Monday, June 24, 2013

Feeling the Lurve

This past week I've really been feeling the love at the office! I have experienced, count 'em, three! instances of MG appreciation over the last couple of days. I guess people are finally starting to recognize my awesomeness and are treating me accordingly. Geesh, about time!

I have to make a confession. I have a mega crush on one of my company's lead inspectors. This coworker is a fifty-something year old guy with a rather colorful past. Let's just say he spent five years "on vacation" over at Rikers Island. We shall refer to him as Tony Montana. 
*Le sigh* I've always had a thing for bad boys
This guy truly has a heart of gold. I mean, one time he went to Katz's Delicatessen for lunch and brought me back the second half of his sandwich. Anyone with an once of sense knows it's a big effing deal to willingly share a Katz's pastrami on rye! Anyway, having seen my sorta flourish, sorta dying cactus garden, Tony brought me a new plant for my desk! Not only did he bring me a couple of bamboo stalks from his own garden, he brought a vase and decorative stones as well. Ugh, I just knew my bad boy had a softer side! And what a tasteful eye! 
Just like your struggling bamboo plant, I can nurse your heart back to health too, Tony! <3 
Like last Friday, today featured a pleasant surprise as well. I've mentioned before my coworker who works weekends as a professional baker (Seriously, visit her website! I'm not kidding, her stuff is so effing good, not to mention absolutely gorgeous! My future wedding cake will be made by this lady, no question!). Today I received quite the auspicious phone call at my desk asking if I' was going to be around this afternoon at 3 pm. I'm like, uhhh, yeah...? My coworker's response was a simple, "okay, bye!" followed by the sound of the dial tone. Well! This is what went down at 3 pm:
That would be a chocolate cake with layers of dulce de leche and peanut butter icing, topped with marshmallow meringue icing, chocolate chips, and mini marshmallows :)
Every once in a while she brings in goodies using left over batter and icing from other projects. As someone with a serious sugar addition and no sense of shame (don't laugh, addiction is a disease you guys), I am by far my office's most eager dessert-eater. I take my baked goods very seriously and do not give out the MG seal of approval easily. It therefore really says something when I say that I could never ask for a more awesome coworker :)

And last but not least, this morning I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from one of our labs asking me to lunch. I've been officially asked out on a business lunch! Woohoo! The lab didn't ask my CEO or my office manager, or even my other coworker who uses them probably as often as I do. Serious VIP over here, and don't you forget it. Here's hoping it's not horribly awkward or whatever. Who am I kidding, I'll be there so of course it'll be painfully awkward! :)  
Awkward turtle
Photo credits: Scarface,

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Moldy Mystery

Oh. My. Effing. Gee. What a week. The past few days I have experienced one of the most bizarre inspections of my career as a mold inspector. Let's break it down day by day:
I receive a phone call from a hysterical pregnant woman living in the super chic neighborhood of TriBeCa. Privately I think to myself, here we go again, another psycho rich person with way too much money and time on their hands. It 's difficult understanding her description of the situation, I can't decide over the phone whether she actually has a legitimate mold problem from her strange description. She asks me several times if I can come by that day (I can come, but I'm really not in the mood. And more importantly I'd miss ice cream celebrating somebody's birthday at the office), so I say no hoping she would be calmer the next day. We finish the conversation with her asking, "Is it safe for my family to stay in the house? Or should I bring the kids to my sister's apartment?!?!?". My response, "Ummmmm, do you have another bathroom?... Okay, great. Just use that one... I don't think it's quite necessary for an emergency evacuation at the moment...". Yeah, I'm not looking forward to tomorrow's inspection .

I arrive at the apartment. Of course it's breathtakingly gorgeous and spacious. The resident (also gorgeous) leads me to the bathroom. For the first time ever, I truly empathize with a mold  freak out. The *thing* is just so weird, and for lack of a better word, icky. 

A growth had somehow come through the grout on her bathroom wall and had developed on the slate tile both inside and outside of the shower area. This was a nice apartment and was well maintained. Not your typical situation to find visible mold growth with no known water problem. 

