Wednesday, February 27, 2013

running out of water

"Hmm. We seem to be out of water," I observed to myself with a mouthful of toothpaste and face full of soap, spitting white toothpaste/soap specks at the mirror at a rate that would have made Sheldon Cooper cry. I was turning the taps on and off, but getting no response. Interesting.

"What do you mean we're out of water?" my husband asked sleepily, still in bed.

"We're out of water," I repeated, stumbling through the hallway, blinded by the soap in my eyes.

Did you know it's possible to run out of water up in the North? I didn't. Actually, I should have known it might happen, because occasionally I've seen colleagues coming to work with a toothbrush and dart into the office bathroom, followed by urgent phone calls to the city. Sometimes the sewage system will freeze too, which shouldn't really surprise anyone with the -56°C winter we've been having. But anyway, now it had happened to us, and I was left standing over the sink, wondering how to get the water back on. But more importantly, how to get the soap off my face so I could get the water back on.

The ground is often too frozen up here in the Arctic to be digging complex piping systems. Instead, we have our water delivered to us by truck, and our sewage also carted away by truck. Usually, the system works pretty well and you never even notice a thing. But sometimes you'll use up a bit more water than usual, or the delivery trucks get mixed up and go to the wrong house, or there'll be a bad storm and the trucks aren't able to make it through. Then you're left on your own, looking for water.

there are a lot of tough jobs up here. This city worker is climbing up a frozen electric pole to do repairs.

Where on earth could I get some water so I can wash the soap off my face? The store was too far, and besides, I'm not going to walk through town and earn the nickname soap face. Then I remembered that we lived in the Arctic, it was winter, and there was free water every where. In the form of ice and snow.

And that's how I found myself kneeling in the snow bank outside my house, scooping snow into every pot and pan we had in the house. We melted the snow on the stove. Imagine that: getting water by melting snow. I felt like freaking McGyver. Survivorman! SurvivorLawyer!

As it turned out, getting the water delivery truck to come wasn't very hard at all - we just made a quick phone call. Soon enough we had all the water we needed, plus one more Arctic life lesson: always keep a couple of bottles of water handy, just in case the water runs out again and you're in the middle of your morning rituals.

"do not freeze."