Saturday, May 24, 2014

Contaminated water and short car rides: A game of life and death

I spent the better part of the last week like a contestant on “Survivor.” Only instead of a million dollars, the only thing on the line was life itself.
                For several days, my girlfriend, the two cats and I did all the usual “Survivor” stuff: We schemed, took part in challenges which tested both our minds and bodies and even boiled our own water.
                Well, at least one of those things is true. We boiled the hell out of a lot of water.
                What reduced us to such a primitive state? I can’t say for sure, but to the best of my knowledge:

  • There was a lot of rain, too much rain and something about sediment
  • Our water company, Pennsylvania-American Water, wasn’t able to keep up with scrubbing said water clean
  • This caused water levels in their tanks to drop to a level where bacteria could potentially grow
  • The world went ballistic

At first, we were told to conserve water. But then the next night the message went from “Hey, try not to wash your car more than twice this week” to “Ummm … keep that away from your face.”
                If we wanted some H2O to drink, clean dishes or brush our teeth with, we’d have to boil it, like our forefathers and our game show contestants.
                Some folks weren’t thrilled with Pennsylvania-American Water’s roundabout “It’s cool, you guys … uh … run” reaction to the situation.
I wasn’t all that surprised with the clunky communication. I mean, just look at the name of the company. It kind of sounds like something a person who was only loosely affiliated with the English language would come up with.
                Why is it American but not Pennsylvanian? That bothers me.
                Anyway, the highlight of the week came when Pennsylvania-American (ugh) decided to make amends to the very customers it tried to kill with its water by offering us more water. Naturally, we were suspicious.

                However, we were all also fed up with turning on the stove before we brushed our teeth, so those suspicions were readily looked past.
                In order to claim the free, clean water that we pay for every month, we just had to drive to a nearby fire station, with our own containers, and hope that the water company lackey was still around to give us a nice, liquidy hit off this big tank.
                Unfortunately, the only containers we had available were a large pot with a lid and a medium-sized plastic pitcher with a smiley face on the side. We were less-than-prepared to enter the water transportation industry.
                We loaded up the car with our two containers and made the 6 ½ minute drive to the closest fire station.
                When we arrived, there was a moment of panic when we thought we’d have to figure out the water tank on our own, since the tech was nowhere in sight. Our fears were quickly eased when, like a knight in an orange reflective vest, he leapt from his truck.
                He walked over to the mysterious tank, took one look at us standing there with our lackluster water vessels and sighed to himself internally. I assume he did this because it really looked like his eyes were sighing.  
                Thanks to his years of careful training, he knew exactly which knob to turn and how far to coax water out of the tank. First he filled the pot, then the smiley face pitcher. Then we were on our way, while he went back to his truck to either rethink his profession or call all his friends and laugh about what he’d just encountered.
                My girlfriend drove, so the pitcher was perched precariously on top of a cup holder and the pot went squarely on my lap. We had the lid on, but I immediately regretted my decision not to drive for two reasons.
                One, my girlfriend can’t make spaghetti in that pot without coating the stovetop in a foot of water. So whenever she’s anywhere near that pot, even if it’s empty, I get a little nervous.
                Two, my girlfriend is what NASCAR folks would call an aggressive driver.
                Even with the lid, this spelled disaster.
                But to my shock and awe, she drove like the car’s tires were made of eggshells. And about 12 ½ minutes later we were home and my lap was very nearly completely dry.
                The only way I could have been prouder would be if I came home and saw her punching out Adolf Hitler. The real one, not some lookalike or a kid with a crap name thanks to some douchy parents.  
                On Friday, the watery danger had officially passed and we were all free to stick our heads under the sink and safely drink until we burst.
                I’d like to think we all learned a lot about ourselves and each other during those few days.
                The cats learned they like the taste of bottled water better than sink water. I learned my girlfriend can drive not like a lunatic on occasion and she learned that the thought of a wet crotch makes me scream like a little girl.
                Thank you, Pennsylvania-American Water for failing to kill us and bringing our family closer together in the process. Better luck next time, suckers.
                But not really.   

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