Please Knock

A woman in Sydney, Australia is taking a shower at midnight when the water unexpectedly cuts out. She tries several other taps in her house, but finds them all dry. She has a full head of conditioner, but just half a bottle of water. What does she do next?

A. Attempt to rinse her hair shoulder-length hair with 8 fluid ounces of spring water.

B. Call the Airbnb host, a person who is presumably not a plumber and also currently vacationing in Tasmania.

C. Walk to the nearest gas station, buy several liters of water, and try not to look anyone in the eye.

D. All of the above, in that order.

If you chose D, good for you. You know me well. That was my plan, though it didn’t quite play out that way.

Before I could even get to B, there was a knock at my back door. As a person with an ounce of common sense, I ignored it, deciding instead to stay in a bedroom on the second floor and hope whoever it was would assume no one was home and go away. There were several problems with this logic, the most notable being that I had left several lights on downstairs when I went to check the second bathroom’s water supply.

But the bigger issue was that the person outside was remarkably persistent. After several minutes of knocking at the rear of the house, he moved on to the front door and, when that failed to elicit a response, the windows. It became clear that the person wasn’t going to leave until they got what they wanted – which was most likely just a confirmation that there was no water to be had in this house. So I went downstairs.

Now. Before I get a lecture about how I shouldn’t answer the door at midnight in a strange city, please consider that the home where I was staying had a metal security screen, which no one from the outside could reach through or open. Also, I happened to be in suburban Sydney, which is not exactly a hotbed of criminal activity. In fact, I’m pretty sure this neighborhood’s idea of a serious offense is when the new barista scalds the milk for their morning latte. Besides, if this person standing on the sidewalk was planning on killing me, I highly doubt he’d make such a public spectacle out of it.


I opened the door to find a middle-aged man standing on the other side.

“IS YOUR HOUSE FLOODED?” he demanded.

That’s actually the line he led with. Not, “Sorry to bother you so late,” or “I live next door,” but, “Are you having a major household emergency, because, if so, I’d like to inconvenience you further by knocking on all the doors!”

I looked behind me – for what, I don’t even know – and then said, “No. Quite the opposite really.”

I was happy to see that my answer confused him. I shouldn’t be the only one to not know what was going on.

“I have water leaking through my bathroom,” he continued. “It looks like it’s coming through the wall, so I thought there was a leak here.”

“No, not that I know of,” I replied. “But let me tell you this –“

“HOW WEIRD!” he yelled, shaking his head. “It’s been going on all afternoon. I really thought it was coming from 270…”

That was the moment I realized that the security gate was as much for his protection as it was for mine. Because anyone who has been an experiencing a problem for several hours, but comes a-knockin’ at midnight fully deserves to be clocked with the fire extinguisher that I had placed next to the front door on the off chance I needed a weapon. Especially since he had also gone to the wrong address.

“You do know that this is 266, right?” I asked. “Not 270.”

“Yeah, I know,” he replied. “I went there first, but they didn’t answer.”

Shocking,” I muttered. “But listen – oddly enough, my water just stopped running. I was taking a shower and it totally cut out. So something’s going on.”

For proof, I pointed to my greasy hair, which was now being treated to a deep conditioning masque. Before the man could respond, another guy stepped into view and matter-of-factly announced, “Oh. I turned it off.”

“Excuse me?” I asked.

“Well the water was leaking, so I turned the line off,” he said. “I can show you where it is if you want to come around to the back.”

Now you might think that this was all part of some sinister, albeit not particularly well-planned, plot to lure a single woman out of her house in the middle of the night, but I actually believed him. This person – the one who was knocking on a neighbor’s door at midnight, and not even the correct neighbor’s door at that –  is exactly the sort of person who would turn off a water line with little consideration for what would happen next. And I say that with a fair amount of confidence because my brother once did the same thing to the person living above him when he decided that he wanted to use his dishwasher as a filing cabinet, but didn’t want to risk accidentally turning on the water and ruining his documents. The only difference was that my brother probably didn’t go on a door-to-door campaign at midnight afterwards.

Regardless, I declined to inspect a water line with a man I don’t know at a house that I don’t even live in.

“No thank you,” I said. “It’s midnight.”

He shrugged and was about to walk away when I called him back.

“Wait a minute!” I said. “What’s the plan here?”

“Well I really think the problem is with 270,” the first guy answered.

“Yes,” agreed the second. “Probably. It doesn’t sound like it’s your problem.”

“ACTUALLY!” I yelled. “It IS my problem because I DON’T HAVE ANY WATER.”

“OH! We’re going to turn that back on!” both of them said, nodding vigorously. “We’ll do that right now!”

Great,” I answered. “And good luck.”

And then I rinsed my hair, went to bed and woke up to a refrigerator that was oddly not working. I decided it didn’t matter since the only thing I ever make in an Airbnb kitchen is a cup tea. And I was most of the way through doing just that when I realized what the problem was. Yesterday, when I went to boil water in the hot pot, I had unplugged what I thought was the microwave but was actually the refrigerator. Problem solved.

Happens to the best of us, I guess.


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