Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cool, Clear Water

I drink lots of water, prolly up to a gallon or two per day depending on how hard I'm working and sweating. It's one of the reasons I'm a fairly healthy (although quite rabid) wolverine, and slugging down that primal fluid quenches me thirsty and gives my sweat glands even more raw materials to work with.

On the other hand, it doesn't take very much of that cool, clear primal fluid to wreak havoc indoors where we don't usually like it to be flowing unchecked. The image above is a perfect example of what happens when even just a few gallons of water seeps out from well-defined copper tubing and into the surrounding area. This particular jailbreak occurred in the vicinity of the water line that feeds our fridge's ice maker, and the nicely-squared hole in the living room wall was my attempt to see if the leak was fixable by yours truly (it wasn't) or would require the expertise of a hired gun (read: plumber, and it did).

So I called the plumber.

He came very-highly recommended and was able to figger out a way to eliminate the leak and re-route the water line from the kitchen so as to avoid running an entirely new line in the attic or jack-hammering the concrete foundation that held the 40-year-old copper line in its cement-y heart.

The leak was discovered by The Artist on a recent Friday morning, so we had to make do with very limited water service over a single weekend until the following Monday when the plumber and his swarthy minion arrived and had their way with our pipes... oooh, baby! Since I had discovered the liquid jailbreak took about 30 minutes to seep from the dark concrete heart and into the harsh light of day, we spent that weekend turning the water main valve on, taking really fast showers while doing the laundry and other stuff requiring water, then shutting it off before the moisture could coalesce into a destructive puddle.

The Artist noted that it felt like we were camping, the having-no-water-at-your-whim reality we shared during those three long, semi-dry days. Honestly, the hardest part was not reflexively flushing le toilette after every use, as we tried to adhere to the concept of "If it's yellow, let it mellow; if it's brown, flush it down".  Long-time California residents will remember that little ditty from drought days of the past.

Overall, with the exception of the carpet/interior/exterior wall repairs and cubic dollars expended for a professional pipe jockey, we both agreed it could have been much MUCH worse.  I've completed most of the restorations and repairs, even re-installing the carpet with some success. I am getting awesome at repairing drywall!

But the liquid jailbreak and subsequent damage and cost isn't the real subject of this essay.

During that semi-dry weekend, I began to realize (duh!) not only how inconvenient it was not to have running water at my beckoned call, but that we 'first-world 'citizens really truly do take this incredible luxury for granted. Just take a dump and flush the poo away. Just turn the handle and brush your canines. Just press the button and your skid-marked undies and vinyl bondage gear are swiftly laundered. Just step in the shower, turn the knob and wash away the buildup of dead skin cells, unidentified crust and leftover ziti from your matted fur.

According to a study completed in the distant past of 2014, nearly 1.6 million of us 'Murricans live in over 630,000 homes that do not have indoor plumbing.  Almost 2.6 BILLION earthlings... that's 39% of the Earth's population... do not have running water in the places they call home.

And I'M the one complaining about one semi-dry weekend.  Sheesh!

The more I began to think about it, I realized what a tenuous web of services we all rely on... water, electricity, natural gas, landline and mobile phones, wi-fi... to get through our normal lives, the stuff of so-called 'civilization'. I reckon it should be no surprise how little regard we offer these luxuries because, well... seems like we've always had them at or fingertips, always known we could wash our paws or grab a cold Bubble Up from the fridge without having to leave the warmth of the pad and trudge out into the wild outdoors. We just take these really important aspects of modern existence for granted, until all of a sudden we don't have them any more.

Try this mental exercise: close your eyes and imagine living in your lovely All-American home for just one week with no running water.  Sure, you still have electricity and natural gas, but you can't flush the crapper or wash your bondage gear or dishes or hands, can't fill a glass to have drink of water or shampoo the spooge from your fur.  No ice ready-made to chill your absinthe, no water to moisten the soil around your hydrangeas.  Can't wash your car or mop the kitchen floor or flush them pesky bloodstains off the back porch.

