Monday, October 11, 2010

Modern Living

I have a stock lesson for my U.S. History classes in which we explore the value of modern sanitation to life in industrial America, circa the late 19th century.  The lesson features a variety of horrifying stories about uses of the same river for drinking water and waste disposal plus a hefty dose of the smelly terror of chunky sludge running through the center of city streets. 

I can't say for sure that the students love this day in class, though I am confident that they never forget it.  I mention this because I think of myself as a girl who doesn't take modern sanitation and water systems for granted.  Thus there is some irony involved in the fact that my town is currently undergoing a project to renovate the water mains.

I actually have no idea what the gangs of workers are doing.  I do know that for the duration of the project, water on my street is being provided by this temporary hose:
Hard as it might be to believe, this high-tech system is prone to breakdowns.  With some regularity, the shiny metal clasps holding the hoses together pops loose and we come home to find our own personal geyser on the corner of Sassafras Street.  As if the blast of water wasn't trouble enough, it also means that there is no running water for the houses on our street.  This has happened at least half a dozen times that I know of; my neighbors report more.

So it is that we sometimes come home from school, use the bathroom, and flush the toilet only to hear an unsettling thunking sound as the house's pipes empty of water and are unable to re-fill.  A call to the water company typically reveals confusion and the announcement that they have no idea what could have happened (they've sub-contracted the job to someone else and have since seemingly washed their hands of the matter).  We've learned to call the police, who will then send out an officer in a cruiser who will slowly drive by, solemnly nod at the cluster of neighbors now standing by the gushing hose, and then drive on.  Within an hour, a truck pulls up and a friendly Jamaican guy hops out, armed with a bucket of tools he puts to use on the hose.  Within 20 minutes, we're back in business.

My neighbors and I trade stories about the inconvenience of the sudden discovery that we lack water.  One of my neighbors reports that it's happened twice while he's in the shower, once when he was still covered in soap.  I am haunted by the thought that this might happen to me and so now when I hop into my amazing new shower, I stand under the water and triage my options in case running water should suddenly prove elusive: should I wash my hair first and then apply soap to my body?  Maybe shave my legs first?  Try to do all three at once?  It is not a restful process, showering at my house.

The Universe and I have a long history of water issues.  And while I can't answer for my behavior in past lives, I think we can conclude from my experiences in this life that I still have a lot to answer for.

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