Taking things for granted is not something I did. I know how much of the world does without the most basic things like clean drinking water. Then in the course of 2 days I was put to the test .
They are doing work on my street , long, long overdue work. But this messed with the waterlines so boil order was issued. I was so grateful to get the notice as in TX they don’t give notice, the pressure just drops by half, or dirt comes through the lines and I boiled big pots while calling water company and hearing their surprised voices at the issue.
This reminded me how grateful I am not to have arsenic contaminated water as in TX, lead as in Flint, MI, or whatever was in Grand Island NY. I thought about all the people drawing spring, river water who don’t boil it , living and dying with waterborne illnesses. I thought about the rivers that are in danger of pollution from flooding in Michigan, coal ash seepage down the road, fracking in Oklahoma, field runoff all over, and I wanted to fight harder for clean water. Then I told myself, I am so lucky.
The next day, while drawing a big pot to boil,having the jug yet to fill for hand washing, the water stopped suddenly and completely. I went outside and asked the water company guy on site when I would have water back. I was met with a puzzled look as he said I had water. No was my reply. He pointed to the valve he’d shut and said that was all he had done. And it turned off my water was my reply. In minutes I had water back to fill all the vessels, get clothes started in the washer and it was off again.
I thought about the Indian Reservations where generations have lived without running water even to this day. I understood previously what inconvenience that must be but this day I felt the pressure of the inability to wash clothes or dishes, insecurity about how to make the water I had last since there was no place to go to get more. I thought about the Rohinga refugees living in tents, all about their lives uncertain including this basic thing. How is this possible in this world? And I was getting very tired physically and emotionally.
A few hours later I turned on the tap to see… brown water coming out and it wasn’t clearing. Put some in a jug and went out to the water guy noting the water was the exact same color as the dirt around the valve. He grimaced and said he could flush the main when the guys down the street got out of the way. OK.
I came back in remembering how people in Puerto Rico were collecting ground water after the hurricane, the bottled water sitting unused for a year on a tarmac. How in the midst of this pandemic many people all over the world are fighting illness, poverty, natural disasters and this brown water would be completely acceptable to them.
A few hours later, the truck had moved so I checked the water. It hissed, sprayed, thumped with the air in the pipes to every faucet and turned brown to beige to clear with steady pressure. The next day I got a text message saying boil order was now lifted and sighed while giving thanks.
Each day put some number of us closer to death, homelessness, food insecurity, lack of water, crushing depression, financial insolvency. The pressure of all these things makes a simple boil order feel so much more than it would have been a year ago.