…without boiling it first, that is.
For the benefit of our out-of-town readers, who may not be aware of our fair city’s tale of woe, Vancouver’s citizens and those of many surrounding municipalities have been warned not to drink our tap water. As a result of an unusually severe rainstorm last week the beautiful Capilano Water Reservoir, serving the Greater Vancouver Regional District, has been contamined with an ungainly amount of brown mucky stuff that makes the water suspect. We may not brush our teeth or drink from it until further notice.
This prohibition unleashed a panicked rush for bottled water that has supposedly emptied all major grocery stores and even corner mom-and-pop convenience shops of virtually every single bottle of water. (I say supposedly because despite what I read in the paper, I’ve been able to buy water every day since the "sell-out"… I’m either unusually lucky, or [gasp] the media might be exaggerating things a little)
The stories I read in my local papers, of nervous shoppers jockeying for position in pre-dawn line-ups in front of Walmarts and Safeways, of obnoxiously rude coffee drinkers denied their morning fix, and other colorful reactions, make one shake one’s head at the softness of fellow-citizens. Things are not that bad!
It’s not as if the water is poisonous. It’s just dirty, seemingly from having the embankments cave in a little at the Reservoir. How many of us had brushed our teeth, had our morning coffees, even served our pets their refilled water dishes, before learning of the water advisory admonishing us to steer clear of our city water, yet still live to tell the tale?
I took a trip up to the Water Reservoir myself, yesterday, to see what I could see. The water level in the Reservoir was startlingly low, especially considering the heavy rainfall lately. Lots of trees in the water, large flottillas of lumber in palettes several feet wide, although whether they fell in from the storm or have been placed in the reservoir, in order to help purity the water in some way, I don’t know, layman environmentalist that I am.
The always-spectacular waterfall at the Cleveland Dam there offered cascading water that, instead of the usual greenish-blue color, looked grotesquely sewage-brown… disconcertingly ugly.
And so we boil our tap water in preparation to cook and clean with it. Is that such a big deal?
One of the free local papers today had a series of embarrassing anecdotes from coffee shop clerks recounting tales of frankly embarrassing over-reactions from their patrons. You’d think we were in a third-world earthquake zone, to hear of some of these folks unreasonable behavior. It is providing a stark lesson that, as adults, our lives can be ennobled by choice, by how we choose to respond to that which affects us, and how we negotiate our adaptation to that affect. This ability to choose our response, serves to elevate us from other animals, in that we are supposed to be able to muzzle natural tendencies, natural urges, natural reactions, and instead enforce human reactions… meaning, thinking long-term and in wide enough perspective to size up a situation rationally, involving the mind as well as the heart.
Upon learning of the inconvenience caused by no longer trusting our water supply as before, we could simply run wild in emotional and childish panic, or stop and think for a minute how to win through the coming nuisance. Each reaction is a choice, every action is ultimately a reaction to circumstances around us. Part of the purpose of "growing up" is to train ourselves into adopting the incentive to choose a reaction that does not denude oneself of basic dignity, of fundamental sacredness: that we must feel duty-bound to act above the animal. This often requires us to think a second time, in order to adopt a measured response, to troubling circumstances.
We could choose to settle for an obvious first response: choose to be victims, acting like children trapped in the present tense, and bemoan our current situation (or, according to many shameful accounts I read, accuse the coffee shop personnel of participating in some petty conspiracy to deny patrons their morning brew out of sadistic malice and suicidal business practices).
Hopefully we will instead choose to be more dignified in our resolve, and act like adults, thinking with a bit more long-term perspective, thinking by enlisting our imagination to see beyond the immediate present, into the murky mists of our future... a future often murkier than the brown sludge currently emerging from my kitchen sink.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go have a drink of water… I’ve given myself quite a thirst with this post!