And make mine extra-dry

In hard times, we make sacrifices for the common good. During World War Two, for example, people cut back on their use of sugar. I believe this enabled our troops to provide sugar to French candymakers, who gave free treats to the Nazis, causing innumerable cavities and untold suffering in the German lines. The war was won with bullets, bombs, and bad bicuspids.

Today, here in Ipswich, Massachusetts, we have plenty of sugar, but hardly any water. The Atlantic Ocean lies nearby, of course — 82,000,000,000,000,000,000 gallons, to be exact (that’s 82 billion billion). But hardly any of that water is available for us to use in our homes, because it’s full of salt, fish, and whatever fish produce for lack of toilets.

The skies have not produced much rain lately, so those romantic little streams that start up in the mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire haven’t been sending water downhill to us. Also, 12 other towns are siphoning water out of the Ipswich River, and the waterways that flow into the Ipswich, before the water gets to us. We think we’re great in lots of ways; but in terms of fresh water, we’re “the end of the line.”

Consequently, Vicki Halmen has declared a “water emergency” here in Ipswich. Vicki is our water and wastewater director. I believe we specify “water” as distinct from “wastewater” to make sure there’s no confusion between what comes in and what goes out.

A declared water emergency means our reservoir levels have fallen below 40% of normal conditions. (Coincidentally, in the pandemic, our emotional reservoir levels have also fallen below 40% of normal conditions. Facebook, however, has not yet declared a vitriol emergency.) We already couldn’t do any outdoor watering (fines up to $300), when it wasn’t yet an “emergency.” But now, we’re also being asked to conserve water indoors.

At my house, we’re doing our part.

  • We’ve dispensed with those silly myths about personal hygiene. There is really no need to do laundry so often. I’ve found that I can wear a shirt four or five times before moss begins growing on the fabric. And then, to be honest, the moss grows mostly under the arms and inside the collar, which means hardly anybody notices.
  • I’ve broken my showering habit too. This idea that you need a shower every day is really just the product of propaganda campaigns by soap and shampoo companies. In the Middle Ages, people typically bathed once a week, and usually in a river. Here in Ipswich, with the river dangerously low, it wouldn’t be prudent to use river water for your weekly bath — the water sticking to your body might have been needed at Zumi’s, to make a cup of coffee. But no worries; this is what cologne was invented for. Various brands work best at various stages of stink. As I understand it, for example, Versace Eros blends perfectly with the slime that occurs naturally on your skin after five days. Yes, there is a cumulative effect when an entire family avoids bathing, but it’s not all bad. Yesterday a skunk showed up in our backyard and was repelled by the stench.
  • My wife has taken to showering with her clothes on, addressing both the bathing and the laundering issues simultaneously.
  • Dishwashing consumes huge amounts of water, and unnecessarily. Use your silverware to scrape every possible ounce of food from the plate, lick your silverware thoroughly, and put your plate on the floor for your pets. When the animals are finished, stack the used plates in a special place. Next meal, use fresh plates. Eventually, you’ll run out of plates. But by this time, microorganisms will have cleaned the used plates, and moved on. Those plates will be just about good as new.
  • All of these measures, however, still fall short. So we’ve decided to send our kid to New York for college. This will cut our household water consumption by about a third.
  • And the cats’ water bowl? No problem. I’ve switched them to gin.


 Doug Brendel lives in Ipswich, Massachusetts, on Linebrook Road, soon to be renamed Linegulch Road because a brook requires water and there ain’t any. Visit Doug virtually at DougBrendel.com.

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