Monday, March 30, 2020


The fact that I’m pretty much a loner, as most writers are, and rarely go out socially has been to my benefit during this pandemic crisis, because even though the governor has ordered everyone to stay at home for the next five weeks, it really hasn’t affected me much. What has affected me, however, is my house.

I’m pretty sure it needs an exorcism.

I won’t even go into the details about how both my computer and my TV decided to kick up their heels and die only a day apart, now, when I need them the most. I swear I could hear both of them cackling wickedly before their demise.

I attempted to disconnect and then hook up the small TV from the bedroom to replace the dead TV in the living room, but had no idea which lines and cables to plug in where. When I finally figured it out, I sat down to watch TV and realized I’d need binoculars to see the screen from the sofa.

And then I tried to download Windows 10 into my now extinct Windows 7 laptop so I at least could have a computer to use.  Unfortunately, I still haven’t figured it out yet.  Let’s just say it’s a good thing my dogs can’t understand English because their ears probably would be burning by now.

But despite my problems with the TV and computer, my biggest problem thus far has been the fear of dehydration.

See, a couple months ago, the water in my well flunked its annual test. The rock ledges underground here are full of arsenic, radon and uranium – of which the arsenic decided that my well looked like a great spot to take up residence. As a result, the level in my well is about 10 times what is considered to be a safe limit.  I guess I should consider myself lucky, however, because my neighbor across the road hit the trifecta with his well and has all three – arsenic, radon and uranium.

It’s not as if hearing about my arsenic problem came as any surprise to me. When we built the house 10 years ago and the water was tested, we were informed about the arsenic back them and were ordered by the town to have a purification system installed or we would be denied a certificate of occupancy. So we had the system installed for “only” a few thousand dollars. Every year, the water has to be tested – and it’s been safe…until a couple months ago. The tank, I was informed, needs a new liner, for about $1,000...or more.

It’s the “or more” that worries me.

So I’ve been buying bottled water for the dogs and myself – about 10 gallons a week. This was no problem until the virus struck. For reasons I can’t quite fathom, people immediately began to hoard water as if they were expecting a hurricane or a tornado. I’m not sure what water, however, has to do with the virus.  Do they expect it to contaminate the public water systems? And even if it did, boiling the water would kill it.

Not so with arsenic. You can’t boil out arsenic.

But trying to buy water lately has been a real challenge. I went to five stores one day and found none at all – just bare shelves. I came home, defeated, fearing the dogs and I would end up dying of thirst. So when I went to Walmart a few days later, I was shocked to find the water aisle fully stocked. Suddenly I knew what it felt like to be a lost explorer in the desert and suddenly spot an oasis up ahead.

The aisle had every brand of water imaginable, from generic to exotic. In front of each brand was a sign that said, “Limit one.”  I thought it meant to limit one for each brand, so I put a couple gallons into my cart.  I’d barely set them down when a clerk seemed to swoop in from nowhere. She grabbed the water right out of my cart and shouted, “Pick one!  You’re allowed only one!”  I picked the gallon of Poland Spring, all the while thinking it wouldn’t last even a day with both of the dogs sharing it with me.

The clerk then saw another woman putting four bottles into her cart and rushed up behind her and shouted, “Only ONE!  All damn day I’ve had to deal with this!” making the poor woman jump, startled.

I began to understand why Walmart still had water on its shelves.

I went to three more stores after that one. Two allowed two gallons of water per person, and the other one had no water in stock. So I ended up with five gallons total – not even a week’s worth.

One of my friends decided to help me out by filling up bottles of his tap water for me and delivering them. I really appreciated the gesture, but when I uncapped one of the bottles, it smelled so strongly of chlorine, it made me think I could use it like Clorox the next time I wanted to whiten my underwear.  Still, I poured some into the dogs’ water bowl. They sniffed it and backed away from it as fast as if it contained live rattlesnakes.

A couple days later we had an unexpected spring snowstorm that dumped about five inches of fresh snow everywhere. I went outside at midnight and stared at the glistening white snow and first thought of how beautiful it looked on the trees and the ground. Then I thought about how much more beautiful it would look if I scooped it up into pots and boiled it down into water!

One thing about snow, I learned, is that it has a lot of air in it. So if you fill up a three-quart pot with it and boil it down, you’ll end up with about three ounces of water. So I spent the entire night going outside and filling up pots. I wanted to do it at night when the snow still was fresh and clean, because I knew that come morning, birds would be flying overhead and dropping surprises into it, or deer and squirrels would go tromping through it. So I was determined to collect “virgin” snow.

For my five hours of work, I ended up with four gallons of snow water. But, I told myself, it was better than nothing (or drinking the chlorine water that would bleach out my intestines).

And now it’s pouring rain outside…and I have pots lining my entire walkway.

“But what about acid rain?” one of my friends asked. “Aren’t you worried about drinking that?”

“Well, I look at it this way,” I said, “It’s still less dangerous than going to Walmart and doing battle with the clerk from Hell.”

The poor guy had no clue what I was talking about.

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Sally Breslin is an award-winning humor columnist and the author of “There’s a Tick in my Underwear!” “Heed the Predictor” and “The Common-Sense Approach to Dream Interpretation." Contact her at: