Wednesday, March 18, 2020



Of course it’s a crazy world—we all know it. 

But it’s even crazier if you’re a senior in a category of maximum virus vulnerability . . . and suddenly you have no water.

It all began so innocently, thanks in part to my having a superior sense of smell.  (It’s nice, these days, to have a superior sense of anything!)  One day, as I stood near the kitchen sink, I began smelling that musty, give-away odor of something having been wet. With that, I began exploring under the sink. No, our new reverse-osmosis machine  was not leaking. The floor beneath it was dry.

I searched through nearby cupboards. Dry everywhere. Was I imagining the smell? “Are you catching that odor, Rob?”  But he wasn’t. In time I gave up my fruitless search. Yet the kitchen sink kept emanating impolite messages.

A week went by. And then I heard it—somewhere in the house, water was running. A lot of water. I stood and listened. “You can’t hear that noise, Rob?” He tried to accommodate me. “Maybe the soft water tank is recycling. Could you be hearing that, Babe, out in the garage?” He double-checked the garage, our sprinklers, the outside hoses. Nothing. Yet I was adamant. My ears were not deceiving me. When there’s an outpouring of liquid within a house, it doesn’t sound like a faraway concert, or a distant air hammer, it sounds like water.

Sunday night we called Chris, told him our concerns. “I’ll be home tomorrow,” he said. “Can’t help from here.” Mid-afternoon Monday he was standing in our kitchen, ear to the floor. He searched a little further. “It’s under the house,” he said, “and it’s running pretty good.”  It was now the witching hour for doctors and plumbers—5 p.m.

Immediately I called a plumber—but even their emergency number wouldn’t pick up. No recourse but to call the expensive plumber, the one whose bills were a down payment on a car. They must have needed the business.  “We’ll be there tomorrow at nine.”

Meanwhile, Chris went outside and turned off the house water.  The inside taps stopped flowing . . . . . except I hadn’t thought to fill up any containers.  He was home again when I asked if I could stop by and fill a few bottles.  “Just go outside, Mom, and turn on the water briefly—long enough to get what you need.”  Rob was home sick—by now out of action.

“But it’s dark,” I said, “and it’s raining, and the turn-on is deep in wet bushes—if I can even find it.”  He sighed. “So come on up,” he said at last.  He didn’t have to say it. They’ve lived there more than half a century—yet Mom doesn’t even know how you turn off the water.

So okay, I argued silently.  In our house, men have always dealt with spigots.  

The next day, the silver-jeweled plumber confirmed what Chris already knew—for $170 (per crawl), he crawled under the house and reported back that our two-day flood had produced a two-inch swimming pool—under all 4,000 feet of raised foundation. Before anything could be done, we’d need the services of the platinum-jeweled EMERGENCY PLUMBERS, who, after more crawling brought us a contract—this time for a down payment on a condo. Furthermore, his second deep-mud crawl revealed that the house turnoff did not stop the actual below-decks shooting stream. It seems our house turnoff is now so old it has all the strength of a centurion sumo wrestler. Only Tustin’s Water Company could accomplish anything noticeable. More phone calls, more delays.

So here’s where we stand: no water, but excessive noise from two dry-out-the-water outside fans. “They’re really loud,” the installer admitted.  “Loud” is an understatement.  They practically rattle the house. The noise goes way beyond annoying.    

No hand washing, no dish washing.  To flush a potty, Rob brings in one of his precious buckets of collected rain water . . . or we heat it on the stove to rinse the occasional dish. "This is like an overnight in the woods," Rob said. "I never did like camping." To bathe, we gather shampoos and razors and drive to Chris and Betty-Jo's. At home, every other minute I’m searching for some way to rinse my hands. Do I use rainwater, or nothing?  I called a drugstore. Purell, a hand disinfectant--not available anywhere. 

But even this craziness has its good moments.  Besides the huge helpfulness of our nearby kids (who’ve each offered us a bedroom—but we prefer sleeping at home) . . . was today’s incident at our bank. Still in pajamas, Rob drove me there.  As I sat six feet back from the teller, I eyed the container of Purell sitting on the counter.  First time I’ve ever thought of robbing a bank.  Finally I spoke up.  “At home we have no water. Can I buy one of your bottles of hand sanitizer?”

The tellers looked surprised. (Days ago, they’d called us offering extra help).  One lady made a quick decision—she jumped up and opened a cupboard, brought back the priceless jar. “Here,” she said, and wouldn’t accept payment.

I thanked her profusely, then said to the other teller, “Usually I eye your candy. Today, not at all.”  With that, she reached into an undercounter jar and handed me a fistful of wrapped Easter chocolates. 

Back at the car, I startled the heck out of Rob.  “Look what the bank gave me!”  To me, at least, the Purell was suddenly more precious than money.  Still sitting there, we each had a chocolate.  Which proves there’s magic in even the smallest bit of kindness.

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