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By David Haldane

Nov. 9, 2023



I was lathered to the gills, about to step under the spigot, when the darned thing choked up.

“Damit!” I shouted, loud enough, I imagined, for passersby on the street below to hear the furious reverberations emanating from my shower stall. “What the hell am I supposed to do now?”


Its presence soothes and sustains. Its absence makes you insane. I’ve been feeling that way a lot lately. Perhaps I should try to explain.

There are two basic problems feeding the seemingly endless toilet, shower, and sink woes tormenting the Haldane household in Surigao City. The first is that we reside too far outside the city proper to be connected to the municipal water line. So, every three weeks we have to pay someone to deliver a huge tanker full of H2O.

The bigger issue, though, is that our house sits atop a hill. Which requires us to pump that water up from a street-level tank. Welcome to the source of an eternal tug-of-war with the forces of science, nature, and technology that leaves us bone dry way too often and for far too long.

Ok, let me just say it right up front, something I’ve often thought but never had the temerity to utter out loud. I’m no plumber. But the one who designed this so-called water system was more insane than I feel standing naked and soapy in my shower.

Pipes and valves run everywhere. While some supposedly feed a second tank up high, others flow directly into our tri-level house. The annoying result: an almost constant game of musical pails in which each of our three floors competes with the others to trick us into utilizing showers that won’t sprinkle and toilets that won’t flush.

“OK, I give up!” I’ve hollered into the mirrors on more than one occasion. “You’ve snookered me again. Congratulations!!”

Sometimes the system works fine. Usually just long enough to loll us into a complacency that allows the pipes to regroup and mount another attack. Then we call the guy who acted as foreman during construction, the only human we know with even a modicum of understanding about how it all works.

Under his tutelage, we have purchased two new pumps and tanks, repositioned them repeatedly, and frequently stood by holding our breaths while he wiggled a valve or pushed on a pipe. Then exhaled just long enough to take a few showers before the water again disappeared.

This morning, though, I reached a whole new level of angst. Perhaps it was because I’d just returned from a week in primitive quarters on Siargao Island, where I’d become accustomed—as are many Filipinos—to dumping buckets of cold water over my head every day. Wow, I thought, caked with soap in the waterless shower stall upon my return, what I wouldn’t give for a bucket right now.

That did it.

The day that pouring frigid water over your head seems like a good idea is a day crying desperately for change. Radical change. The kind of change requiring bold new ideas. The sort of change that needs a new expert with major plumbing skills and an unprecedented plan.

We may have found someone fitting the bill. Just to be safe, though, we’re also looking for a priest to bless our newly redesigned water system once it’s installed. Maybe that’s the only way to finally exorcise those nasty demons inhabiting our pipes.

In the meantime, please wish us luck as you picture me shivering sloppily in that godawful waterless shower. And, in case we don’t find that priest, please pray there will never be a shortage of buckets.





David Haldane’s latest book, A Tooth in My Popsicle, is available on Lazada and Amazon. A former Los Angeles Times staff writer, he is an award-winning journalist, author, and radio broadcaster with homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Northern Mindanao, Philippines, where this column appears weekly in the Gold Star News.


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