THE SONIC BOOMER
Every once in a while, I get out of the house.
Last weekend, for instance, I had brunch at a bed-and-breakfast near my antiques shop. I mean, the place is literally three blocks from my place of business, and I had never been there. But I wanted to have a clerks’ meeting, and my store manager chose this place as the location.
It was a good call.
Even without the bed (the highpoint of any bed-and-breakfast, to my mind), the place was fabulous. It was three stories of Queen Anne grace with the unusual feature of a fireplace sporting a chimney that branched into two, so there could be a window over the mantel.
I had a big round waffle, a mound of blueberries, a “healthy” dollop of whipped cream — followed by a quite unexpected tour, which the owner offered us when he heard we all love antiques.
This guy — ya gotta love him — chose the town almost by throwing a dart at a map and, boy, is that town lucky. I don’t know how much money he has poured into this place, but it’s a lot. It took him nine months to haul shoulder-height trash out of the place, recondition the mahogany woodwork, plaster, paint and fix the massive sliding pocket doors.
He brought in massive wooden beds and dressers and spruced up the bathrooms. He discovered a full basement (Dry! In Florida!) with a secret smugglers’ tunnel that extended all the way from the river up and out into his living room floor. Unearthing that thing was a job in and of itself… but he did it.
Exhausted but happy, he and his wife popped the cork on a bottle of Champagne, celebrating the fact that they could open for business the following day.
Well, that didn’t exactly happen.
While he was sitting in the parlor, monitoring his monitor to see if he’d gotten any Airbnb hits, the sky turned black and a storm settled in. Being from California, he didn’t know what to expect from a Florida storm, so he pushed back the curtain to take a look.
Just then, there was a stupendous crack of lightning and the whole house shook. He’d been hit!
Water came pouring in from the ceilings — down the walls, onto the beds, across the carpets. Everything was ruined.
He raced upstairs, into the tower, where a swirl of black residue showed the lightning’s path — right down the sprinkler system pipes. It wasn’t rain pouring in; his own sprinklers were doing the damage! He rushed down into the basement and turned off the water.
Evidently, the home’s old lightning rod had been installed to satisfy the fire code, but had never been grounded.
“I should’ve checked,” he said.
“Who would?” I asked.
So you’d think the moral of the story would be to make sure your safety features are actually safe, but it’s not. The moral of the story is to explore your own neighborhood — it may surprise you.