Turn Around Don’t Drown...But I Live Here

My parents both agreed that most of the crises in our homes involved water (flooding from hurricanes, flooding from burst washing machine pipes, flooding from the classic ‘90s water bed, so on and so forth), so it was fitting that the first crisis I handled in my apartment by myself also involved water. One year, Thanksgiving was very late in November and my finals were approaching faster than usual. With every bite of Thanksgiving dinner, all I could think about was finishing my papers and studying for exams. I decided I would return to Chapel Hill early to finish some work and start studying. It turns out that returning early was a blessing in disguise, but not because I was able to concentrate on my studies.

Walking down the hallway, with my laundry basket in tow, I stepped in water. I thought arrogantly to myself, “Oh no. Someone’s apartment has flooded. I would not want to be them right now.” I opened the door to my apartment and found myself standing in the water. A number of expletives ran through my mind as I realized that it was my apartment that was flooded. It was a holiday weekend, so no one was around and the office was closed. After crying to my parents over the phone, I called the emergency maintenance number because I felt this constituted an emergency. Obviously annoyed, the on-call maintenance man Steve* told me it was my dishwasher and he would bring the wet vacuum to remove the water. I thought it was weird that it was the dishwasher because we hadn’t used it in weeks, but I said okay and trusted his judgment. When he arrived at my waterlogged apartment he took a look around the kitchen to find the flooding culprit. He narrowed it down to the sink, the dishwasher, or the ice maker; so, the three things in the kitchen involving water. He told me to call if the water started pooling again. Sure enough, later that night I saw water start pooling near the cabinets. I called again and when he returned he assured me it was just residual water. I put a towel down just in case and went to bed, determined to get a lot of work finished the next day.

I awoke the next morning with a message that my great-uncle had passed away and a hope that my apartment was dry. I made my way to the kitchen and once again stepped in water. Uncaffeinated and therefore unable to deal with anything that I had just woken up to, I started climbing on chairs and the kitchen table trying to get to my coffee pot. After I got my caffeine fix, I felt like I was ready to handle this situation (spoiler alert: I handled it, but not well). I called my buddy Steve again and he returned with the wet vacuum. He told me there was a leak in the roof and there was nothing that could be done until a roofer could come out the next week. I thought this was suspicious since I do not live on the top floor and the water was coming out from beneath my lower cabinets. It just doesn’t add up. He left me with the wet vacuum and told me to try to manage it.

I spent the entire day vacuuming water in my kitchen and the hallway and using every single one of my towels to dry the floor. While vacuuming, wringing out towels on the balcony and collecting old towels from my friends, I kept hoping my roommate would return soon to help with the disaster that was our apartment. I got a text a little later that my roommate would not be returning that day (she couldn’t “deal with it,” but me, who is about as solid as a marshmallow during finals, I was equipped to deal with it) and I would have to continue “managing” the situation alone.

Towels layered on the floor in front of kitchen cabinets
Wet towels soaking up water on the floor of my apartment

At my breaking point, I started sobbing while vacuuming water and subbing out towels on the floor. When the wet vacuum eventually became full, I was not strong enough to empty it myself. All of the towels were wet and I accepted there was nothing else I could do. I called Steve one more time to tell him I was giving up for the night. Still sobbing, I started throwing the shoes in the bottom of my closet into the living room to save them from the water. I put the wet towels down as the last defense and went to bed.

Monday came and I walked through the water in my kitchen to get to my 8 am class. When I returned, the maintenance man who works during the week was there to save the day (I would trust him with my life now). He helped mop up the water and told me he wasn’t going to leave until he figured out what was wrong. He quickly realized that the water heater under the sink had essentially exploded and water was pouring out of the top. When he turned off the water, the flooding stopped. If Steve had just turned his head when he looked under the sink or turned off the water all my grief would have been prevented, but it's whatever; I’m not bitter.

For the next few months, every time we walked in the kitchen, water would seep out from the floorboards and remind me of that weekend. Even though it was a terrible situation if I had not returned when I did everything in my closet and the hallway to the living room probably would have been ruined. I did not accomplish any work that weekend, but I still managed to finish the semester strong and with the confidence to handle anything life throws at me.

As I relive this unfortunate experience and make my roommate feel guilty for abandoning me and leaving me to drown in our apartment, please enjoy this recipe for molten lava cake (the chocolate flowing out of the cake symbolizes the water flowing out of my water heater, get it?). I managed to find a Godiva Molten Lava Cake baking mix that I used. Find it in the baking aisle of your local grocery store or check it out, here.

*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the maintenance man.


Molten Lava Cake

Molten Lava Cake with Ice Cream


  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 pouch Lava Cake mix

  • 1 egg

  • Ice cream for serving (optional)

  • Powdered sugar for serving (optional)


  1. Heat oven to 400℉. Grease bottoms and sides of 2 foil cups.

  2. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave butter until melted.

  3. Empty cake mix into melted butter, mix until blended. Microwave 20 seconds.

  4. Add egg and stir for 1 minute until well blended.

  5. Divide batter between foil cups and place on a baking sheet.

  6. Bake 11 to 13 minutes until sides are set. Let stand 2 minutes.

  7. Run a knife around sides of cups to loosen. Immediately place a small serving plate upside down over each cup; turn plate and cup over and remove foil cup.

  8. Serve immediately with your favorite ice cream and powdered sugar!