest of the day. That is called a happy ending.