The past two and a half months have been difficult. My mind has been elsewhere. Our loyal readers deserve to know why. Can you handle the horror of the Hole of Death?
It all started at the end of July when the dishwasher here at the house appeared to be leaking water. Not wanting to have a flooded kitchen and feeling that it was perhaps time for a new dishwasher anyways, Erin and I went down to Lowe’s and bought a new one. The day after we purchased it, the deliveryman showed up to drop off our purchase, remove our old dishwasher, and install the new one. Yay!
Except, of course, there was a problem. There’s always a problem, right? When he took out our old dishwasher, he noticed that there was mold behind it. He announced to us that, legally, he could not install our new dishwasher until we got rid of all that mold. I looked in the open space under the kitchen countertop where the dishwasher had once sat. There was definitely some mold on the back wall, the result of the leak that had caused us to get a new dishwasher in the first place. It didn’t look like a lot of mold but, as an asthmatic, I still knew that it could be a problem for me.
When Erin asked him what we could do about the mold, he listed several steps and each one sounded more difficult and time consuming than the last. Later, when my sister and I discussed things, we would both agree that he went out of his way to make mold removal sound like the most complicated process in the world. With every step he listed — from drying out the hole to spraying bleach in the hole to scraping away at the mold — he made it sound like something that two mere homeowners like us would never be able to handle. After he finished explaining all the steps, he then said, “Or you can call these people and they’ll do it for you.” He gave us a phone number. And then he left, taking the old diswasher with him and leaving us with essentially a big empty space under our kitchen counter.
As you can imagine, I was not happy about either the mold or the empty space. But what especially angered me was the dismissive attitude of the deliveryman. His condescending tone did not sit well with me. Later, Erin and I would agree that he went out of his way to make us feel stupid so that we would call the number that he gave us.
And yes, we did call that number. The person on the other end said that he would come out to look at our kitchen in four days. Four days? I wondered. Weren’t we all supposed to be dead from the mold by then?
When he did show up, he was a very good salesman. He took one look at the hole — which Erin and I had christened the Hole of Death — and he announced that we definitely needed to hire him and his company to not only take care of the mold but that we also needed to let him remove every fixture in the kitchen so that he could make sure that there wasn’t any other mold in the house. He told us that, because our house was old, we also needed to hire him to check for and remove any asbestos. We needed to hire him to do a lot but, of course, he couldn’t tell us how much it would cost. He would need to bring in some associates to take a closer look and then he could give us an estimate.
While he was giving his spiel, I noticed that there was fresh water in The Hole of Death. That meant, of course, that there was still a leak and the dishwasher had not been the source. When I mentioned this, the Salesman was very quick to tell me not to call a plumber. He was insistent that only he and his crew were qualified to rip up the kitchen and find the leak. In fact, he told us, there were probably several leaks. He wouldn’t know for sure until the entire kitchen was ripped apart.
The Salesman left but promised to return the following week. When he did, he brought another man with him. They both looked in the Hole and agreed that we should not call a plumber and that we needed to hire them to rip up the entire kitchen. In fact, they would probably need to not only rip up the kitchen but perhaps the nearby bathroom as well. The floor would probably have to be replaced. They informed us that, before they could start working, they would need someone to come in and test the air to make sure it wasn’t toxic. They gave us yet another number to call. As they left, they again assured us that it would be a waste of time and money to call a plumber. When I asked them how high they thought the estimate would be, the Salesman smiled and reminded us that we had homeowner’s insurance.
These meetings raised a few red flags. I couldn’t help but notice that, despite the fact that the mold was apparently going to kill us in a matter of days, no one seemed to be in a hurry to do much much about it. Instead, every meeting and conversation ended with Erin and I being told to call someone else and to have them come out. And, of course, everyone who came out would need to be paid money for their services. Instead of actually doing anything about the mold, it seemed like everyone who came out just wanted to scare us, as if they had decided that we were easy marks. These men seemed to talk a lot without really saying anything. They kept telling horror stories about how mold could kill us but they never told us to leave the house or to stay out of the kitchen. The biggest red flag was their insistence that only they could find and stop the leak and that they could only do that after we had paid them to rip apart our kitchen. If the mold was due to the leak and the mold was going to kill us by the end of the month, shouldn’t the leak have been a bigger concern?
