At the time of writing, Little Dude was now three weeks old and we had probably only slept a total of three hours in all that time. I had read about tornadoes and seen them on TV. I did not, however, consider them likely to visit any time soon. Silly me.
There is an ancient curse, Chums, that says: "May you live in interesting times."
There is a message inside a fortune cookie passed out by our local Chinese restaurant that also reads, "May you live in interesting times."
Imagine my surprise, then, when after a nice meal of Spicy Orange Chicken a couple of weeks ago I discovered that little gem waiting for me when I got the bill. I did a spit take. Nigh Perfect glanced at the message. "Oh that's nice," she said. "Your lucky numbers are 2, 14, 16, 35, 38 and 41. We should play the lottery."
"You don't get it?" I spluttered. "The bubonic plague was interesting! The crusades were interesting! Interesting is bad! If you live in interesting times it means mushroom clouds and avian flu in your near future."
Nigh Perfect shrugged. "If you ask me," she said, "it would be fun to live in interesting times."
What happened next was all her fault.
There's No Place like Home.
Now before I get going on this, I want to talk about the worldwide conspiracy that is your local weatherman. I have a theory that they dress up like John Wayne Gacy and give themselves stupid names for a reason: so that no one will take them seriously. This means when the local Accuweather dude gets the forecast completely arse-backwards everybody will say, "Hey... his name is Foxley Chunderbuttocks. I never expected him to be all that accurate anyway."
Fast forward to Friday night. Our local weather forecaster was in the middle of his interpretive dance, in which he would mime the following day's high temperatures to the accompaniment of a Chihuahua playing the accordion. His willowy hand movements suggested the night might be a little damp with a 20% chance of light confetti showers and an outside possibility of a custard pie in the face.
Being a late night guy, I noticed the wind beginning to whip up at around 2 AM but I continued to type away because you ungrateful bastards and your insatiable need for entertainment drive my every waking decision. At around 4 AM, the lights began to flicker. I was getting tired and didn't notice the sky was as black as the Ace of Spades because it was already dark, right? I played some video games for a little while, and after conquering the galaxy with a score of three and a half million points, I chewed off half a sleeping pill and retired to the master bedroom.
Now ever since I wrote my expose on my wife's goofy behavior a couple of weeks ago she has been sleeping at the front of the house in Baby Jack's room. She claims it has something to do with his feeding at night but I know better: she's still mad at me for putting in the picture of the two of us drinking at Johnny's Hideaway in Atlanta. She didn't really mind the fifty-odd comments about the size of her boobs but I had showed her a post I'd found on a rival website in which one of the fans--probably trying to be obtuse and disagreeable as is his right--had suggested Nigh Perfect was nothing much to look at. Nigh Perfect was pissed! For days she had been ranting at me about this. My usual reaction to this kind of thing is to press the issue and tell her she looks hideous, and that the guy was right. She hadn't seen the funny side of it and as a consequence I finally had the bed to myself.
I am a notorious insomniac: I can only sleep when exhausted... and even then I sleep with headphones on so that I don't hear any noises. I collapsed onto the oh-so soft mattress and spread out a little. This was uncharted territory for me, as Nigh Perfect usually manages to push me all the way to the edge, so that my head rests on the nightstand and my feet touch the wall. Sensing we were on the verge of an historic night of slobbing, Mister Quimby the cat came into the crook of my arm and together we drifted off into a dreamy land of kitty baseball and headless geckos.
My first clue that Foxley Chunderbuttocks had underestimated the intensity of the storm came about ten minutes later. I heard a roaring sound, much like the sound of a train heading towards me down a tunnel. That train would be going about four hundred miles per hour and would be carrying a cargo of tornadoes, so it was no surprise when I looked out of the window to see a fork of lightning and a few cows flying by.
My next clue was the large tree that came smashing through the ceiling above my head. It smashed the wall into smithereens and raked down the side of the house, carving a massive hole through the side of the garage, knocking over a tub of shampoo (more on this in a minute). I decided now might be a good time to get my wife and son and point them in the direction of the basement.
