When Hell Freezes Over

3 Sep

One of the blogs I follow is Domestic Felicity  http://ccostello.blogspot.com/ written by a lovely lady who lives in Israel. Her most recent posting was about the irregular water supply in the town where they live.  There are times when the municipal water stops working – sometimes for a few hours, and other times for an entire day. Since there is NO rainfall in Israel from May to October, people have to find ways to cope, from cisterns to catch rain when it does fall, to collecting dew from awnings. She describes using the baby’s bathwater to mop the floor, and then to flush the toilet.  And, of course, keeping a supply of bottled water on hand at all times.

I remember a lot of the verses to that song.

On January 19, 1969, Baltimore had the coldest day since they began keeping records. When I came down in the morning, what came out of the kitchen spigot resembled coffee. I ran it long enough to actually fill the coffee pot, and then discovered there was no more water in the pipe. Fortunately, we had a hand pump just outside the bathroom door, and I was able to draw a saucepan full of water from the hot water tank and bring it to a boil, which I then used to prime the pump.  I filled two large pots and poured them into the bathtub to come to room temperature during the day (ground water is cold), and then two more buckets which I sat on the back of the stove. I put the breakfast dishes in a roasting pan; the handles just fit over the rim of the sink, so I could move it easily.

Just to make the day more interesting, when I got ready to leave for work, my car wouldn’t go into reverse. I had to get the Late and Unlamented out of bed to help me push my car into a position that I could drift it down onto the road. To add insult to injury, as he was getting dressed, he bent over to tie his shoes and his trousers ripped up the back. He stomped around for a while, and then grumbled that he “would be glad when things got back to normal around here”.

I didn’t bother to point out that this was probably as “normal” as they were ever apt to be.

And so, this was the way we lived until mid-March. Morning and evening, I primed the pump with boiling water.  I put water in the bathtub in the morning, plus more on the stove. In the evening each adult got one bucket of hot water in the tub; the first person got clean, but the second one had a hot bath. The girls, to their grave delight, used an old metal wash tub in the middle of the kitchen floor. I would fill the roasting pan with water and heat it on the stove until it was warm enough to do the dishes. Washing our hair was a joint effort. Elder daughter would lean over the tub, and I would pour warm water over her head. Once she’d lathered up, I’d pour more water to rinse her off. Then she would help me do my hair, and one or the other of us would help the younger daughter with her shampoo.

After over two months of promises that he would repair the pump, the Late & Unlamented finally went into the cellar, and hauled the thing into the daylight. It turned out the pump had frozen solid, and there was nothing but an empty casing with a few loose screws in the bottom.  What I had gotten out of the spigot that first morning had been the innards of the pump; the expanding ice had simply reduced the thing to rusty bits.

We could have had running water in two days, instead of two months. But then, he wasn’t the one priming the pump.


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