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During the recent Arctic Vortex, ice storm, Oh my Lord, it is so cold I want to dig a hole and hide in it until spring crisis, we were without running water for 6 days. Being without running water for 1 day is an inconvenience. Being without water for 6 days is nearly the apocalypse. Trying to eat, drink, and stay clean without easy access to plumbing is not at all fun. I would say it was like living Little House on the Prairie except I'm pretty sure they had a well and an out house somewhere. We had some buckets, plastic water jugs, and a lobster pot.
We might have gotten back the water sooner except that our landlady was out of town with the love of her life who was having dangerous emergency open heart surgery and all the plumbers in a 50 mile radius were booked up defrosting and repairing pipes that belonged to people who were not us. Finding one who had a free minute proved very difficult. It was easier to find a surgeon for emergency heart surgery, evidently.
I know people who have camps that they like to go to in the summer with no indoor plumbing, wood stoves only, and no electricity. They like to talk about the joys of “roughing it” with glee. I have been on backpacking trips where we filtered water from streams to drink and cook and hardly ever washed and thought it was great, but everyone doing these things can be secure in the knowledge that eventually, their little adventure in the wilderness will end and they will return home to a place where a light will come on when they flick a switch, and water will come out of a faucet when they turn a nob. When you are playing Jeremiah Johnson in the outback for a week in the summer and cooking over an open fire the inconvenience is mitigated by the fact that you think you are all that because you are out on an adventure. When you are trying to wash yourself and get a cup of tea before going to work it is far less cool. In fact, its a total drag. Then the inconvenience becomes pretty unbearable.
We are a spoiled and pampered species, we denizens of the modern world. What starts out as conveniences can very quickly become necessities. It must have been fabulous when people got indoor plumbing for the first time or electricity. I t must have seemed almost miraculous. Oh my gosh, instead of drawing water and heating it up on the stove to take a bath and then dumping the dirty water I can just turn this knob and Bob's your uncle...cleanliness. Even better, all the dirty water just drains away. Of course, it might have been draining away into some pristine body of water and polluting it with soap and waste, but we didn't care. We could take a bath. It didn't take long for us to believe that any other way of life was unthinkable on a day to day basis. Weekends in the wilderness are one thing, but day to day? Unthinkable. Now, I see people get all frustrated and crazy because they can't get enough bars on the telephone they carry around with them everywhere or lose it because they don't have easy and mobile access to the internet. In my generation alone things which were only conceivable on episodes of Star Trek have become necessities in the lives of most of us. It happens fast.
On the first day of having no running water it was inconvenient. On the second day it was downright frustrating. On the third day it was impossible. Then there was a shift in our attitudes. We accepted that there would be no running water for awhile so we got a little more clever and innovative. We lugged in snow and melted it in buckets in the tub to flush the commode. When it started to rain we collected rain water. We filled up jugs with water at work or a friend's house for drinking, cooking, and washing. We developed a method to wash thoroughly using the minimal water possible. In short, we stopped complaining and used that energy to think as clearly as we could and took the initiative to be innovative. We did what we were supposed to do, used the tools we had to survive the loss of our beloved conveniences. I'm not going to lie, when the water was restored I felt like celebrating for the joy of it, but I still felt pretty good about how we had handled the business and it gave me hope that come the apocalypse, zombie or otherwise, we might not be entirely helpless and stupid. Obviously, we only had to deal with the one thing, but I would like to think that we could deal with whatever we had to without falling apart or jumping off a bridge. I would like to believe that we are not wimps. Not total wimps, anyway. Well, maybe just a little wimpy. At the very least we wouldn't cry ourselves to sleep at night because we didn't have any bars on our cell phones.
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