Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Water, water everywhere?

I have just had a rather interesting, and instructive, weekend. First, on Saturday, I had a super frustrating meeting with the developers of this condo I am buying during which they tried to explain to me why, yet again, the closing would be delayed for two months. But that's a story for another time.

I came home from the meeting with the builder to an announcement on my building's PA system saying that the water had been shut off. Apparently, some idiot municipal worker doing some repairs had ruptured the city's water mains. As a result, all of Jersey City where I live and neighboring Hoboken and Union City had no water for about 30 hours starting Saturday forenoon through Sunday evening. Then on Sunday evening, just as the water came back on - brackish and blood red, lightning struck the transformers of my building complex and the power went out - for something like four hours.

Why was this interesting, let alone instructive? Because I was so completely and utterly unprepared for it!

In the five plus years that I have been in the US I have never been in a situation where there was a water outage (one time in Ithaca, the water pipes in my apartment froze but the landlord was able to crank the boiler to get it working pretty quickly). Not only did I not have any means to store water, the thought had never occurred to me. I had a couple of bottles of Gatorade and a bottle of Blue Moon beer in the house but that was it for the aqua supply, and since at that point I didn't know how long the outage would last I didn't want to use them for anything but drinking. I went to the store to get more water but it seems that while I was fighting with the builder of my condo, people had been making a run on water.

Then things began to shut down - restaurants and coffee shops first, the mall next and a few hours into the outage, it was like a curfew. So now I couldn't cook or wash. I suddenly felt really thirsty. I immediately instituted a "if it's yellow, let it mellow..." policy for the loo and after a dinner of bread and tuna, went to bed. The next afternoon, when the water finally came back on, I had perhaps one of the more satisfying craps of my life!

Back home in India, we got municipal water twice a day, two hours at a time sort of like a doctor's prescription. We had buckets and bottles, pumps and filters and three storage tanks - one on the roof, one sunk into our garden and one above the kitchen sink. Our daily schedules revolved around the availability of water - you were 'strongly' encouraged to do any bathing, washing or shitting between the hours of seven and nine. If you missed the morning window, then you were done for twelve hours. But we were prepared for any water emergency. If we didn't have water in my home in Delhi for 30 hours, I don't think anyone but my Mom would have even noticed (and I am not being sexist here - Mom headed the water police at home. Fact of life.)

It's the same story with electricity - back home we have candles and lanterns, inverters and generators, hand held fans and chiks on the windows. And for most of the summer load-shedding, there is a schedule and we know how long the outage will last.

Me? I sat in near total darkness for four hours. The only candle I have is in the bathroom where it performs more of a... um... odor removal role (and after 30 hours of mellowing, it had its work cut out too!) Everything in my apartment switched off - the computers, fridge, oven, microwaves, TV. The elevators had stopped working so my option, if i wanted to leave the building was to walk down 27 floors. So for the second night in a row, I had bread and canned tuna for dinner. But this time I cracked the bottle of Blue Moon.

1 comment:

Sumita said...

Isnt it easy to get use to conveniences?