Brand building through storytelling

Leaky ceilings I have owned and loved

We were dressing for a party while a summer storm drenched the city. Trees swayed and creaked in the wind; rain lashed the bedroom windows. It pelted down with such noisy, wall-beating force, I could have sworn someone was draining a bathtub on the third floor, where no tub had ever existed. “What a stinker!” I said to my husband as I clipped my favourite earrings into place. “Couldn’t you swear you were standing in the middle of that rain?”

That’s when I opened the bedroom door to find myself swamped by a deluge. Rain gushed through a second-floor pot light and cascaded all the way to the basement of the stylish new house that had suddenly morphed into Noah’s ark. It took every towel, bucket and garbage pail we had to contain the worst of the downpour.

About seventeen years and three homes later, I can see the plus side of this debacle. If not for the rainstorm that invaded our house—and with it our illusion of shelter from all manner of storms from the boots-and-umbrella variety to metaphorical soakers—we wouldn’t have Audrey as our friend. Audrey’s the formidably tenacious real estate lawyer who acted for us when we bought the house. She had the smarts, or maybe the chutzpah, to make our purchase contingent on coverage under Ontario’s New Home Warranty Program, even though it was only newish—the personal pleasure dome of a builder who went bankrupt realizing his vision. We bought from the people who held his mortgage and with Audrey in our corner we were able to pursue them for substantial, expensive repairs to our roof, walls and ceiling.

They did everything they could to dodge their contractual obligations but they hadn’t bargained on Audrey’s grit. She and I strategized almost daily on the phone, and somewhere along the line I found myself laughing more than griping. It must have been around that time that she said, with a smile in her voice, “You know, Rona, these days I talk to you more than I talk to my mother.”

I wasn’t expecting friendship when I first encountered Audrey at Rancho La Puerta, a fitness resort in northern Mexico where frazzled multi-taskers get their kinks out on the hiking trail. She was far from the strongest, the fastest or the thinnest, but no one could match her for sheer determination. There were those among us, long of leg and taut of tush, who could practically run up a mountain. Audrey conquered a mountain one short, dogged stride at a time.

She and my husband were among the stalwart few who signed up for an advanced hiking program. On the morning of what should have been the week’s most vigorous and spectacular hike, the heavens let loose a downpour of Biblical proportions. Lightning set the still-dark sky ablaze. My husband took one look at the scene and went back to sleep—as did everyone else in the group. Everyone except Audrey, who donned her rain gear and powered over to the meeting place right on time. She later marveled, “Not even the leaders showed up!” It was my husband who drew the obvious conclusion: if we ever hit a snag with a real estate deal, we had better have Audrey on our side.

As home owners, we had yet to lose our innocence. We doubted that we’d need a legal tiger. Nor had we learned that unless you live in Arizona, owning the roof over your head entails the constant possibility of water gushing through it. On Sunday afternoon a babbling brook came through our bedroom ceiling. Thank goodness I was home to track down the source—a washing machine just above us that had been improperly connected after a renovation. The pleasant young couple who own said washer were quick to turn it off and get on the phone to their contractor, but later that night I was awakened by the soft, insistent plunk of  water on our duvet. I don’t foresee an SOS to Audrey; this pair has promised to set things right and pay for repairs to our ceiling.They were at our place the next morning to get the lay of the land.

They wonder why I’ve been so calm about the mishap. “Three of our four homes have leaked,” I said. “Compared to a flood on all three floors of your house, this is pretty small-time.” I thought of all the other awakenings my young neighbours have in store about life as a couple. The strokes of bad luck, the crashing disappointments, the serendipitous rewards. We stood there for a minute in my doorway and then they raced upstairs to host a guest for coffee.

Click here to read “The toilet that ruled my life.” Oh, one more thing: if you live in Toronto and need a real estate lawyer, I’d be delighted to put you in touch with my friend Audrey.


Posted by Rona

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