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I recently reviewed the Scout Motto with my eleven-year-old son: “Be prepared.” Using myself as an example, I explained that the Scout Motto applies to all areas of life and that I had taken it to heart in my profession as an attorney. “The more I prepare, the more I succeed,” I confidently added. “What about the window well incident?” he asked. My son’s question caught me off guard, causing my face to flush a deep red. I quickly realized my mistake. It’s one thing to tell my son I’m always prepared at work, where he never sees me composed in my nicely pressed clothing making important decisions, and quite another to show it at home where I often live in chaos � unprepared and often caught off guard. And so I feel the need to justify myself and set the record straight one last time. Three years ago my family moved into a brand new house. At the time my wife thought it would be a great idea to put the biggest sandbox in the world in our yard. (Notice how I’m already shifting the blame to my wife.) It turned out to be a fiasco � sand was everywhere, including our porch, floors, carpet and our children’s eyes, shoes and underwear. It was as if we lived on the beach, but with no ocean or cool breeze. Under this duress, my wife announced one day that she was downsizing the sandbox to “really small” and that I was assigned to move the “excess” sand (two truckloads) to a new location. Generally I’m the first to suggest that we pay someone else to do my dirty jobs, but I felt that I could handle this assignment. And handle it I did, although the sand left us a few farewell gifts. I won’t go into excessive detail at this point except to say that sand managed to get itself all over our driveway and kitchen floor one last time. It also left us the gift of “The Window Well Incident”. You may be surprised to learn as I did when I first moved to Arizona, that Arizona has a “monsoon” season, although the storms are more wind than rain. And when it rains in Arizona, it’s a complete downpour that lasts a whopping 2 or 3 minutes. Once in a while a cloud will burst and dump an entire lake in about 10 minutes, but I had only witnessed that happening once or twice in the six years I had been living in Arizona. For a long time after moving to Arizona, we enjoyed making fun of the “monsoon” season. When we bought our basement home, I didn’t even bother to ask how water drained out of the 8-foot-deep window wells. Only later did I learn � when it was much too late � that the window wells have little water pumps in the bottom of them that look like sprinkler heads. When the water runs into the window well, the pumps pump the water to the street. The “pump” idea is genius, unless, of course, you have small children who dump sand and other toys down the window well and cover up the pump. My wife noticed this problem the day I was clearing out the offensive sandbox, but her Noah-like prediction didn’t convince me that a cloud in Arizona could actually drop enough rain to fill up my window well and flood my basement. (“Besides, can’t we just pay someone else to clean it out?” I suggested.) As if on cue, it started raining. The rain came and went for a couple of days, so there was already a few inches of water in the window well and it was draining very slowly. My wife began warning me twice a day to climb down into the window well and clean it out so the next rain storm wouldn’t flood our basement. (“Relax,” I told her, “I’ll clean it up when black widow season is over.”) But I shouldn’t have underestimated my wife’s warnings or the power of the sand, especially sand that was still bitter about being downsized. Then it struck. My wife and I were enjoying a quiet Saturday evening when, suddenly, it turned windy outside and raindrops the size of China began pelting the house. Lightning flashed through the windows and thunder boomed overhead, creating a romantic mood. My wife didn’t feel romantic, though � she was worried. She told me I should check on the window well in the basement. I knew which one she was talking about, so I went downstairs and found the window well completely full of water, and just starting to leak under the seal of the window and onto the carpet. The day of reckoning had arrived. I ran to the bathroom and grabbed a few towels to put under the window to hold the water back. Then I ripped off my clothing (parents, you might want to edit this part for your children) and threw on my handy swimsuit and my old fishing shoes. I raced through the backyard, looking for a shovel, as lightning exploded dangerously close above me and rain pelted my body. I finally found the shovel partially submerged in a different window well. I pulled it out and located my dog’s water bucket. Then, I descended the ladder into the flooding window well with shovel and water bucket in hand. I don’t really remember the next 30 minutes. Rain was pouring into the window well faster than I was bailing the sand, water and long-forgotten toys that our children were later ecstatic to re-discover. Each bail took tremendous effort, as I had to climb up the ladder every time I emptied the bucket of sand/water. I didn’t have time to fret over black widows. I didn’t have time to play fetch with my dog, who was hovering over me in the rain at the top of the window well, wondering what toys I’d throw up to her next. I didn’t even have time to give my wife a progress report. She was in a wheelchair at the time and couldn’t go downstairs to watch me work through the window. She was able wake up my then ten-year-old son, though, who sleepily came and put more towels under the window seal. I’m sure it must have been an unforgettable sight for my bleary-eyed son � his dad standing in his swimsuit in a deep window well late at night frantically bailing water and sand, trying to save the basement while shouting incoherently through the window about where to put the towels to minimize the damage. By the time I uncovered the drain, and the pump began to empty the window well, I was exhausted. I spent the next hour or so trying to soak up the water out of the downstairs carpet and angling our fans to blow it dry. It took nearly a week for the carpet to dry out. Luckily we haven’t noticed any long term damage, but I’m not completely off the hook � my wife keeps reminding me that it sometimes takes a year or two for mold to become visible. So! Back to my son’s original question about preparedness. I’m happy to report that even though it may seem like a composed, prepared lawyer doesn’t always translate into a composed, prepared father at home, I can still “think like a lawyer” wherever I am. I smiled at him reassuringly. “I was prepared, my son. Just imagine if I didn’t have my swimsuit or fishing shoes handy � it would have been an embarrassing job to do.” Scott Brown is a partner at Lewis and Roca in Phoenix, Arizona. He strongly recommends that you never use nice, new towels to try and stop a basement flood. They get really dirty, which means you have to eventually wash them. Or throw them away, which is what Scott did.

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