Monday, August 16, 2010

On Being Spoiled In America

For a few weeks now I have been visiting my widowed father, who lives in an old house far out in the country. It has been a lovely visit -- except that it has revealed to me, yet again, how spoiled I am by modern living.

My father's house is not modern. It has a well and septic tank instead of municipal water. The well frequently runs low, at which point water is abruptly if temporarily unavailable. The septic tank is old and finicky and you must be careful what you ask of it to absorb. To pamper both, the water pump is set on low, so that the washing machine takes nearly an hour to fill. The dryer takes about the length of the Iraq war to dry a load of towels. The water is hard, without softening agents, which leaves mineral deposits on dishes, hair, and occasionally clothes.

There is no AC.

The microwave runs at 700 watts, and if you use it in conjunction with anything else, you will blow electrical circuits.

The sinks and toilets, built to an older building standard, are too low for comfort.

Now, none of this is exactly Third World poverty. That I get impatient with taking all day to do three loads of laundry (we had weekend guests) or with having my shower abruptly interrupted while my hair is soapy, hardly qualifies me as deprived. What it does do is underline how the bar raises for all of us. I grew up in this house, and as a teenager accepted all this as normal. Now, accustomed to greater efficiency in household amenities, it seems irksome. As good a definition of "spoiled" as any other.


Oz said...

It's funny. I live on a well and septic now. And we have a front load washer to minimize water use. They spin well enough to reduce drying time, or I hang the wash on the line to dry. As well as having a dishdrawer instead of a dishwasher, which also saves water. Yes, in drought conditions we worry a bit. The well is only 85 feet deep. But it hasn't stopped yet, knock on wood or something. The septic had a leak and that was interesting. Lots of digging in the front yard and a few thousand dollars. Which is why people limp along with one that's not quite perfect.

And the pressure tank can need to refill in the middle of a shower. Or spring a leak. Or the pressure just goes when someone else flushes or washes dishes. Mostly I like to shower when no one else is in the house to avoid those inconveniences.

And I know about blowing circuit breakers. If the little electric radiator is on and you turn on a hair dryer, there goes the circuit.

And one winter the heat pump was on the fritz and we limped through with the woodstoves in that part of the house. The bedrooms are on oil heat, thank goodness.

A/C I've got, but this is Virginia after all. But I baby my units, one is over 30 years old.

One adapts. I like country living so I'll put up with a few things and try to adapt. Good thing my husband grew up on a cranky septic system in RI. But you're right. One would quickly adapt to a more modern and pampered system, one would. I kind of miss lots of water pressure.

Hope you had a great visit.

Unknown said...

I agree - we're spoiled rotten. Every time I take a hot shower I think of how most children in the world will NEVER have one. It is a sobering thought. Keeps me intellectually honest - and grateful for what I have, and responsible for not wasting.

Reminds me I can live without a lot of the conveniences I take for granted - makes me less apt to whine when something goes.

Jeff P said...

Good timing for this subject, as last night when I returned from a weekend away, I had no power. I ended up lying on the couch, cat stretched on me, reading by lamplight.

Let me tell you, it has being glommed to the computer all beat.

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