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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Water Company Cometh

Yesterday I got to thinking about water.

For reasons relating to my landlord's Unfortunate Decision to Sell My House, the water bill he was supposed to pay had not been paid. It had not been paid, in fact, for many months. Since the bills are sent to his house, not mine, I was blissfully unaware that the situation had become dire. So imagine my surprise when a man from the water company showed up in my yard with a funny little tool, opened the plate covering the water access valve, and turned off the water to my house.

Dragonstar was in mid-shower. I was putting in a load of laundry. Suddenly we had no water. Nothing from the tap, nothing filling the toilet tank, nothing coming from the water spout on the fridge. An instant was all it took.

Well, it got me thinking. It also got me cussing my landlord and pleading with some very unhelpful customer service reps at the water company and stomping around the house in righteous fury, which was all very dramatic, but somewhat beside the point. What I began to contemplate was the precarious nature of this infrastructure under which we live from day to day. We expect the water to flow from our faucets. Things fall apart very quickly when it doesn't.

Curiously, just one day before, I read this report from the city of Mysore, India, located in the southern reaches of the subcontinent, near Bangalore. Things are not good in Mysore. There is not enough water. The reporter tells of pipes that gurgle at 3 a.m., and if you're awake and you hear them, you grab as many containers as you have and fill them until the water stops flowing some three or four hours later. It may not flow again for days.

You learn to live a contingent sort of life. You learn to get while the getting is good.

After the third call to the landlord's voice mail and as many to the water company, we were able to get our service restored. In the meantime, my neighbor brought a pitcher of cold water to us, made her bathroom available, and told us to help ourselves to water from her outdoor faucet. Today the laundry is getting done.

In Stillness Speaks, Eckhart Tolle writes "The dysfunction of the old consciousness and the arising of the new are both accelerating. Paradoxically, things are getting worse and better at the same time, although the worse is more apparent because it makes so much 'noise'."

In the desert cities of the American Southwest people continue to water their lawns through consecutive years of drought. The Colorado River dries up in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, and overdrawn Lake Powell has a green algae bathtub ring, but more taps are being added all the time: Las Vegas and Tucson continue to grow. Farmers used to believe the rain followed the plow; the great Dustbowl proved them wrong. Now some fools seem to believe that water follows the developer.

There is word of a car being developed that runs on water. Should we be pleased at this, or should we wonder whether fueling our personal vehicles is the best use for this vital resource?

Here at home, yesterday's crisis becomes today's anecdote. My landlord finally called and apologized, and offered me a reduced rent in exchange for taking over payment of the water bill. So is the glass half-full or half-empty? Sometimes it's both. And sometimes, as George Carlin says, it's just that the glass, like the question, is too dang big.

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