Courier-Post columnist Danny Henley asks readers to pick the what comfort they'd most be willing to do without.
If you’re from my generation you might remember the movie trilogy – Back to the Future.
Without boring those of you who are familiar with the movies with too much of a plot recap, or giving too much of the story line away to those who have never seen any of the three movies (seriously?), each of the movies centers around the adventures of a high school student, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), and an eccentric scientist, Dr. Emmett L. Brown (Christopher Lloyd), as they use a DeLorean time machine to time travel to different periods in the history of Hill Valley, Calif.
Why the cinematic nostalgia today? Because even though it has been years since I’ve sat down and watched any of the three movies, one scene from the third movie kept popping into my head this past week.
In the third movie Marty McFly must travel back to 1885 to rescue Doc Brown from a premature end. Almost immediately after arriving in that time period, Marty has an encounter with one of his distant relatives – Seamus McFly.
In a meal scene, someone pours Marty a glass of water. Marty holds the glass and watches in shock as dirt and who knows what else swirls in the water.
Judging by the expression on his face, Marty was obviously not accustomed to seeing liquefied sod in his drinking water. In much the same way, I’m used to turning on the tap at home and getting a glass of water that’s both clean and safe to drink. However, because of a misbehaving valve at the city’s Water Filter Plant on the afternoon June 22, for a better part of last week the quality of Hannibal’s water supply could not be guaranteed safe, resulting in a boil order.
Any number of household chores involving water that previously were done on “autopilot,” suddenly required some thought and planning. Take for example the washing of dishes by hand. Normally I run water in the kitchen sink, accompanied by a few squirts of dish soap that guarantees to get my dishes clean and keep my hands soft. I then wash, rinse and stack the dishes in the drain rack, all the while thinking about any number of topics that have nothing to do with cleaning a sink full of dishes.
Last week, however, it was a chore that actually required some thought. Fortunately my bride, Nancy, was around with a plan that featured boiled water and bleach to get the dishes clean. As I adhered to the new method for washing dishes, I found myself silently longing for the days when doing dishes was a delightfully thoughtless process.
Nancy, being the good mother that she is, viewed the boil order as an opportunity to teach our 18-year-old daughter, Anna, how to handle such a situation if ever confronted with it once she is out on her own. Hopefully the knowledge Nancy provided our daughter was filed away for use at another time.
The water quandary prompted a discussion in the Courier-Post newsroom involving my keyboard comrades Mary Lou Montgomery and Jason Farmer. Up for consideration was the question: Which is worse, being without electricity or under a boil order?
While my electricity was out for just a couple of hours following the May 20, 2013, storm, Mary Lou and Jason were powerless for a longer period of time. They agreed that not having electricity was far worse than the water woes we faced as a community this past week.
Of course there are some in America’s Hometown who might offer a different take, since some hilltop dwellers actually ran out of water for a time last week.
Pick your poison: Life without electricity or water. The thought of either sends a chill down my spine.