I woke Nigh Perfect. In her daze she asked me if I had come to deliver a special package. I told her no but I would ask Benny about it in the morning. In the meantime we should probably make our way downstairs as we were all going to die horribly. This got her attention. Baby Jack remained asleep for the first time in fifty hours. I pulled some bedding down the stairs with me. I also tripped over a dog (mental note to self: make that "My Eleven Most Stupid Injuries").
By the time we hit the bottom stair the electricity was off. I herded the three dogs, the wife, the kid, and the cat to a place behind the stairwell and together we listened to the unearthly roar of the tornado that touched down in our back yard.
Now there comes a time in every man's life where he must face a test prepared for him by the Gods. The Gods can be disagreeable and obtuse when it comes to thinking up new and interesting challenges for us mortals--in fact, I would not be surprised if they posted on a certain message board but that is a story for another time. Suffice it to say, the Gods had chosen a rather unique test of fortitude for me involving my pet rat, Reggie.
I realized, of course, that while I had managed to get everyone downstairs, poor old Reggie was alone upstairs in his cage. The side of the house was being pelted by flying objects, some of which had come though the siding. Muttering angrily to myself, I headed back upstairs where I found the ungrateful little bastard huddling to one side of his cage. Yes, I saved the bloody rat. He bit me on the finger because he was scared. Why do bad things happen to good people?
Downstairs, the three dogs were foaming at the mouth with fear. Nigh Perfect was screaming angrily at me for being an idiot and Baby Jack and Quimby were curled up asleep together. Being British, I pretended I was in an Anderson shelter and began to sing "We'll Meet Again" by Dame Vera Lynn. Nigh Perfect thumped me in the arm for being a moron, even while under duress.
In the morning, we found the chaos that had once been the back of our house. It looked a lot like this:
As it turned out, the tornados had carved a massive line through a nearby town, and one of them had skipped across the sky and struck down behind our yard. An industrial area two miles up the road had been flattened, although by virtue of great luck and time of day, no one was seriously hurt. God, in His infinite wisdom, had wrathfully destroyed the local Sodom and Gomorrah that was once our pizza place and liquor store. Jealous of his own creation, if you ask me.
We began to make phone calls to the Insurance Company who informed us that no, they couldn't help us in any way, shape or form but they would very much like me to make sure the house was secure and could I save as much as possible, please? Thanks very much. They had no local vendors they could point me to, no contractors, no clue as to what they were doing and certainly no intention of coming to the aid of a three week-old baby until they were good and ready.
Poor Nigh Perfect... the tree had smashed through her closet and literally destroyed every single item of clothing she owned. This was like taking the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons and pouring superglue over his copy of Radioactive Man #1. Like the condom factory in our local industrial area, she was both rubbery and devastated. Worse still, it was her birthday. She had to go through every single torn, spindled, or mutilated item of clothing making forlorn little meeping noises as she said goodbye to each treasured possession. If you've ever seen the bit with Spock's funeral from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan you'll know what I'm talking about.
After literally three hours of trying, I managed to connect with a local carpet cleaner who generously offered to send a couple of guys over to help me seal up the house. My neighbors gave me a huge blue tarpaulin and since only one of the contractor guys was under sixty-five, I had to climb out through the hole in the roof and nail it down myself. Remember again that the Insurance Company had told me on three or four separate occasions that they had no local contractors, so I was on my own with that one. The knee surgery I was supposed to be having that week wasn't a problem for them, obviously. But not to worry, they said at the 24-hour Help Line... I would be getting a call from the adjuster within an hour.
For some reason the roof smelled like peaches. I couldn't understand why. The smell was very pleasant but wouldn't go away. I banged in nails and jumped around the place like the Roof Monkey that I am, and the smell lingered. It was a very surreal experience. My neighbors formed a little circle on the other side of the street and clucked and fussed at all the damage I had sustained. "Hey!" I yelled to one of them. "I can see my house from up here!" They quickly moved on to look at the damaged liquor store up the road.
