Sunday, April 23, 2017

Where Has All the Water Gone

I think about this blog sometimes... wistfully...

I really would like to get back to it.  I haven't run out of things to say, that's for sure.  We got a dog, I built a door and then ran out of money before we got it installed... then I ran out of more money.  And the store keeps me very busy, even if it doesn't appear to be making me rich yet.  It is decidedly not making me rich.  Nothing, lately, has made me rich.

And if I wanted to wax metaphorical about all the different ways one could be rich, I could wax on about how one could have a richness of time, which I most decidedly do not.  But the reality is I have exactly as much time in the day as you do, and as I was fond of saying in my idle youth I took my retirement at the beginning of my adult life, and now I must pay the piper.  Various pipers, it would seem.  Retirement is something I can guffaw about if I don't want to let myself get dejected.

But enough about all that, let's talk a bit about water.  Or the lack of it.  And the excess of it.  Water in Salvador is both precious and a waste product that literally cannot be gotten rid of quickly enough.  And sometimes the two states intersect, as they have this week.

When I lived out in the bairro of Paripe for a year I got pretty used to the fact that the pipes would run dry periodically, and no water would flow for a day or more.  Since we didn't have storage tanks for the water we were pretty aware of it.  It happens where we live now too, but we've got 1500 liters of storage, so generally we're fine for a couple of days, and we don't even notice.

Well.  A couple of days.  They shut off the water on Wednesday for a couple of days, for pretty much the whole city.  A big water main project was to be worked on, something about routing water from one dam to another due to the severe drought that's been going on here.  A severe drought, over a long time frame, but that doesn't mean we don't get extreme, severe downpours from time to time.  A couple weeks ago I took this picture:

Now what looks like a couple really badly parked cars were actually three cars that got floated down the hill in the intense runoff from a storm.  Like I said, they can't get rid of the water fast enough.  It doesn't help that everyone wants to pave over their lawns and all the drainage gets blocked with trash, or grates are deliberately covered by people to keep rats from coming up out of the sewers... the week previous, I had to remove my shoes at this exact spot and wade through water that came half way up my shins in order to get to work.

So they shut off the water for two days to dig up some pipes and wouldn't you know it, we got a couple of days of insane downpours, which caused a delay in the work, and now it's Saturday night and we only have water downstairs (water... downstairs?  Don't worry, I'll explain that in a second).  How ironic is that?  They do some work to help deal with the drought and the whole thing gets bolloxed by a biblical amount of rain.  If you're thinking there's something not quite right about this equation, like maybe you're one of those people who thinks it's insane to flush your toilet with potable water rather than repurposed rainwater that might otherwise be floating someone's car down the street, you'd be very, very right.  It's nuts.  Not just in Brazil.  It's nuts everywhere.

Anyhow, I can't say much about that because I've been meaning to install a rainwater capture system for years and haven't seemed able to get around to it, but like I said earlier, I don't have a lot of time.  It's on the list I tell you!!  It's just people keep putting things like dogs and homework and cans of spray paint on other more demanding and more pertinent lists.

So this morning I'm being the optimist I really am not and hoping we'll get our water back, because our 1500 liters of water are gone and we're expecting four guests at the house.  And yes, my neighbor informs me that it's coming back, some people on our street already have water!

But not at our house. Not in the morning, and not in the afternoon.  Now I've known for a long time that we get water at a faucet on the second floor long before it makes its way up to the attic where the storage tanks are.  The faucet in question is attached directly to the pipe that feeds the tanks in the attic.  So I started thinking about it today, and I realized that everybody who had water was getting it from faucets that were close to the ground.  And I had this vision of the water in the city being like some massive, fragmented body of water - gradually filling up in all the pipes in the neighborhood until it finally makes it up to attic level.  The problem, I realized, is that we didn't have any faucets close to the ground that weren't fed by the tanks in the attic.

I realized this at about 5:45 PM, and all the hardware stores close at 6:00.  I ran out and spent R$4,50 (that's less than two bucks for you USD types) on a couple pieces of hydraulic plastic, and took a saw to our mainline water pipe that feeds the tanks in the attic - luckily it's still exposed in its 'temporary' state we left it in oh about 12 years ago when we got the house renovated.  

