Yesterday, fellow blogger Marilyn Armstrong posted a rare — for her — piece of fiction. She wove a yarn about a woman named Maggie who had received residential water bill in the amount of $5,000 dollars. The water company claimed that she had used half a million gallons of water even though her modest house that she lived alone in was on a 6,000 square foot plot of land and had just one bathroom.
Marilyn’s yarn reminded me of something that happened to me when my two kids were quite young, so in the mid-eighties. But the story I’m about to relate to you is not a piece of fiction. It’s not a fanciful tale or a charming yarn. It is a recounting of actual events.
It started during a particularly severe heat wave. Temperatures were hovering in the upper nineties for days. Late one afternoon I came home from work and took note of how green our front lawn was when all of the other front lawns in the neighborhood were brown.
I walked into the house through the garage and saw my wife in the kitchen putting the final touches on our dinner. I kissed her hello and then said, “I just noticed how green our lawn is.”
She looked at me and smiled. She said, “Well, you know how hot it’s been, right? So I put out our lawn sprinkler and the kids have been playing in the water in the front yard in their bathing suits to cool off. They have such a great time and, as a bonus, our grass is beautifully green.”
I honestly didn’t give it much thought after that, especially since the heat wave had finally broken a few days later and the daily sprinkler games had ended.
Before I continue with my story, I have to remind you that this took place in the mid-eighties, when the costs of gas, electric, and water utilities were very inexpensive compared with those utility costs today. I must also point out that my quarterly water bill at the time averaged around fifty dollars.
So when I opened up my water bill that arrived about three weeks later, I was shocked to see a quarterly invoice for about $800. Like Maggie, the protagonist in Marilyn’s yarn, I called the water utility company and complained that something was wrong. They said they’d look into it and they even sent someone to my house to check the water meter and to check the system for leaks.
The meter was fine, I was told, and there were no leaks in the water system. But there was a span of about six days — days that happened to be coincident with the severe heat wave from about a month earlier — where my water usage had spiked to around ten times our home’s average daily use.
After hearing what the water company’s findings were, I asked my wife to remind me about that period of time when she let the kids play in the sprinkler. “How long each day did the kids play in the sprinkler during the heat wave?” I asked her.
“I don’t know exactly,” she said. “I’d turn on the sprinkler probably mid-morning and turn it off by late afternoon. Why do you ask?”
I told her about our $800 quarterly water bill and told her that it was about sixteen times more than our typical quarterly water bill. And then I told her how much water we consumed during that period when she had the sprinkler going for most of the days during the heat wave.
My wife got a very confused look on her face. She then said to me, “I don’t understand how this could happen. I thought we only got charged for the hot water we use.”
This true story was written for Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt, where we are asked to use the word “yarn” in our posts.