An hour went by. Our house was full of fiberglass insulation and pieces of tree. We decided to take Torak to Granny and Grandpa Perfect's house. I found the source of the peach smell: an overturned tub of peach shampoo under the debris of the destroyed garage. I am thinking of sending that potpourri tip into the Good Morning America show (along with a request to see Katie Couric naked before she leaves for good).
Another hour went by.
Three days went by. The call from our adjuster was conspicuous by its absence. I called the 24-hour Help Line to inform that they were, in fact, a 24-hour Chat Line. They informed me in turn that I would be getting a call from my adjuster within an hour but that I was a lower priority on the list than some other people. I asked them how they had managed to work out how to prioritize me given that they had no idea of the extent of the damage since they hadn't managed to send out a fucking adjuster.
I called a local news station and told them how while my son had been just three weeks old at the beginning of this ordeal he was now four weeks with no sign of the aging process slowing down. They promised to send out a reporter and then put me in touch directly with the Georgia State Commissioner of Insurance. I explained the problem. Twenty minutes later, two Insurance Company representatives knocked on my front door. "What a coincidence," I said to them. "I just spoke with the television people and the Insurance Commissioner. Isn't it weird how two such completely unrelated events could coincide like that?"
The poor Insurance Company guys looked very nervous indeed--I can be kind of a dick when my family's health and well being is endangered through the indifference of, say, an Insurance Company. I tend to make lots of very amusing and pointed comments that result in their recipients looking sad, going home, and contemplating suicide. I informed the Insurance guys that the television people were coming so they should probably stick around to explain why they hadn't come with an adjuster, and why my local Insurance Agent--my disaster advocate--was closed for business the entire weekend. One of them began to sob. They went home to their intact houses and cried themselves to sleep on their perfectly dry beds.
At the time of writing we are still waiting for the adjuster to make his decision on how much he is going to try and withhold from our claim. He and the contractor are something like $20,000 apart in their estimates so you can probably see where this is going. Everyone is safe, of course, and we are all grateful for your good wishes. Even so, I feel it's only fair to bring up the thing about the fortune cookie.
The other day I moaned at Nigh Perfect about this. I explained that if being nearly decapitated by a tree wasn't the very definition of "interesting" then I didn't know what was.
"Look on the bright side," she replied. "At least you have something to write about this week."
Our State Insurance Commissioner is a gentleman by the name of John Oxendine. It's pretty neat that despite the town being declared a disaster area he was willing to communicate with me directly. In fact, Mister Oxendine gave me his personal contact information and I have it on good authority that he's running for a higher office in the upcoming months. I say we send in a bunch of fake votes from all around the country and see if we can get him elected pope, or something.
Kudos also to his aide, Mister John Allen, who called me on three separate occasions to see if I was okay. God, it is so refreshing to see people in it for the right reasons.
And finally, many thanks to the nice folks at ServPro Carpet Cleaning of North Fulton who helped me tarp my roof, even when they didn't have to. "ServPro of North Fulton: for all your quality carpet cleaning needs! That's ServPro--helping distraught homeowners since 1982!"
Bollocks, frankly, to my Insurance Company. Their adjuster showed up after four days and seemed impressed by the amount of damage, as if it had just occurred to him that tornadoes are dangerous and expensive. I'm going to reserve judgment until after they make a settlement offer for our property damage claim: As of right now they score a whopping two out of ten. If they screw us over I'll give you their name next week and you can all cancel your insurance policies with them. Wankers.
My favorite, though, was my experience with the local television station. The reporter showed up with a cameraman and I began to explain how the Insurance Company had ignored my little baby son, how his health had been jeopardized, how we had been misled intentionally on five or six separate occasions.
The reporter lady looked genuinely dismayed: "I thought the tree was still stuck in the back of your house," she said.
"No, it slid down to the ground. The story is about the Insurance Company. I have a little premature baby with underdeveloped lungs and there is a huge hole in the roof. There's fiberglass insulation everywhere. They keep ignoring us."
The Television reporter looked pained. "We can't do that story," she said. "They advertise with us."