I hesitate to ever label myself as a morning person because while I’ve lately been waking myself up at stupid o’clock, I have to take a few minutes to stew, motionless, in deep hatred before I impulsively start volleying house plants out my window. (They’ve been through so much already.)
I can’t remember the last time I woke up to my alarm. My body’s learned I never give myself enough time in the morning for what I need to accomplish—9AM when you have a 9:30 class, some assignments to finish, and take 30 minutes to make breakfast? Really?—and just jolts me out of slumber in some sort of guilt-shock to the cranium. So my body’s mechanism ends up saving me most of the time, but that doesn’t mean I can’t despise it.
Around 6AM this Monday, I woke up to a chain of unread messages from my org’s GroupMe. (Since I last wrote, lots of developments have occurred, one being that I joined a service org in which new members have 7AM meetings. You know you’ve really done it to yourself when 7AM is the only “reasonable” time everyone can make.) I turned off my 6:45 alarm and read the messages.
Apparently, the city of Austin had issued an unprecedented boil water notice. Concerned org members sent reminder texts that we boil water prior to drinking, cooking, etc. I’d also gotten the city’s notice as the first notification. It was too early to question orders, so I didn’t check for an explanation, shut my phone, brushed my teeth, and filled our only two pots to boil on the stove.
I hadn’t realized how long water takes to reach a rolling boil. My room isn’t next to the kitchen, so I walked back and forth nonstop, hoping the couple second’s difference would transform fizzes to angry sputtering. And when they finally came, I had to turn off the stove before the three-minute rolling boil mark because I was going to be late to my meeting.
On campus, the boil water notice was the center of attention. Drinking fountains had been covered in caution tape or black trash bags like crime scene victims. Students discussed the cause—high levels of silt from flood waters were slowing down filtration—and debated whether we could use the water to wash dishes.
Friend: Of course you can. What’s cleaner than detergent?
Me: Are you still drinking tap water?
Friend’s opinion was invalidated.
Others complained about the time they didn’t before but now really didn’t have. Starbucks started only selling food. Three people separately compared our situation to that of a third-world country.
people from austin: save the planet!!!! go green!!! no plastic straws!!! bring your own bags!!! stop drinking bottled water!!!
also people from austin: *stands in lines to buy cases of bottled water because boiling water is too much of an inconvenience*
— Kelly (@kjellyy) October 23, 2018
As for me, I was suffering. I don’t drink enough water regularly, only thinking to quench my thirst when my tongue’s practically shriveled, so the water bottle I carry around is usually empty. I hadn’t had anything to drink since yesterday, and I wouldn’t get home to boil more water until the night.
For a good hour, I agonized over buying a bottle of Topo Chico sparkling water from a dorm’s vending machine—for some reason I feel more justified buying overpriced sparkling water than regular water, even though the latter costs less. It’s just not special, I guess—and relented. I walked down before my 1PM discussion and pulled out my wallet from my backpack.
I probably hadn’t closed my water bottle properly, because all my bills were, in a cruel twist, wet. I inserted one into the machine several times the same exact way but expecting different results, to no avail. Figuring I deserved this, I went on about my day, waterless.
The rest of the water crisis can only be called that—a crisis. The dining halls were selling 24-packs of water for $15. H-E-B faced stockouts of water bottles. My poor roommate, in pouring boiled water into a glass filter, gave herself second-degree burns. The university started handing out water bottles at stations around campus. Students received an email that the notice would likely hold for up to two weeks.
And, thinking back to the morning, I realized I’d read the reminders to boil any water that’d come into contact with my mouth and then promptly gone on to brush my teeth, oblivious.
Update: The water boil notice was lifted four hours after I wrote this post. Update-update: I’m back.
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