It is my considered opinion, based on my own experience and that of others, that civilization is a thin veneer which can easily be scraped off, when we are deprived for any significant period of time of one or more basic utilities. I'm not really talking about Internet or telephone service here, although the loss of those can be disconcerting. At my house, the basic utilities include gas for heating, cooking, and hot water, and to date, that service has never been interrupted. However, the electricity has gone out during ice storms; we've had quite a few problems with the septic tank over the years; and yesterday and the day before, we were without water due to a break in the line between the house and the meter, i.e., my responsibility. We didn't quite become feral human beings, but it was close.
My gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, Georgia, was upset by the water break. As she is THE MOTHER, I suppose this is both her right and her duty. Her position is understandable, as she went downstairs early Sunday morning to find the ground level flooded, which includes the apartment where Liz, Vincent, and most importantly, baby Trey, live. She immediately did the things that had to be done, that she could do: she moved Baby Trey and his parents upstairs, woke me up, and notified our church group that we would not be there that morning.
At that point, it became my responsibility, but I'm not sure that helped at all with her concern level. Fortunately, I've had experience with this. 15 to 20 years ago, the water line broke, and so I knew what to look for and how to fix it. On the other hand, physically I am not as capable as I was 15 to 20 years ago. Let me give you, in abbreviated form, what happened over the next 36 hours:
I enlisted son-in-law Vincent and 11 year old son Kenneth in the repair project. I showed them how to turn off the water at the street, and we located the break in the line by the presence of standing water. We excavated. We pumped out muddy water, several times. We bought things from the hardware store. We attempted the repair, and were 90% successful (which means we could temporarily turn the water back on so that we could flush the toilets). We realized when we reached our limit, and called the plumber. He showed up 20 hours later, and because of our prep work in excavating, was able to complete the repair in 2 hours.
Thus ends the Mud Plus Misery; now we go to Gratitude And Joy.
Gratitude and Joy item number one: Vanessa had been telling me for a week that she could hear water running, but I had consistently blown off her concern. That's just the sound of the furnace, I said. If you can't find trouble, you'll make trouble, I teased. Now, a lesser woman would have begun and ended all subsequent conversations with "I told you so!" However, not one single time did Vanessa say that, or even anything close to that! Not even "I thought that sounded like water running!" That gave me a number of perfect opportunities to point out to her and to others that she had been right, and I had been wrong. Therefore, she gains recognition and appreciation not only for her perception in hearing the water running, but also for her calm and restraint in the way she handled the entire situation. In addition to that, I received a refresher course in the reasons I should listen to my wife, as well as a reminder that I don't know everything.
Gratitude and Joy item number two: I received immediate feedback on the wisdom of not making impulse purchase decisions. Saturday night, I received an advertisement for a product I would very much like to own, for the bargain price of $439. I sat at my computer, knowing I had enough money in the account, and listened to myself convincing myself that I owed it to myself to purchase this item. In the end, my frugality held out, and I didn't buy anything. That's good, because if I had made the purchase, I would not have been able to enjoy it, since I needed that money to go somewhere else, namely fixing the water leak. So, I made a good decision, and found out IMMEDIATELY that it was a good decision. Usually, it's not that fast.
Gratitude and Joy item number three: although we're very happy having baby Trey and his parents live with us, their goal is to have an apartment on their own. That means coming up with deposits in addition to all the life expenses that come with having a baby. The broken water main provided Vincent with an opportunity to help the family, and earn some money at the same time. Although there is a time and a place for giving presents, I think a man is happiest when he can provide for his family by working.
Gratitude and Joy item number four: I was wet, cold, and pretty much covered in mud. It was Sunday evening, and we didn't have running water. Another grandson and his parents live close by, and his daddy, who happens to be my firstborn son, has a birthday this week. So I called, explained about the water, and asked if I could come over to their house and take a shower. And I took the opportunity to put together his birthday package, which is a family heirloom, the first Patterson Boy firearm ever, a Mossberg 500 12 gauge pump, with accessories. He was pleasantly surprised. My grandson was pleasantly surprised too, because he got to talk with his Papa about being covered with mud. He really wanted to see the mud that I had left in the bottom of the bathtub, but I had to disappoint him there, because I had cleaned up after myself.
As I explained to Vanessa, if you have the resources to deal with them, problems aren't really problems; they're just incidents or opportunities. The key to keep from being overwhelmed when bosses yell, cars break, or water floods the basement, is to determine what resources you need, and then use them. That's not to say we need to run around smashing water pipes; in fact, that's a really bad idea. Instead, spend your money on buying a high quality wet-vac, good shovels, and never miss an opportunity to learn something. That will increase your resource base immensely.
And that's always a good idea.