A Time for Norman Paperman

It’s not by chance I’m reading Don’t Stop the Carnival by Herman Wouk. If you haven’t read it, it’s a wonderful glimpse into island living. And one of the things plaguing Norman Paperman throughout his encounters with owning his Caribbean Hotel in Amerigo is water. He’s either got too much or not enough. Our issues seem to be with plumbing.

Our water pressure doesn’t exist in the showers. We have two shower heads that need to be replaced to resolve this, but can only find one shower head on island. So, we haven’t been able to use our 2nd bathroom’s shower since we arrived, unless we’re prepared to take 30-minute showers exiting the shower with soap bubbles still frothing in our hair and a nice milky residue that needs to be toweled off of our bodies. We have a leaky toilet that was fixed by replacing the toilet tank. We couldn’t find a matching toilet tank on island, so we had to jerry-rig it to fit our commode. Problem resolved - not. I went to the beach with the kids only to return home to a bathroom full of water. The entire commode had to be replaced because we can’t find an available toilet tank on island that will fit our model. But we had to wait to replace it because all the stores were closed (and the hardware store is open late…until 5pm). All was fixed in the morning by Hedley (our landlord). We now have a working commode, and it works better than the previous one for certain.

Just when we thought our plumbing problems were resolved, Allen had to take Kaya on a late-night walk (3:30am he grumbled out the door telling Kaya she REALLY better have to go to the bathroom). He came back 15-minutes later to inform me that we had a swimming pool growing in our yard. I glanced out the window to see the glistening water reflecting the moon’s light. And it was not a beautiful view. I would have sworn I smelled sewage, too.

I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night thinking of what this could mean and how much it could be costing us (water and electricity are extremely expensive on this island, as with many islands). So, I stayed up to be ease my pain by reading about how much worse things were for Norman Paperman. After all, I don’t own this house, and as bad as the plumbing issues have been, they’re all easily resolvable and don’t involve the misery of dozens of guests.

The next morning I called Hedley at 7am. He lives next door, which is a blessing for us, but may be a curse for him. I met him outside with Harry on his bicycle and Daisy ready for her morning stroll. “What do you think it is?” I said. Hedley took a long draw on his cigarette. “I’m still trying to figure it out. It’s leaking from here,” he said sticking his finger into the ground, “and I don’t know what that could be.” Then he said the words I wanted to hear, “But it’s not your water.” I pretty much didn’t care what the problem was after that, so long as the problem wasn’t costing me money and didn’t mean ripping up pipes and turning off our water for days as they diagnosed the issue. “I think it might be our gardening water line, but it’s off and I can’t figure where the pressure’s coming from to send it into your yard.”

Harry and I went ahead on our walk while Hedley went into diagnostic mode checking all around the complex. We finished greeting Hedley upon arrival. “Well,” he said taking another draw on the cigarette, “the lines are crossed here and it seems like a gasket has blown somewhere, but the water is stopped.”

That was enough for me. Time to go have a relaxing morning with my whole grain bagel, fresh mango and tea. The island is smiling on us today. Maybe we’ll head to the beach and then make some bread or a carrot cake. Sorry, Norm, but it looks like there’s no Gull Reef Club here today.


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