I will spare you the details. Lots of people had it worse, including a friend who lost her entire house, and probably some other friends I simply haven't seen or heard from to know their troubles.
But we got flooded. Lots of people got flooded. It wasn't our home, it was our business. Books don't float that well. Lots of people came from the community to help us, and I feel somewhat guilty that they weren't off helping other folks who lost their homes and their cats and everything else that mattered to them, but they came to help us and we're grateful.
We're a small business. We employ 40-50 people, but none of them are full-time gigs. Maybe more. College kids. Housewives seguing back into the workforce. Minimum wage gigs, almost all of 'em, and no benefits.
Nobody's getting rich here, but it's a community center and we're proud of it.
Best guess (and we tracked as much as we could), we lost about 10 percent of our inventory. Would have been worse but four of us (my wife and I, two friends) went down before the waters rose and moved most of the books up a shelf, past where flood waters have ever come before.
Not high enough. Next time we'll unplug the computers and move them too. Which made it harder to reconstruct the inventory, but our computer wiz saved the hard drive.
Right now we're guessing the damages were in the mid- to low- five figures. Not counting all the stuff we haven't remembered we lost.
All that was a couple weeks ago. Our county was declared a disaster area, so FEMA set up shop. They've been good to help out the homeless and the devastated, and that's what they're for.
I went by their temporary office today, looking for advice on the mold we found this morning, and spent our day taming. (We hope.) Since there's no insulation in our building, we think we can simply spray it with a 50/50 bleach/water solution, keep it dry, paint it over, and move on. We think. We'll see. If we can find all the hidden places mold might grow, which may involve taking every single fixture down. Again.
Hey, it's exercise, right?
The landlord is only vaguely helpful. He hasn't been able even to keep the roof from leaking, but he did give us a couple months' free rent. Which about pays for the floor we have to replace. No, he's not vaguely helpful. We asked him about mold abatement and whether the walls were his responsibility, and he ran off to dig up a lease so old it was typewritten to prove that it wasn't. Thanks. As Ernest Tubb said, Thanks a lot. You'd think he'd want us to stay in business. "It's an act of God," that's what he said.
Oh. Flood insurance? Yeah, right. We aren't in a flood plain, so we can't be sold flood insurance. Two foot high and rising, but we're not in a flood plain.
So I go to the FEMA outpost to ask about the mold, and what they want is for me to fill out some paperwork so they can quantify their role in our modest disaster, and I have to wait ten minutes to talk to somebody who really seems principally interested in making me feel better (really, I'm fine, get to the point) and in recommending that we apply for a small business loan.
We don't do loans. Either we can pay for it, or we don't do it. Old-fashioned, but that's how the margins work, that's how we work, and probably taking the loan would put us out of business in the long run. (If I have to explain that, I will, but it's not really that important.)
Anyway. The politicians, both sides of the aisle, they spend a lot of time talking about how small business is the backbone of America. (And dining with WalMart's lobbiests). Maybe our business is so small that it's not important; we gross something less than $1-million, and the ownership group isn't...my truck was new in 1992, OK?
But I'm just saying, if you want to make small business work in America, well, they could try a little harder. FEMA could be standing up at city council meetings talking about monies to do whatever can be done to keep the water from coming back, because it's coming back. Maybe flood insurance could be made available to us, and affordable, even? (Nah.)
But mostly I'm tired of the lipservice. The government doesn't do squat for small business, except pat us on the back. Both sides of the aisle. Maybe we should be grateful for that, I dunno. But if you're going to leave us alone to our Darwinian fate, quit talking about us behind our back, would ya?
Oh, you want to make our lives easier? Make health care possible for our employees. Make it possible for us to buy at the same rate (or close to) that our multinational competitors buy. Or at least don't let Kroger sell bestsellers at below cost because it fits their business strategy. And maybe give the WalMarts of the world a little less freedom, a little more taxation, a little more regulation.
I guess I'm done.