On Living in the First World

On Sunday afternoon/evening, I spent several hours boiling water by the hot pot load (fun trivia: my hot pot holds exactly one Nalgene-worth of water), washing dishes in my sink, and then disinfecting them via boiling water baths and microwaving.

There was a huge crack in a water main serving the Metro Boston area, so a huge chunk of eastern Massachusetts fell under a boil water order as of late afternoon on Saturday (unless you want to drink the Charles River, of course). Immediately, grocery stores were flooded with panicked citizens buying up all the bottled water they could find.

I went to the Stop & Shop by my apartment to purchase cupcake making supplies (it had been a long Free Comic Book Day of standing in the sun dressed like Princess Leia, and I had Spiderman cupcake papers and a new recipe for cookie-dough filled cupcakes. No boil water order was stopping my cupcake-making destiny!). Standing in line with my cupcake materials and bottle of Diet Coke, I watched frenzied people piling water onto their carts. People were shoving. Apparently in a few communities, there were actual physical fights. A few areas had water-distribution points where they were handing out bottled water; off-duty police officers were all called in to maintain order because of how people were behaving.

People–it’s water. Boil it! Get it to a rolling boil, hold it there for a minute or two, then fill a jug with it and let it cool, then put it in the fridge! It’s really not a big deal.

It’s amazing how quickly order disintegrates with something as simple as “don’t drink your tap water.” It’s becoming even more ridiculous this morning, as no one in Boston has their morning coffee–oh the surliness! (I made a big pot of coffee using one of my Nalgenes of water, so I’m feeling fine.)

Basically, I can’t help but be a little disappointed by how soft we’ve gotten. As one of my friends remarked yesterday, if anything ever REALLY goes wrong, we’re all so screwed, because clearly no one in this city is capable of coping. It IS a little hilarious, but it’s also sobering.

We would all do well to put into perspective the comfort we live in. All we need to do right now is boil some water. It’s not the end of the world. But people are panicking, breaking down, and even turning violent. What if we had a genuine food or fuel shortage? What if we lost power for an extended period?

First off, the next person who tries to tell me that government shouldn’t have such a hand in running things is going to get laughed at. Yep, the second the water is no longer government-approved, the city goes to hell in a hand basket. Nifty!

Anyways, I want to think that this little fracas will result in people thinking more about the privilege that we steep in daily. Even in my ghetto craphole of an apartment, I can normally switch on the tap 24/7 and have a glass of fresh, drinkable water. I wash my dishes without a second thought. I don’t worry about disinfecting my hands after washing. We brew pots of coffee in our office kitchen daily, simply by filling the coffee maker from the tap.

There are huge swaths of the world where this just isn’t the case. Not ever. Hell, there are huge swaths of the world where you can’t even SHOWER in the normal water. We’re still in the clear to bathe and do laundry. Honestly, I think just boiling water to drink and do dishes is a pretty minor inconvenience (plus we have so much technology to aid us). It’s easy enough for us to drive out to the grocery store and pick up a case of bottled water. Even under a boil water order, we have it so easy.

The sad thing, though, is that I doubt anyone is looking at it that way. We’re sitting around griping because Dunkin Donuts isn’t open.

Welcome to the First World, Boston.  Do you get it yet? Do you understand why so many foreigners want to come live in our country? Do you see how privileged and lucky we are? Do you realize how much we take for granted?

05/03/2010. Tags: , . Uncategorized.

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