Water works

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on November 29, 2019

Thursday afternoon, the phone rings. It’s the landlord. “Majoola,” he says, “hullo!” He’s unable to say my name correctly. But I don’t care because he’s always very friendly. Plus he looks a bit like Thor. Like in the recent Hollywood movie. Well — not EXACTLY. There’s no hammer, for instance. No shiny armour, no thunderbolts and lightning. Also he’s of Greek descent, not Scandinavian.

Okay never mind Thor! Back to the phone call: “So there’s a problem with the water heater,” he says. “It has to be replaced. So there won’t be any hot water tomorrow. Okay?” When the landlord says the water’s going to be cut off for the day it’s not as if the tenant can say much aside from, “Okay! Right! Thank you for telling me!” I put the phone down and say to Bins, “Better have your shower right now. Coz tomorrow we die.” Meaning, the water’s going to be cut off and life as we know it will grind to a halt.

“Huh?” says Bins, not looking up from his computer screen. We don’t have a TV, so he’s been watching the impeachment hearings non-stop, on his computer, using headphones. I remove an earpiece from his ear and shriek, “The water! It’s being cut off tomorrow from 8.30 onwards! And I have a deadline to meet tonight! And we’re going out recycling with Muriel! And without water we won’t be able to flush the toilets! And I’m too stressed to stop yelling!”

Bins refuses to hear anything when I shriek at him, so it takes at least an hour and several cups of tea before he accepts that there might be a minor problem. “It’s the hot water. Not the water tank. Stop worrying!” I flounce away, muttering about the refusal of some people to understand that a problem with the heater can easily result in some catastrophe with the water supply in general and then how will I meet my deadlines?

Later that evening, the new graphics software I’m using suddenly refuses to cooperate. By the time I finish my cartoon strip, it’s 3am. I decide I must have a shower before the water gets cut off. I get to bed at 4 and wake up at 6 to fill up bottles and buckets “just in case”. At 9, we head out to the UPS store because Bins has to post something. Then we rush back so that I have time to organise the recycling before Muriel arrives.

She calls to says she’s not ready to recycle, but we go out anyway. Then we get back just as Thor arrives, wanting to get in to check the pipes. My house now looks like a warehouse for water bottles and garbage. Fortunately, Thor’s too stressed to notice. “It’ll be turned back on at 5!” he hollers over his shoulder before dashing off again.

Sure enough, it is. “You worried for no reason!” chortles Bins. But I’ve fallen asleep and refuse to hear him.

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, US, in this weekly column

Published on November 28, 2019

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