This post brought to you by the letter W!
Water is a funny thing. In some parts of the world, having an unlimited supply of clean water available is little more than a dream. In North America, however, we pretty much take it for granted and rarely give it a second thought. You just turn on the tap and, voilà, fill up that glass!
While water is freely available to most of us, it is not free of charge. We either get that water bill in the mail or our water charges are included in our monthly rent. Some of us pay a flat rate, while others have a meter to allow the local utility to monitor the amount of water used and charge accordingly.
We may have our water use restricted during the hot summers or on particular days of the week or during certain hours of the day. But this mainly pertains to watering lawns, washing cars and the like. We rarely have to worry about not being able to take a shower or make a cup of tea.
What I’ve discovered, however, is that there are many places right here in the United States where the water isn’t very potable. For three years, we lived out in the middle of the desert and found that the tap water was so bad that we couldn’t drink it. At first, we couldn’t figure out what was wrong. My wife wondered whether she had forgotten how to make iced tea. The taste and look of our tap water was somewhere between dirty dishwater and windshield washing fluid. Sometimes it even stank. That’s when we received a notice from the city government filled with gobbledygook and statistical information that featured the term parts per million and basically meant “don’t drink the water if you value your life.”
Wash your dishes in an electric dishwasher? Those things are very convenient, to be sure. We had one in the kitchen of our rental house. The water was so hard that when the dishes came out of the dry cycle, they were covered with thick scum and had to be washed all over again, by hand. There was no point in even bothering. My wife hand-washed dishes until the skin on her hands turned scaly and cracked.
Wanting water that tasted decent and would not risk our health, we followed the lead of most people in town and contacted a water vendor. They installed a 100 gallon tank in our pantry and, about once a month, would pull a huge water truck into our alley and drag the hose across the grass to our back door so they could fill ‘er up. Now, finally, we had some really delicious water. But it was an added expense, particularly during the seven-month desert summer in which the 110°F to 120°F temperatures would cause us to go through as much as three gallons of iced tea per day.
When we moved 600 miles away from the desert to northern California a month ago, I never dreamed that we’d once again find ourselves in a place where the water is undrinkable. But here we are. Repeating like a bad dream. This time, we came up with a different solution. Rather than depend on a water truck, we have a Britta pitcher that we use to filter the tap water before we turn it into iced tea. As for drinking plain old water, we buy bottled water by the case and keep it cold in the refrigerator. I don’t think I will ever take drinking water for granted again!
Whether or not you live in an extended family as we do, the washing machine is an essential element of daily household life. But this is where I’ve run into yet another water conundrum. It did not take me long to discover that taking a shower is not compatible with use of the washer. More than once I’ve stepped into a nice hot shower, only to have it turn ice cold just as I’d shampooed my hair good and lathery.
Wait… there’s more! One of the things I learned as a child was how to turn the water taps on and off. It’s really rather basic, and an important skill to know when you are required to wash your hands all the time. It usually doesn’t take long before you have the whole clockwise/ counterclockwise thing down and can do it without thinking. When we arrived in the desert, however, I quickly discovered that our bath taps were (oh, Lord) backwards. As I’d finish my shower, I’d have to remind myself how this works again to avoid scalding myself. It didn’t take long before I came up with a valuable mnemonic. All I had to do was sing a snippet of Beyoncé: To the left, to the left!
Well, now that we’re up north, I find that my three years with Beyoncé were all for naught. We have decidedly normal water faucets here. However, after all that time singing “Irreplaceable,” every day I now have to repeat the very useful phrase I learned from my nieces and nephews when they were little: Righty tighty, lefty loosey!
Won’t you please leave a comment? Tell me I’m a weirdo or a wiseacre or just plain wrong.
With baited breath I await your witty and wonderful wisdom.