Bathtub Oasis

I broke down. Succumbed to a vice. Totally knew I shouldn’t have done it, but my baser instinct was called out and, dammit, I caved.

I took a shower.

If you don’t live on the West Coast of the United States, particularly California, that might not seem like such a terrible thing. But out here in the wild, wild west, a frontierland of scarce resources and harsh realities, we’re faced with the ever-present knowledge that the next drop of water might be our last. Hey Florida, the next time a hurricane hits, can you bottle some of that water and send it our way?

It sounds like I’m joking, but I’m not. Okay, maybe I’m joking a little bit. But if we have another winter like the last one, this shit’ll be as unfunny as a goiter.

Wait, are goiters funny? They seem like they should be funny.

We had a pretty bad drought a decade ago. Four or five winters in a row with less than average rainfall. No one particular winter was catastrophic, but the cumulation over time led tosome parched reservoirs. Somewhere around winter number four (or more accurately, summer number four), we entered the first round of water restrictions. They were as asinine then as they are now.

I’m not critiquing the idea of water restrictions, per se, even if the collective water wasted by the citizens seems paltry beside the farmers and construction and government entities. I swear, if I walk past one more broken sprinkler gushing water into the street while attempting to maintain lush green city parks, I will lose my shit. 

Fortunately, my lost shit will be washed away by a government-funded bidet.

The water restrictions are usually to the tune of “use 20% less water than last year.” Easy enough for people who were wasting water before. For those of us doing the voluntary restrictions in years one through three of the drought, not so much.

I remember a feature on the local news, showing how a Sacramento woman was making the cuts. She opened her dishwasher, filled with maybe five plates, a few cups, and a handful of utensils. “In the past, I would run this, but now I’m going to wait until tomorrow. See how easy that is?”

All I could think was who the fuck runs a dishwasher less than one-quarter full? Even when we’re flush with water, it’s a waste of electricity.

But instead of critiquing her wastefulness, we were applauding this woman for wasting less water than in the past. Meanwhile those of us who did what we were supposed to, waiting till the dishwasher was filled in the beforetimes, now must resort to “If it’s yellow, stay mellow.” Hey local news, wanna come film me on the shitter?

And don’t get me started on the Baby Boomer assholes across the street who still use the fucking hose to clean off their driveway once a week.

What made it more difficult for us during that last drought was that we had a baby between the base year and the twenty-percent-less year. A third member of the house means more bathing, more laundry, more dishes. Not to mention the occasional two-diaper-blow-out days, which require twelve extra showers and fifteen loads of laundry all in the same 24 hours. Plus maybe some napalm.

The city didn’t give a shit that we were now a larger household. Twenty percent is twenty percent. If Dishwasher Lady has to wait until her dishwasher is half full, then it isn’t too much to choose between the life of my newborn or the century-old oak tree in the yard.

I thought at the time (and still do) it would make more sense to focus on who was wasting water beforehand. Shouldn’t be too hard to get a spreadsheet that shows average water usage versus size of the household. Instead of twenty percent cuts across the board, you could make people above the mean cut thirty percent and those of us who weren’t wasteful in the first place only have to cut ten. 

I know, I know. Equal protection, blah, blah, blah. But what else are those Water Board employees supposed to do with their time when we aren’t bathing?

Back then, you see, we actually heeded the call and stopped using water. And the water board thanked us by raising our rates. They were having trouble filling their budget because we did what they told us to do. And dammit, exorbitant government salaries ain’t gonna pay themselves. 

That was 2015, though, not 2021. The last year has shown us that nobody will follow the government’s suggestions anymore. So hopefully my rates won’t go up again. Then when I run out of water, I’ll drink from the Baby Boomer driveway.

And this drought is a bad one. We’re only one year in. The winter we just had was the driest I’ve experienced in my thirty years in Sacramento. I had snow camping plans in Yosemite in January that was canceled due to COVID, because we all know that camping in late January is tantamount to the Sturgis festival. A week or two before it was canceled, I noticed we hadn’t had a storm yet. So it wasn’t going to be “snow camping,” just “really cold camping. Not nearly as fun. So yay for COVID cancellations, I guess?

We finally got a storm in mid-February. Note the singular. One storm. Granted, it lasted for the better part of two weeks, with maybe nine days out of fourteen giving us rain in the flatlands which translates to snow in the highlands. But even those “bad drought” years a decade ago gave us four or five of those stormy stretches per winter. 