Nada agua de beber.

This isn't such a radical notion, having a water-less home. The town of Porterville (CA) is suffering terribly from the current West Coast drought because their wells have run dry, and the townspeople are scrambling to find fresh water for their daily use. Here in beautiful SoCal, we don't have mandatory water rationing yet, but my neighborhood has been notified that we are only allowed to water our lawns for 10-minutes a day on three alternating days per week.  I wish my neighbor across the street would pay attention, because she SOAKS her lawn every single night, with excess water streaming off the grass and flooding into the gutters.  What a dumbass.  I would say something to her about it, but she's something of an Amazon and could prolly kick my skinny ass up and down the block and her boyfriend is a biker.

In my own small way, I'm making changes to mitigate water usage in our home, and while it may be a very small amount of savings, I know it makes a difference.  I don't wash down the hardscaping after doing the yards... I only water the yards once a week... I dump excess ice into the bird bath or the garden... we only do full loads of laundry... I turn off the faucet while brushing my teeth or shaving... it all adds up.

But that dependence on the tenuous web of running water still spooks me, still makes me think of all those people without it.  Then I start tripping on how easy it is to take so many OTHER things for granted, things that are even harder to imagine losing but can be devastating when lost.

Like taking a dump.

Forget the water aspect of excretion, I'm referring to the ability to pinch a loaf... launch the Titanic... drop the kids off at the pool.  The very basic and vital ability to evacuate your colon is one of those physical processes that is completely and totally unremarkable and ignored until one loses the ability to do so.

I have a near and dear relative who suffers from a paralytic ileus, where the intestinal muscles become so inactive they prevent food from passing which leads to intestinal blockage... ewwww, sounds like no fun at all. This amazing person has lost over 60 pounds during this awful period because it forces him to cut down on his food intake so as to lessen the blockage, which takes an incredible amount of force to be moved... if it moves at all.

I know I know I know... sounds gross and awful, but remember:  most of us don't even think about taking a dump, we just do.  But when you can't, it becomes a terrible central issue that affects and complicates every other aspect of life. It makes you miserable and hungry and sore and angry and depressed and very very unhappy. If you've ever been in serious pain and taken loads of painkillers, you know what they do to your ability to take the Browns to the Super Bowl.

I use the running water and non-poo-ing only as examples of things we should always appreciate in our daily lives, lives that are chock-full of work and love and angst and busybusybusy.  It's sooo easy to be an unthinking wolverine, never paying attention to the grand luxuries we enjoy while placing unimportant things at the top of our consciousness, letting stupid stuff make us angry or unhappy or upset.  We have so much to be grateful for, the simple pleasures that come with paying taxes and eating right and being healthy and living the lives we do.

When your daily life becomes so intense, so frantic, so filled with impossible tasks that take your breath away, stop and think about the many little luxuries you have at your fingertips.  Revel in the fact that your car tires prolly won't explode on the way home from work because a government agency insures their safe manufacture. Be thankful that you likely don't have to depend on candles to read the next chapter of Howard Zinn's 'People's History of the United States'.  Don't like the meatloaf you were forced to choke down for dinner?  Dump that sucker in the trash and watch with pride as the big truck whisks it away to a far-away landfill that is closer than you think.

People often ask me why I am always in such a good mood, always smiling, always jovial and helpful and upbeat. Am I high or just stupid?  Answer:  I TAKE NOTHING FOR GRANTED.  I appreciate every large and small and infinitesimal bennie of living in an organized, civilized, tax-paying society. It could be so so so much worse, and for many it is, and I KNOW IT.

Will we have another water leak gurgling up from the slab of our home?  The Magic 8 Ball says 'Chances are good', but I ain'ta gonna worry about it, because I have running water for now and life is sweet and with any luck at all, I will wake up again tomorrow morning with a shit-eating grin on my face, ready to enjoy and appreciate my amazing conscious existence, the only one I'll ever have.

"A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort."  -- Herm Albright

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