I see the *thing* and reason why she had called my company for a mold inspection. At first glance I quickly come to the conclusion there is no way it can be mold. First of all, it doesn't look like mold. Mold grows and develops in a hundred different ways, colors, shapes, etc. but it usually looks something along of the lines of this: 
Small, ugly, dark, spotty dots. Yay mold!
In addition to appearing dissimilar from mold growth I typically observe, the resident said the *thing* developed FAST. According to her, nothing was visible in the bathroom on Monday, and she had watched the *thing* clearly develop and grow drastically bigger during the day on Tuesday. I have never experienced a situation in which mold grows this quickly. First of all, I RARELY ever even see visible mold growth. And when I do, it's usually because a leak situation was never properly remediated or a bathroom was left neglected. This bizarre material exploded in a matter of hours. Blech! 

Considering the speed of growth as well as the appearance, I think to myself that it has to be a chemical reaction between wet building materials. On rare occasions I've seen plaster bubble as a result of water damage. It looks gross and scary, but is not mold. 
In this case, the growth was bright yellow. Plaster is white. And it looked kind of rusty too. There were redish-brown drip stains coming from the growth. Grossly, the resident mentioned that the day prior during the development period, the growth was soaking wet. "You could scoop it up with a spoon". At my investigation, the wall is dry as is the growth.
Day Zero (resident's photo): Bright yellow, wet, icky, growing faster than the US economy
Approximately 24 hours later: lighter yellow, dried out, still icky 
Now here's the real twist in this mystery! As I mentioned, I thought there is no way that this thing could be biological. It just grew wayyy too fast and didn't look right. BUT! As I get all up in it to collect a sample for the lab, I expect the chunk will be light and fairly easy to collect. I think it will come off in the wall in one large foamy section. Nope. Wrong. I learn that the growth is very difficult to remove from the wall. It is extremely dense and is difficult to remove. It comes off only in small chunks. I'm a bit disturbed to realize that the interior is not yellow like the outside. It's brown on the inside. What's more, the sample disintegrates quickly into a grainy substance. It looks like I threw a handful of dirt into a bag. 
At this point, I kinda freak out a little bit myself. I change my mind and think that it MUST be biological. Why else would it be brown on the inside? And disintegrate like that if it wasn't?? Following the sample collection, I am a bit nauseated myself thinking about whatever I just touched and hoping it wasn't some toxic naturally occurring infestation of anthrax or something. 

The woman's superintendent does not stop exclaiming that he can''t believe I touched it. I was wearing gloves you know! He goes on and on about his days in the army and all of the biological and chemical weapons he had learned about. Not helpful. I am starting to wonder whether I should have put my respirator on the second I stepped foot in the bathroom...

Returning to the office I immediately call our laboratory for sample analysis suggestions. They have no idea what I'm describing over the phone. They say they'll take a look at the material and then decide how to test. Nobody in my office has ever heard of or seen such a thing. So, so effing gross. 

The lab calls me. They had performed a simple test to determine whether the sample is biological in nature, so that it can be analyzed by the correct department. It turns out the sample IS biological. Ick. So it is a living organism... Great.

I eagerly await results this afternoon. I have never been so excited to receive lab results before. Stay tuned...

Photo credits: Dilbert

Friday, June 14, 2013

Mold Girl Appreciation Day

Hello friends! Today marks a momentous occasion, for today is my two year anniversary as a mold inspector! I'm not sure if I should be celebrating or curled up underneath my desk crying hysterically with a bottle of gin. Regardless, I will be accepting any and all gifts in the form of baked goods, Barnes & Noble gift cards, live animals, and/or alcohol. It's the least I deserve after spending countless hours keeping this city safe from the toxic black mold of death! Thank you, I await your congratulatory presents :)
This is my party face
Photo credits: Someecards, Jake's Dog House