We’re already seeing the repercussions of this dry winter. Normally our fire season doesn’t start till September. Yes, we have a fire season. Five straight years of everything from Daughter’s cheerleading practice to my school being canceled due to “smoke” means it’s a season. As predictable as flowers coming out in spring and (at least in theory) rain and snow in winter. But this year, the fires started in July. If you live in the continental United States, I’ve heard you’ve become aware of our smoke, as the wind decided to blow east for awhile. In the past six weeks, two of Daughter’s four cheerleading events have been canceled, plus her Girl Scout “bridging” ceremony. My high school has canceled a football game, too, and if COVID taught us nothing else, it’s that high schools really, really hate canceling sporting events. Cancel class? Sure, no problem. But what if one of our athletes makes it big? What’s our nerdy valedictorian going to miss out on with no classes, failing to save the planet or cure cancer? Big fucking deal. Our linebacker might mention us on ESPN!!!

Regardless, these cancellations usually don’t happen till October or November, when what remains of the foliage is nice and crunchy. These cancellations started in August. If there’s anything left in the state to burn, the next six weeks might be one hell of a hellscape.

Made even worse by my selfish decision to take a shower. 

For real, this drought is extreme. I won’t inundate you with all the easily googleable pictures of what our lakes are supposed to look like and what they actually look like. Suffice it to say that many of the hydroelectric turbines in our dams are no longer running. Ghost towns that were flooded when the lakes were made close to a hundred years ago are all of a sudden above ground and, let me tell you, those ghosts are PISSED!

Actually, it’s the government that’s pissed, because people are taking olde tyme tools and shit from these towns and we’re being told, “No, no, those are historical artifacts. Bad people. No taking them from their watery graves. They need to be studied by historians!”

To which we’re all like, “If this shit was so important, why didn’t y’all scuba to the bottom of the lake over the last eighty years to get them?” 

After all, some of these were gold rush towns. If I find any gold, historical preservation can kiss my ass.

So here we are, once again, with the water restrictions. We have to reduce our water usage by twenty percent. If they set the high water mark (pun intended) to what we used in 2019, I’d be fine with it. But they didn’t. They set it to last year.

Does anyone remember what last year looked like? Hindsight being 2020, and all that.

If you’ve forgotten it, put it all out of your mind like the trauma it was, I’ll remind you. We were in the middle of a pandemic. I know, it seems so long ago now that we all got vaccinated and no longer have to worry about… 

What’s that? Barely sixty percent? And the rest are taking horse tranquilizers instead? I assume they’re taking it suppository style? Horse sized?

Regardless, some of us are at least heading back to work. As a teacher, I spent August and September of 2020 averaging 2-3 showers a week. The only people who might be offended were contractually obligated to live with me. Now I’m in front of classrooms containing 40 teenagers at a time. No Zoom filters for blurring out my grungy hair.

Daughter’s going to school now, too. Wife, similarly, is attending more meetings in person. The social contract dictates showering, y’all.

I came up with a little bit of a workaround. On Wednesdays, we do college day at school. Years ago, I bought hats for a bunch of minor colleges like the Kansas City Kangaroos and the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks to wear on Wednesdays. Not because they’re good colleges or anything, but because I liked their logos. Back then, I wore a tie to school every day and wearing a hat with the tie once a week was my rebellion against a self-imposed dress code.

That’s all gone out the window in COVID teaching. If I have to wear a mask, I’m not wearing a tie. Seems overkill. But like a preacher’s daughter in college, now that the restrictions are lifted, I’ve become like every other history teacher in the world. Cargo shorts and flip flops for the win. I have yet to decide what, if anything, I’ll reverse when the masks come off. But now that Newsome survived his recall, I don’t see masks coming off for a few years.

But since we still allegedly have college day on Wednesday’s (not that it’s ever announced or adhered to by administration or other teachers anymore), Iwent back to wearing my college hats on Wednesdays. Which means I can usually escape without a shower on Wednesdays. Isn’t that why God invented hats in the first place? I can also try to go the weekend without showering. Saturday isn’t too bad but woe unto the poor soul I encounter on that Sunday evening trip to the grocery store.

Unfortunately that’s still four showers a week, double the amount I took last year. And that was before I broke down last Wednesday. It had been a long night and it turns out I use those showers for more than cleanliness. Sometime nothing opens those eyes quite like the stream and the steam. I also use that time to mini lesson plan, in the form of “what the fuck am I teaching today?” Oh right, government policy.

It’s an odd juxtaposition from last year, when that very grocery store trip was the most exciting outing of the week, necessitating not only a shower but maybe a shave and a tuxedo. Not a shave and a haircut, mind you, as the latter required human contact. Nowadays, I’m doing my weekly grocery shopping going on 72 hours of funk. Complete with sweaty ash from brief stints outside

I feel sorry for all the old folks also doing their weekly shopping on Sunday nights. Hopefully they can’t smell me over their arthritis cream. Otherwise they’re in for a rude awakening.

Meh. It’s their own damn fault. They were probably watering their driveways all day.

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