Finally, I did what I probably should have done before doing anything else. I called a plumber. I mean, even if he showed up and said, “I can’t do anything,” I figured that would still be more helpful than just ignoring the leak. Fortunately, he didn’t say that he couldn’t do anything. Instead, he got underneath the sink, found a loose pipe, and took care of it. It took him about twenty minutes. He was calm, courteous, professional, and everything that the other men hadn’t been. He even mopped up the water, for us. By the next morning, the Hole of Death was dry.
I called up the Salesman and told him that we had called a plumber and he had taken care of the leak. The Salesman was not happy with me, snapping that he had told us to wait so that an expert could take a look at it. He said that it was good that we had gotten one leak taken care of but there were probably others. After I pointed out that the Hole of Death was completely dry — which would indicate the leak had been stopped — he told me that I was not an expert on things. He also said that he’d soon have an estimate ready but he needed to drop by the house sometime next week.
I was about ready to tell the Salesman to fuck off but Erin insisted that we go ahead and get the air tested, just to make sure were weren’t in a toxic environment. The man who came out to do the air test was in his 70s and, to my relief, turned out to be almost as nice as the plumber. By nice, I mean that he didn’t talk down to us and he didn’t try to scare us. Instead, he did his test and then he told us to be careful because “a lot of people in this business will try to take advantage of you because they’ll assume girls won’t know any better.” While I would have preferred to have been called a woman instead of a girl, I have to admit that I was actually happy to hear him say that because it meant that someone who didn’t seem to have an ulterior motive had confirmed what Erin and I suspected was happening.
The next day, the Tester called us and told us that air was not toxic. It wasn’t good to have mold in the house, obviously. But it wasn’t going to kill anyone.
The Salesman came by the following week, with two more experts. They took a look at the hole and nodded when we said that it wasn’t toxic. When I mentioned that there hadn’t been any other leaks, they kind of smirked. They said they would email us an estimate. They left.
By now, we were into September. Having gotten tired of worrying about Doc wandering into the hole of death, we had put a trashbag over the hole. It kept the cat out but it just looked so trashy. It was driving me crazy that we had a perfectly good dishwasher in the garage and big ugly bag in the kitchen. Whenever I considered the fact that a trashbag was now a part of our kitchen decor, I wondered how long we had until a car showed up in our front yard, sitting on cinder blocks.
Finally, 10 days after his previous visit, the Salesman sent us his estimate. He wanted $15,000 to remove all the cabinets and take care of any mold that they found. I emailed them back and asked if that estimate included the cost of then rebuilding our kitchen. No, it did not. In fact, the Salesman and his crew would not be rebuilding our kitchen but they would give us a number to call for another company that would come out and give us an estimate and it would probably all be done by December, unless of course they found something else that needed to be fixed….
And this point, my sister announced that she was through with this. Working with Jeff (who, I should add, distrusted the Salesman from the start and who spent this entire ordeal offering to clean up the mold for us), she took a crash course on mold removal. They went down to Home Depot, bought some gloves and goggles and spray bottles. Using a combination of vinegar and water, they spent a few hours spraying and scrubbing and, soon, the mold was gone. At most, it cost about $50 to remove the mold themselves.
And today, finally — we got our dishwasher installed! Yay! I threw away the trashbag that had been covering the now-filled Hole of Death. I have never been happier to get rid of anything. As for the Salesman and his friends, they can get their kickbacks from someone else.
So, why am I telling you this? Because I feel I owe you, our readers, an explanation for where my mind has been during the past few months. You deserve to know why I haven’t reviewed as many movie as usual. You deserve to know why I have occasionally been distracted the point of not noticing glaring typos. (In my defense, I always correct them as soon as I do catch them.) I love writing for this site and I love our October horrorthon the most of all. And, for the past two months, my mind has been elsewhere.
But now, my mind is back here.
And now, I’ve got movies to watch and review and to write about.
Enjoy the rest of October, everyone! It’s going to be great month!