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Water torture can drive you crazy

According to legend, one of the most effective forms of torture over the centuries has been water torture. There are many forms, but the most famous is Chinese water torture, where the victim is tied down and water drips slowly on his forehead from above, one drip at a time, in a random rhythm. It drives them crazy. “Stop — I’ll tell you everything.”

We have our own form of water torture this winter and it’s driving us crazy. Normally, our winter frost goes down into the ground to a depth of about 70 inches. This winter the depth is as deep as 96 inches — that’s eight feet of frost. That takes the frost down to the level of city water mains. The pipes from the mains to our homes are 1-inch and 3/4-inch and when they freeze — and plenty of them have frozen — there is no more water in your home. The owner is responsible for any thawing (not un-thawing, as some say) expense and repair, and we’ve heard of bills for digging and thawing that have run from $3,000 to $8,000.

By mid-February there was an epidemic of freeze-ups and the city advised residents to keep faucets running, days and nights, with a pencil-thick stream to prevent freeze up. We won’t even be charged for any surplus over and above our average usage. This will continue until further notice.

That pencil-thick stream and the constant trickling sound is water torture. You must understand that many home owners are of the “Baby Boomer” generation, whose parents got married during the Great-Depression/World War II era when an entire country either had almost nothing or what little they could get was limited or rationed. They developed a minimalist philosophy and an extreme frugal approach to consumption, spending and waste. They weren’t cheap, they were thrifty — disciplined.

They developed disciplined habits: turn off the lights; don’t drive if you can walk; clean your plate; if there is milk in your bowl when the cereal is gone, tip up the bowl and drink the milk; don’t take more than you can use; put patches in your socks, pants and shirts; squeeze the last drop of toothpaste from the tube; pass clothes from brother to brother, sister to sister; get shoes repaired; stop to pick up a penny on the sidewalk; home haircuts; home perms; one-car families; one or two bedroom homes with one bathroom (usually inside); black and white TV; waste not, want not, AND — don’t leave the water running. You know the drill, or you’ve read about it or been told about it. It was real.

The children who grew up in those homes — the Boomers — absorbed that survival mentality and ended up with what I call the Great Generation/World War II DNA. It was in their genes. Even when things got much better, it was still in their genes. And they know that in many parts of the undeveloped world, there is a serious lack of drinking water. Many folks have to carry pots for miles to get water for their families from a village well. California has a serious drought.

Now these Boomers have pencil-thick streams of water trickling in their kitchens or bathrooms — going down their drains — and it’s driving them crazy. That water is being metered, and even though they’re told they will not be charged, it’s still driving them crazy. It’s water being wasted, in a world of litter and waste that doesn’t have enough water, and their DNA is reacting like they were being tied down and absorbing water drip…drip…dripping slowly on their foreheads — water torture.