My sister was getting ready for work and said, “Michelle, there’s no water.” Bolting out of bed and cursing all the way, I wondered why I had stopped just shy of pencil thick when I left the water running the night before (standard practice in a log cabin during a Wyoming winter). I should have gone for the full pencil width, but that didn’t matter now. We were officially frozen. When the neighbor knocked on my door at 7am (having seen the lights on) to ask if I had water, he commented that it was currently negative twenty-four outside. I began to worry if the problem was a little bigger than a pencil width and briefly contemplated moving to Miami or Phoenix. By 9am I had confirmed that all four cabins were frozen and had began texting the landlord. Meanwhile, I talked to a sympathetic friend who asked if I was going to get water from the creek. “Yes,” I responded, “I’m going to fill a bucket so I can flush the toilet. The drains aren’t frozen and ice on the banks of the creek looks new and not very thick, so I think I can break it.” His reply was a serious sounding, “I was joking”. Oh. I wasn’t.
The landlord suspected that with all of us running water and all of us frozen, the problem might be at the well house. Blasting a small heater on the pipes exiting the ground, he had us thawed out by 11am. Still, it was enough time to appreciate the marvel that is modern plumbing. When the water froze, I adapted the mind-set that I was on a posh camping trip and knew that I could happily camp for months on end (because I’ve done it). This is a liberating feeling. While it was true that this camping trip had the added benefit of a warm(ish) house, a stove and drains, I began seriously eying my water consumption. When your water is measure out in actual gallon jugs, you get a real sense for how much you consume. Some sources say the average American uses 80-200 gallons per day. Why the large discrepancy? A large bathtub is 50 gallons alone, so consider the water suck of a nice green lawn in the aforementioned Phoenix.
So for now, I’m trying to appreciate the frugality of water consumption that my no-bathtub cabin forces upon me and start to look at my water consumption on a gallon basis. As for the freeze, the positive spin would be that a gentle environmental awareness reminder is never a bad thing.
Book of the Day: The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner. An NPR correspondentt travels the world over measuring the happiness/location correlation. Funny and interesting.