Perfectly timed. It was late Saturday evening when we arrived home after a restful vacation. I was a little anxious, having missed taking my 8 PM Sinemet tablet (Parkinson’s medication). Turning on the tap to get a glass of water, there was a sputtering sound and then… nothing. Not even a burp or a bubble. Nothing. If the water supply system was like a battery, ours was dead. I checked everything (which only took me a few minutes given that I had no clue what “everything” was). We had no water. I felt a sudden sense of vulnerability as I began running down a mental list of things you cannot do without water… make coffee, wash clothes, brush your teeth, take your pills, flush toilets and, on the top of my mind just then, shower.
I called the “water people” who had installed the pump in our well that sucked the sparkling clean and cold liquid up from the aquifer some 179 feet below the surface. As I listened to the voicemail message, I remembered that this was Saturday night, a conclusion that was quickly made more complicated by the fact that it was a long weekend (Monday was Queen Victoria Day in Canada and, despite the fact that she died in 1901 at the ripe old age of 81, Canadians hardly seem embarrassed when they use her birthday as an excuse for a holiday). Any hopes of a quick fix in response to my call… I was hoping for something like “Flick that red switch twice with one eye closed”… were quickly dashed by the “water people” out of office recording. “Please be advised that weekend or holiday callouts will be charged at a four-hour minimum rate of $105 per hour per person, with the hourly rate increasing to time and a half after the first four hours”. I left a message for the “water people” to give me a call Sunday morning (emphasizing that I did not want anyone being “called out” without further discussion).
Sure enough, Sunday morning Dave, one of the “water people”, called my cellular. When he heard the symptoms I described he quickly diagnosed the problem as a “pump failure”. Apparently, the 22 years that had transpired since the original installation of the pump was substantially longer than the pump’s life expectancy. Who knew? Dave went on to warn me that a crane truck would be required to pull the pump up the steel straw-like well casing so that it could be replaced. This was no minor house call and, given the long weekend, it was priced accordingly. I felt suddenly helpless, having taken for granted the ready access to water at the turn of a tap.
Now, drawing water from the swimming pool solved the problem of flushing toilets. A bucket full dumped into the toilet was all that was needed. But having a shower (hot, or at least tepid) required more than innovation. It necessitated a friend, and not just any friend. This had to be someone who might be home on the long weekend just waiting for a call from a desperate, dirty and, likely, odoriferous friend in desperate need of a shower. It occurred to me that the deprivation of one modern convenience I often take for granted left me dependent on others.
The metaphor dawned on me as I swallowed my Parkinson’s medicine, helped along by a warm soft drink from the pantry. My neurological full functioning, like the running water in my home, will no longer taken for granted. In fact, the analogy of my crippled water system, left me wondering; perhaps someday a person with Parkinson’s will be able to have their neurological “pump” replaced so that it will again function correctly. In the meantime, let’s not take anything for granted. And when we run out of independent options, we need to remember that we have each other to help us through.