Frau and A-E’s Canisteo hut was without water for too much of a June weekend. Consider how horrible that week would have been if not for the Department of Public Works staff in A-E’s favorite village and the couple’s favorite plumber. Those frequently unheralded workers can become lifesavers when water pressure drops to almost zero for families who habitually bathe, drink water and, you’ll pardon the expression, flush toilets.
The hut is a circa 1860 house with crusty original galvanized pipes that depend for water on a village infrastructure that probably has been around since the Garfield administration. To many, that sounds like the edge of disaster. Here’s the story, minus detours about elevated blood pressure, similarly concerning headaches and too frequent ramped up frustrations.
After a late afternoon telephone call about water pressure that had plummeted sinisterly close to zero, plumbing genius Earl raced hut-ward and quickly calculated the tangled collection of elderly pipes, courtesy of some external aquatic demon, wasn’t receiving any village water. He immediately contacted the DPW in A-E‘s favorite village to hypothesize that a possibly sinister blockage of potable water was the reason we were drier than the citizens of Hades Junction in the middle of the Mojave on a sweltering Mid-August afternoon.
DPW staff Dennis, Bradley and Marcus arrived within minutes and determined that the aging village infrastructure probably let us down again.
Sensitive readers: beware!
A warning to those with sensitivities to written descriptions of certain household-generated pollutants: the next paragraph discusses why A-E will use the term “angels” for those who labor unflinchingly in frequently distasteful environments.
Historical note about the word "again": Soon after Frau and A-E relocated a decade ago from Dixie, our waste water outflow stopped because, DPW angels discovered, the electric utility had dropped a heavy two-story-tall pole on the big plastic pipe that permitted us to use the village waste water transportation and treatment facilities. Yeah, the good news was that the electric utility paid for recovery but the several days of excavating the side street, sidewalk and lawn made clear the severity and size of the emergency construction project.
Forward a decade to our most recent headache: The DPW trio spoke not a word but went straight to their work, to coin a decidedly unseasonable phrase, and discovered the antique pipe that transmitted water to our hut had opened and created a mini-aquifer more than six feet under the portion of Elm Street that has covered our water supply conduit since the tail end of the 19th century. Nobody official or any casual neighbors seemed surprised. DPWers have bailed out residents of at least three neighboring blocks summer and winter since before the start of the twenty-first century.
In fact, Brad noted, a favored piece of village equipment has transformed back-breaking bone-shaking jack-hammering to a backhoe, so frequent have infrastructural ruptures become village phenomena.
Those two challenges the self-proclaimed Bard of Canisteo has described here remind A-E of articles in the Boston Globe about Boston DPW staff who at least annually in the 1980s found hollowed logs that had been piping water through the city since, many civil engineers hypothesized, at least the early 19th century. Those commentaries sounded like warnings from ancient Rome to beware the ides of March when mighty rushing Spring-time torrents flowed through tributaries of the Po River.
The secondary point of this essay is, probably by definition, that aging infrastructure can be annoying whether it gives up in winter or summer weather.
But the primary focus of this word-smithery is that some public servants don’t believe that the term "civil servant" is an oxymoron but rather a phrase that describes enthusiastic and necessary dedication to helping those who live in the commonweal.
Thanks, Dennis, Bradley and Marcus, for quickly getting water flowing and Earl for knowing whom to contact
The writer of this note scribbles a weakly column in The Spectator.