We Got Water

It came at night while the town was sleeping, and the noise of the cisterns filling, unheard by most, gave way to shouts of surprise and pleasure in the morning as the citizens realized their good fortune. “At last,” cried Jeannine. “I thought the pinche Servicios de Agua had abandoned us.”

The water shortage produced much angry concern. There was a tremendous run on the pipas (water trucks) which naturally raised their prices to exorbitant levels and often neglected to show up. Giovanni called eight different companies without success and was reduced to drawing muddy water from the bottom of his nearly empty tinaco (water tank) in order to flush his toilet.

We heard reports of water thieves tapping into city water mains, like the huachicoloeros who steal gasoline from the Pemex pipelines. Others spoke of leaky old pipes, collusion in the water agency, cartel connections. A raft of conspiracy theories came alive. Kids with empty pails and jugs were wailing in the streets. People circulated lists of pipa companies that didn’t respond, and Marta heard that one was filling its trucks from a sludge-filled stream outside of town.

Maurice remembered the bridge to the old Billie Holiday tune, “You Go to My Head”:

The thrill of the thought
That you might give a thought to my plea
Casts a spell over me
But I say to myself, “Get a hold of yourself
Can’t you see that it never can be?”

That was the predominant feeling until the water came in with a rush in the middle of the night. Townspeople then went back to their business as usual, bitching about bloqueos and too many chilangos, inflated prices and corrupt cops. The plague of water on the brain had ended—until the next outage.

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