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Keeping It Real

As I described in my very first post ever!, my job provides my conscience with an internal conflict. Generally speaking, most mold inspections are pointless, people simply do not know how to properly handle a leak situation. The media particularly creates an atmosphere of fear with its focus on the TOXIC BLACK MOLD OF DEATH or whatever. But then again, if people DID understand how to properly handle moisture problems, I'd be out of a job. Conundrum!
Normally real estate management firms foot the bill for my mold inspections, although recently my company's sales manager had unwillingly talked an individual apartment renter into an inspection despite her hesitation to pay for such an expensive service. 
I view my company's sales manager and Randall from Monsters Inc. as basically the same person - very sneaky and calculating. Beware!
Upon arrival at the job, the woman showed me the area in question. I was rather confused as to why I was commissioned to perform an inspection. There had been a one-time leak in the space two years prior, and no signs of water damage were visible. Suddenly the woman broke down in in front of me, explaining that she had recently had a death in the family and now was suddenly responsible for a million new things and didn't know what to do. She asked me point blank if a mold inspection was necessary. 
"Whatever, I'm getting cheese fries"
Like Regina George (hopefully not *too* much like her!), I too am not unfamiliar with mental meltdowns. There have been a handful of times where it's been hard for me to keep my shit together both while at the office and in the field. I felt a strong connection with this woman and had a lot of empathy for her situation. After informing her that a mold inspection did not appear to be necessary and sharing a few easy mold tips, the resident invited me to enjoy tea and cake in her apartment. Instead of performing a lame mold test, we spent a lovely afternoon together talking about the environmental field. :)  
I have never turned down an invitation to a good tea party!
Speaking of Alice in Wonderland and tea parties, I just realized that today is my un-birthday! Is it your un-birthday too?? Oh my gosh, no way! Well I wish us all a very merry un-birthday! :)

Photo credits: Monsters Inc., Alice in Wonderland, Mean Girls

Ring Around the Rosie

Spoiler alert: Harold's got a secret stash of chocolate
Paging all children of the nineties! Anybody remember that episode of Hey Arnold where they get stuck in the subway and the whole train goes ape shit crazy? Ever since viewing that episode, there's always been a subconscious fear in the back of my mind of getting trapped in the subway. Of course hold-ups are a constant annoyance of riding the NYC MTA, but recently I had one of my scariest train experiences. Traveling underground (and under water!) between Manhattan and Brooklyn on the D train, the train lurched HARD. Every standing person, including myself, legitimately fell down as if we were in some accidental game of Ring Around the Rosie. Ashes, ashes. And we all fall down! Most people audibly gasped, a few screamed, and more than one person made the sign of the Cross. I was quite shocked and proud of myself - as somebody who manages to cause more food/drink mishaps than a drunk three year old, I was able to hold onto and not spill my full iced coffee! Thank god this scary moment did not escalate further into something worthy of a Lifetime movie! We survived with no further incident. The end. Good story, I know. 
Pocket full of posies...
Photo credits:, Hey Arnold

One Man's Cardboard Box is Another Man's Treasure?

So I recently went back to this apartment/gallery space. A new collection is on display. Anyone interested in purchasing some artwork composed entirely of a square piece of cardboard painted either solid black or solid white? They're total bargains at only $4,500 a pop! 

I would really love to meet the artist behind this collection and discuss its inspiration. Also, I'd be particularly interested in learning how the artist manages to sell their art for such a price because I want in!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

An Overeager Assistant

NYC is a town known for its dog lovers. With approximately eight million people, the NYC Economic Development Corporation estimates that we share this space with roughly 600,000 dogs. Despite the large number of pet owners in New York, I find myself often disappointed as to how rarely I meet members of the canine genus during my investigations (I always assumed that the kind of people that get hysterical about mold are also the type that hate dirty, germ-y animals). Fortunately today was not such a day! This little guy, weighing in at a whopping three pounds of pure fluff, refused to leave me alone during a job in Bay Ridge. He'd bark incessantly the second I stopped paying him attention, and I was therefore "forced" to hold him in one arm during the entire inspection. I LOVE dogs and miss having one of my own. As a result I informed the owner at the end of my inspection that I had hired her dog as my new mold assistant and that he'd be coming home with me 'kay thanks bye! :)
The best part about my new assistant is that he's conveniently travel size! Easy to stuff in my mold backpack (KIDDING! Please do not call the Humane Society)
Let's get to WERQ!