Anxiety Note:
Panne d’Eau
9 November 2018

¶ It’s unreasonable, I know, but I can’t seem to help it: every time the building announces a partial or complete water shutdown, I go into Chicken Little mode, overwhelmed by the fear that, once they turn the water off, they won’t be able to turn it back on. They’ll break something important in the course of maintenance, or the pipes will be discovered to be radioactive — something catastrophic. Usually, the shutdowns are partial, involving the hot water only, and most are scheduled to coincide with the working day. But the latest was a complete shutdown, beginning, ominously early, at nine in the evening, and running until six. This kind of thing ruins my whole day, and often the day before.

Oh, I prepare well enough. I make sure that drinking water and ice cubes are in topped-off supply, and I fill a ginormous watering can and a large mop bucket with tap water, in order to flush toilets, although that is rarely necessary. I set out a bowl of water in the sink for dipping my fingers in case they need a spot of cleaning. (A trick I learned from Babette’s Feast.) 

And the part of me that isn’t Chicken Little is pretty sure that the water is not going to be cut off at nine, that, in fact, it might still be flowing just past eleven, although at a low pressure. Service will certainly be restored (although with probably rather brown water) by six in the morning. To this worldly wisdom, accrued over decades of living in this building, Chicken Little replies, “There’s always a first time.”

So, last night, Kathleen came home somewhat early, and we ate Chinese, right out of the containers. I had already run the dishwasher, so I washed the chopsticks myself. Then I took my evening shower, and tried to relax.

Chicken Little’s warning turned out not to apply. The watering can and the mop bucket are still brimming, untouched. It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that a building repairman snipped Verizon’s master cable a few years ago, and Verizon refused to repair it, putting an end to genuine landline service to all 690 apartments. And let’s not forget the idiot who cut into a gas pipe. Chicken Little is not entirely unreasonable.

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