And wouldn't you know it - there was water in there.  Here's the charming result of my efforts:

I can't tell you just how much this kind of ridiculous jury rig expresses something very profound about my personality, formed in the days when I was a kid looking at elaborate drawings my father made of the same kind of craziness - I guess he had a similar obsession.  Here's what I mean:

Well, kinda.  It's got some pipes anyways.  Miss you Dad.

These kind of ingenious fixes are also liable to cause severe bouts of self-satisfaction and self-patting-on-backiness.  Nothing makes me happier than resolving a situation with little more than my wits and the junk I squirrel away for just this kind of situation (the faucet has been sitting in a box for about ten years).

So maybe tomorrow the water will work its way to the attic.  It would be good, because even if I am fiendishly clever and frugal to boot we're still washing out of buckets this way.

These situations always leads me to the same train of thought, which is: what if the water didn't come back?  What if we didn't generally have running water every time we turned on a faucet?  Or for that matter, what if the trucks stopped coming with the food and the meat and the toilet paper?  I guess I could ask someone from Venezuela, they'd probably know way more about the subject than anyone would want to.  It's something I didn't think about much when I lived in the States.


markuza said...

Update: I wrote this on Saturday, published it on Sunday. So it's now 24 hours later, and still not a drop of water in our tanks in the attic. And I spent about two hours and twenty reais on another ingenious scheme to get the water to the attic that didn't work out. So we're still washing out of buckets. Can I go back to New England yet?

Anonymous said...

Your writing is great, Mark

Don't give up, little buddy.

Yours faithfully
Aussie Dave

markuza said...

Could Aussie Dave be my old friend David B? If so, fond memories, I remain in your debt but you'll have to come to Brazil to collect. If Aussie Dave is my more frequent Anonymous commenter, thanks for sticking with me all these years!

Anonymous said...

Of course it's David B, you motorcycle mashing meathead : )

I don't know about your other anonymous commenters, I haven't been here that frequently, old friend, but do pop by occasionally to keep an eye on you. I do think of you from time and time and wonder if I will ever get that $40 back.

I guess you can keep it.

markuza said...

Hah! Well it's good to know you're still out there, seeing as how you abandoned me on Facebook, and I can't keep a reciprocal eye on you and yours. Perhaps that's a more prudent approach to life, although I don't think I'd be able to convince anyone of this new generation of that. Good to hear from you. Lots of fond memories, both in Europe and in Australia!

Anonymous said...

Mate, I have abandoned everyone on Facebook. There ain't nothing left of David B circa 1995, just a big fucking hollowed out husk of a human being.

Life is so dull and leaden with obligation that I despair how the fuck I can continue. I certainly feel no need to share it with anyone. My daughters are beautiful and intelligent and strange, but mostly just a huge pain in the ass most of the time. As for marriage ... yeeesh,

But such is life, so fucking boohoo to me : )

You've carved out a interesting life following your passion, at least it would seem from this distance,

Good on you, Mark.

markuza said...

I hesitated about publishing your comment, as it is very personal, but you are anonymous after all and I just wanted to say I hear you. Believe me, my life is much more boring than I make it out to be on this blog and as I became enraged at the dog this morning because he was pulling on the leash my own frustrations came into focus to a very uncomfortable degree. I don't publish the real dirt here, because I am not anonymous, and I made some choices when I started out with this blog and even deleted some early posts when it became more clear to me where I wanted it to go. But something's got to give, and some things are indeed starting to, and all I can hope is that it doesn't all collapse in a pile of filthy dominoes. If all of a sudden my next post is stateside that's a pretty clear indicator that the shit has hit the fan. I didn't want to have a boring life, and I discovered that just by letting certain things happen I could guarantee that it didn't, but that may be catching up to me. Now the goal is not to become the bitter, resentful old codger screaming at the clueless young folk randomly on the street...

But who knows, maybe something great is just around the corner. As I have often said optimists are never pleasantly surprised.