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Musing: A Dry Sense of Gratitude
In a world of so much negativity, I strive to accentuate the positive. As I’ve shared with you before, one way we do that is to pause each evening and share one thing from the day that we’re grateful for. That reaffirming action helps us focus on the good, even on dark days.
Last week, though, challenged me. I’ll admit to a dry sense of gratitude those days. Very dry.
It all began on Christmas Eve.
Saturday, December 24
We woke to a bone-chilling -2ºF (-19ºC for my Celsius fans). The stiff winds made it feel much colder and caused concerns we might suffer electrical outages.
What we didn’t know was that just a few miles to our south, a disaster loomed. One of Asheville’s three water intakes froze and stopped working in the extreme cold, even though we’ve seen much lower temperatures. The storage tanks that fed the thirst of the city were no longer being filled. If water production resumed, things would be fine. If not…
But it was Christmas Eve inside our house. The decorations dazzled, the power remained constant, and we were blissfully unaware. At dinner, we raised our wine glasses and expressed our gratitude to being warm and safe on such a frigid night.
Sunday, December 25
The day was warmer, though temperatures never rose above freezing. My sister and Super Nephew (who, somehow, is already fourteen years old) drove up from Charlotte to visit. We sat down for our Christmas dinner—a layered chicken enchilada pie requested by the nephew as his favorite meal. Before the meal, we toasted family, health, happiness, and safety.
As we were eating, my phone buzzed with an incoming text. The city alerted us to the potential of low pressure or even no water due to “water distribution work.” Water lines burst in this weather, so the message was unusual, but not alarming. We washed our dishes without a second thought.
Monday, December 26
We enjoyed spending time with our visitors. At the nephew’s request, we made spaghetti for dinner. We toasted our great fortune to have a relaxing day with family and for the good fortune that we had never lost power, despite the rolling blackouts instituted by Duke Energy.
We also received four additional texts from the city. The first noted that the low temperatures and high water demand placed “an unusual strain” on the water system. The second repeated the previous day’s message of challenges from “water distribution work.” The third said the system was “experiencing disruptions.”
The messages were certainly disturbing, but nothing hinted at the real problem until 11:30 p.m. that night. A Boil Water Advisory had been issued. They repeated the message that we might experience low pressure from water line breaks.
No mention was made, more than forty-eight hours after the beginning of this fiasco, that no water was being pumped through the frozen station.
Tuesday, December 27
I, of course, didn’t get that late-night message until I got up the next morning around 4 a.m. (yeah, yeah, my usual time). When I heard my sister stirring, I went to ask her to avoid drinking the water. She and the nephew were packing to leave, so we just needed them to be careful not to consume tainted water.
A few hours after they had departed, at 12:55, the city sent the first message of the day. In it, for the very first time, they stated that the southern water production facility had been down since Christmas Eve—three days earlier. The storage tanks were being drained because families were blissfully consuming water as if nothing was wrong, and no water was being produced to refill them.
We were in the midst of the second dog walk of the day when the text arrived and then went to the Y for our daily workout, so we didn’t see it right away. When the staff announced they were closing the gym at 3 p.m. due to a lack of water, the seriousness of the situation became crystal clear.
But it was too late to prepare. Our taps were already down to a dribble, too late to gather much water to boil. And, of course, no shower from the sweat of the workout.
The good news, though, according to the only other message from the city, was that the production facility would be back online Wednesday and water services would be restored in 24–48 hours.
Our gratitude toast was simple. We had a trickle of water, better than some, and the repair was coming.
Wednesday, December 28
Not a drop of water. None. Zero. Zip.
The city assured us, though, that the facility was “slowly coming back online” and we “may still experience no water or low pressure.”
A second message broadened the boil water advisory to more parts of the city and announced a program to distribute water to those who couldn’t travel or afford to acquire their water. That message started a run on bottled water at stores, but shortages were fairly brief as the retailers scrambled to ship from their other locations.
A third message reminded everyone of the boil water advisory.
Without potable water, we were unable to cook or clean dishes, and restaurants in our area were closed as well. We traveled to an eatery outside the region who, thankfully, ignored our grubby appearance.
We toasted thanks that we could travel to and afford a restaurant and were able to acquire bottled water. Not everyone is as fortunate. And we were quite thankful for the hot meal.
Thursday, December 29
Still no water. We had bottled water for consumption, but resisted using that for another drastic need—flushing toilets. We resorted to scooping water out of the nearby French Broad River to fill commode tanks. We weren’t alone on the river banks with buckets.
The irony of that action didn’t escape us. The news over this past summer had been filled with warnings about the contamination of that river. Testing showed high levels of E. Coli, Cryptosporidium, Giardia and Shigella, especially after rains. As a popular river for swimming, rafting, and kayaking, its potential safety risk created a massive debate.
But we only required flushing water.
The two alerts from the city that day promised progress. The news conferences, which had become a quite popular thing to watch, didn’t provide much confidence.
We looked at our dwindling supply of bottled water and struggled that night with our gratitude toast. We had water, though, and with that acknowledgement, we clinked glasses and drink wine. Water was too valuable.
Friday, December 30
We had a trickle of water. It came and went. We never had much volume. Dirty clothes and dishes piled up. I could feel a layer of grime on my body from the lack of showering since Monday.
The news conferences became testy. When asked for a timeline, the mayor replied, “We want to be careful in saying that because the last thing you want to do is say it’s going to happen by this exact mark, and then it doesn’t. That’s a very frustrating experience.”
When asked how many of the original 38,000 residents who lost water were still dry, the response was they didn’t know.
How did we feel grateful that day? Simple. We bought several gallon jugs of distilled water. The retailers were well stocked by that point.
Saturday, December 31
I woke up to the best sound in days—running water. We could flush toilets without a trip to the river. We still had to boil water for cooking and cleaning, but had distilled water for drinking.
Most importantly, we could shower. We kept it brief because others were still waiting on water, but scrubbing days of sweat and stink away felt wonderful.
Gratitude that night was crystal clear. We had water.
Sunday, January 1
At 3:12 p.m., the city lifted the boil water advisory for our area. We continued to conserve water because many of our neighbors in the western part of the city were still waiting, but we could cook.
The weather was sunny. Temperatures reached the 60s. We walked the dogs, came home, and took a sip of cool, clear water.
Enjoy the Story? Try a Novel
If you enjoyed today’s musing, please consider reading one of my novels. Each standalone book tells the story of big lives in a small town, ordinary people facing extraordinary challenges.
On The Website This Week
This week’s vocabulary word, feckless, came to me while watching one of the city’s news conferences. Do you know what the opposite is? Or what a feck is? It’s probably not what you think.
My final novel read of the year was Paul Tremblay’s Survivor Song, a harrowing tale of a fast-acting rabies outbreak.
Survey results from last month are being tabulated and will be shared later this week on the website (and in next week’s Monday Musing) along with a new survey for January. Stay tuned.
Gratuitous Dog Photo: Bottled Water Dogs
Roscoe enjoys a sunny New Year’s Day in the backyard. The dogs have been spoiled throughout the week with bottled water during our city’s outage, so they may have come to expect such level of refreshments.
Until Next Monday
Raise a glass of water daily and toast your own gratitude.
See you next Monday.
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