As I write, a lush, late-summer rain falls quietly outside. It’s a good thing, too, because my area has seen one of the driest Augusts on record, with voluntary water restrictions announced a few weeks ago. Everything is crispy and brown. So this rain is good in two ways: it is soaking my parched garden. And it is saving me from further becoming the self-righteous old sprinkler police. I finally understand why tribes used to go to war over watering holes.
Here’s how it went: the house at the foot of my hill just sold to new owners. It’s positioned facing up my hill, so that I have to look at it every time I leave my block. First, they absolutely mutilated the bushes on the property. Then, they lined the front of it with trash for weeks on end. Then they left the front strewn with plastic toys and tricycles. Then they seeded the brown dirt with grass. And began watering it relentlessly.
I watched this day in and day out, even as I saw my own beloved plants suffering. My irises turned brown at the tips. My new rose bush and a hydrangea grew sad and limp. Still, no matter what time I drove by, someone seemed to be standing outside this house with a hose on. Their grass grew green and springy. And, I’ll admit, I stewed.
Finally, a few days after a robocall from our local water utility outlining the usage restrictions, I drove past the house on my way to run some errands. Water gushing full stream. After about a half an hour in town, I drove past it on my way home. Water = still going. I did a few things at the house and then had to run out again. By this point, at least an hour must have elapsed from the first time I drove past the first time. As I approached the corner, I could see that the woman wasn’t just spraying from her hose, still, but that now she was haphazardly waving the stream of water at her house. She was watering her house, people. And that’s when I finally broke. Because the restrictions are still voluntary, I knew a call to the town or the cops would do nothing. It was time to take matters into my own hands.
I tried to put on my most neighborly smile (I almost surely failed). “Hi!” I called out. “I noticed you’re new here. I was wondering if you got the robocall that we’re under water restrictions?”
She stared at me and sputtered out something about her husband.
“Okay,” I said. “Because we are. Just wanted you to be aware.”
When I came back from my errands another 20 minutes later, she was still watering her lawn. As she was the next day.
This is where the story gets hilarious. A few days after that, I had a girlfriend over for a bottle of wine and some giggles (we will call her Jane, to protect my gossip sources). She lives a few blocks away, so I told her the story. A few days after that, my friend called me.
“So, you’re infamous,” Jane said.
“What do you mean?”
In one of those weird coincidences that can only happen in a town of eight thousand (like mine), Jane’s daughter had been playing with another little girl. That little girl’s mother had engaged Jane in small talk and, of all things, the water restrictions came up. The woman told Jane the following story (with no knowledge that Jane knows me or, in fact, of who I am):
Her sister had recently bought a new house in town. A few days before, some crazy woman had screamed at her poor sister from a car while she was innocently watering her lawn. Her poor sister was so unhappy about it she immediately went inside and looked up the water restrictions, which clearly state that there is an exception for new lawns. (Ummm… what?!? There isn’t. The announcement specifically requests that we refrain from watering lawns). When Jane asked where her sister had bought the house, the woman told her: on the street at the foot of my hill.
For the record, there was no screaming or even raising my voice, she didn’t run inside traumatized, but kept emptying the reservoir only her property for a good, long time and… an exception for new lawns? Seriously?!? I didn’t know whether to be livid or amused at my infamy, derived from this inaccurate tale.
I have, like Inigo Montoya of the Princess Bride, what you could call an overdeveloped sense of justice. I want things to be right. I want things to be fair. I want to imagine I live in a world where people behave responsibly and not like selfish a–holes. I want to be bound by the shared covenant that if I’m letting my adored plants turn to dust then everyone who partakes of this shared resource with me will do the same because it’s for the greater good.
So, here we are, the luscious rain saving not just my thirsty plants (please live, apple tree!) but also me. I am saved (at least temporarily) from becoming the town grouch.
Put down your garden hose!