Saturday, February 4, 2017

Water, Water...Nowhere..

Living in a developed nation, in a well-established community with all the modern amenities one could ever want is something I probably don't take the time to appreciate often enough. That is, until one of those taken-for-granted perks is abruptly snatched away, throwing our lives into somewhat of an uproar. For example, we're about 24-hours into what I'm going to call the Great Chapel Hill-Carrboro Water Crisis of 2017--which in a nutshell means we've essentially been entirely banned from using the liquid resource since yesterday morning.

But let me back up the timeline and explain from the beginning. It was Thursday, I think, when the first communication came from our local water and sewer provider (OWASA, for short), informing us that there had been an "accidental over-fluoridation" of the supply, necessitating that they temporarily pump water to our area from Durham, and asking that we be mindful of conserving water in the short-term until the issue was resolved. Well, this didn't seem like too big a deal, and I don't think our household earns the title of "water hogs" anyway, so it's all good, right?

Then on Friday the frantic texts, emails, and phone calls began to arrive at frequent intervals, announcing a water main break on top of the previous problems...and prohibiting all water consumption immediately and for an undisclosed period of time until they could make repairs, resume functioning at the local treatment plant, and restore the severely-depleted reserves. Oh...kay...this was sounding a whole lot more dire, all of a sudden. This was followed instantly by messages from the district and both of the boys' individual schools, letting us know that they'd be sending students home 2 hours early due to the restrictions.

The reactions from our crew varied: when Riley arrived back at Casa WestEnders he scoffed, "That seems ridiculous--why couldn't they just tell us not to wash our hands or go to the bathroom?" Um...sweetie? You're thinking like a logical adolescent--but YOU try telling elementary-age kiddos they can't pee for the rest of the day. That's like a...munchkin horror flick, just waiting to happen...) At Derek's school, however, the administration apparently came over the PA system and advised that "anyone who is able to leave right now....has permission to do so", with the unspoken implication being: "please get out, all of you, as soon as possible". (Ahhhh, the freedom of High School....never fails to crack me up...)

Meanwhile, I had taken the opportunity on my day off to escape to a movie for a couple of hours, but fortunately I had selected the theater right next to Target, so my next step after exiting La La Land was to rush over there and grab packaged water...along with the rest of humanity. Although it looked like they were rapidly running out already, I managed to snag 3 cases of 16-ounce bottles, thinking that this whole fiasco would be short-lived, and that would certainly be enough to see us through until the do-not-use order was lifted.

And then, over the course of the afternoon and evening...the reality of the situation began to develop. For instance, Derek and his friends decided not to play basketball--or do any other outdoor activities--because they'd get dirty and sweaty, and not be able to shower afterwards. Everyday tasks like brushing teeth and rinsing out dishes required bottled water....which makes you notice how MUCH it takes...which makes you want to save it even more diligently as you watch your hard-won supply deplete, little by little, as you pour it down the drain.

And do NOT even get me started on the whole...toilet...conundrum. Obviously you don't want to flush every time, but we actually had a discussion in our house about how often it would be advisable the bowl, as it were. "Oh, just spray some more Febreeze in there," Husband airily (ha! sorry...) said. the only one who possesses a sensitive girl-nose in this family, let me just tell you what that ready?...a bathroom that reeks of "orange-scented-pee." Trust me when I say to you that it's NOT an improvement over the original version.

Thus Friday night's...hygiene, if you will...consisted of judiciously applying baby wipes to those areas that needed them...and changing into fresh clothes. By Saturday morning I was ready for a change of scenery--so I took myself to a Starbucks--outside of our little H2O-less area, of course--for coffee...and a bathroom where you don't have to stop and agonize over whether you should pull the lever or not. About that time, Husband's cousin, who also lives just over the border in Durham, checked in to offer her...ahem..."facilities" if we needed to get cleaned up. However, I was rapidly losing patience with the whole mess, when a brainstorm struck: what if we just...blew town for the night while the Governmental Powers That Be sorted it all out?

And with that, we voted to create our own mini-adventure, by overnighting in our lovely capital city of Raleigh and sightseeing for a while on Sunday (since I was the only one--naturally--who'd ever done any exploring there in our 2-1/2 years as NC residents). As we were packing for our getaway-of-sorts, the latest news arrived from OWASA...proclaiming that the water was now safe to drink...but urging continued caution, with the available supply still being limited. One of their helpful suggestions for how to manage this included: taking less-than-3-minute showers...and that's when I gave up and stopped reading, because I don't even know how that's possible. Therefore the original scheme for fleeing the vicinity proceeded as planned.

So to reflect a little bit: it was undoubtedly an unpleasant and inconvenient interlude. occurred to me over the course of its LUCKY are we, in so many ways? We have a car, and (normally) well-stocked stores nearby...and the money to purchase emergency provisions when we get there. For the vast majority of the time, we enjoy access to clean, safe, plentiful water. We have reliable plumbing in our house, and publicly-provided utility companies to monitor and maintain the infrastructure. Not to mention the means to run away from it all if we so desire. And for all of these things, I am overflowing (ha! sorry...) with gratitude...from our hotel which we have all showered (yay) in preparation for embarking on a dinner quest. For now, signing off from Team WestEnders' temporary HQ!

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