Dear Dirty America


A Controversial Way to Ease California’s Water Shortage

A Controversial Way to Ease California’s Water Shortage
February 28
04:16 2014

My spiritualist called me from the police station to say he’d appreciate a ride home. “Apparently nobody’s taking this California drought issue too seriously. Am I the only one?” he asked. His voice cracked. His sanity seemed frayed. He was on the verge of a breakdown.

The police questioned him about a string of menacing phone calls to unsuspecting women in the neighborhood. He’d allegedly been making lewd suggestions and eventually two women called the cops after he’d continued to badger them. “You gave me your phone number on the petition,” he’d pleaded with them. “You didn’t expect me to call?”

Clipboard_Water_PetitionWhat petition? I asked him. Loud beeps erupted on his end. An electronic male voice said we had four more minutes to speak before we’d be disconnected.

“It was a good deed,” he said. “It was supposed to be a good deed!”

You’re a spiritual man, I told him. You’re all about charity. I don’t doubt you’ve been misunderstood somehow.

“Naturally, and that’s what this was about,” he said. He’d gone around the Wilshire and Western intersection asking people if they’d like to sign a petition to help ease California’s water shortage problem. “We’re looking at a drought of biblical proportions,” he told me.

I wondered if he’d written that last bit on the petition. If anybody was interested in hearing more about water saving solutions, he’d have them fill in their names, locations, and telephone numbers. They would also be prompted to check one of the boxes that had the morning, afternoon, and evening broken up into half-hour chunks.

“When do you normally take a shower during the weekday?” the petition asked above the boxes. “Check one or all that apply.”

Well so what? I said. I don’t understand how you ended up at the police station for questioning.

“They don’t know me very well,” he said. “I always have innovative solutions. That’s what I do. When you see the physical world as one layer of many layered dimensions, you get used to not being completely understood by most people.”

He explained that the police suspected he’d been targeting women with his petition, and then repeatedly calling them in the evenings, after he’d finished getting signatures of people interested in helping him, “a concerned citizen”, take a proactive stance in getting California through its water shortage.

What was your solution? I asked him. You know I’ve written extensively about water. I’m happy to hear someone’s out there taking action.

My spiritualist is a metaphysical one hit wonder. He can perform marvelous feats in the astral realm, but he has many faults here on earth.

“I don’t know how the whole thing got so mixed up,” he said. It sounded like he was pinching his nostrils together when he talked. “I thought if people started taking showers together in the morning, the state could potentially save billions of gallons of precious, precious water this year. As you know, Los Angeles sucks up an unimaginable amount of–”

Say that last part again! I said.

“Southern California zaps so much water each year because this city is so large and people waste so much–”

No, no! I said. The solution. What was the solution you were trying to pitch to these poor women over the phone?

“I thought if even a dozen or more people could see that their morning or evening routines matched, we’d be able to have folks showering together to potentially save billions of gallons of precious, precious–”

Norman_Chubby_ChaneyAll right, I got that part, I said. So you really were making menacing phone calls to women. The police were right to take you in! What did you expect? Nobody wants to shower with a stranger. Thankfully you weren’t offering to do the group showering, too. It’s creepy enough the way it is. You’re a commendable man of mystery, but you’re pudgy and out of shape. You remind people of a man-child version of Norman “Chubby” Chaney. A shower is an intimate thing. These women would need incentive to allow you into their bathrooms.

“Actually,” my spiritualist said, “that’s where I think things got confused. When I was aligning the schedules and locations of the names I’d gathered, I saw my own schedule fit about ten of the signers.”

So naturally you threw yourself into the pool of names, for California’s benefit.

He said he’d already lined it all up on paper when the police knocked on his door. A woman named Denise on Monday morning, at seven-thirty. Hattie on Tuesday, same time. “Elena on Wednesday morning, from five-thirty to six. It would have been hard to swing that one so early,” he told me, “but worth it if you’d have seen Elena.”

I cut him off. Are you a nutball?

“It was, overall, the idea of conservation I had in mind. Painless ways to cut back.”

So the suspect, which is you, allegedly was running a California water scam petition and getting only attractive women to sign up. The suspect then, I said, called and pitched a rather strange, unsettling solution.

“I tried to make the sale over the phone, that’s right.” He had an edge in his voice. “But how should I have known that was so offensive. People don’t want to share anything anymore!” he said. “People are so uptight. Nobody’s happy, though. Everybody’s lonely. It’s obvious. I blame most of it on 9/11. We’re a tight, constricted asshole of a society these days. All those women I called said they were definitely concerned about the drought and interested in water-saving techniques.”

You don’t know the first thing women are interested in, I said.

“I need sex, too!” he yelled. “I need sex, too!” He cleared his throat and apologized. The electronic male voice came on again. Thirty seconds left. “Anyway, that’s not what this was about,” my spiritualist said.


They did it in WWII

Still, your proposal was impractical in the normal societal standard, I told him.

“What is normal?” he said with a whistle.

The phone beeped twice.

“Will you come and get me?” I thought of his ruddy skin, squealing voice, and blonde, bristling chin hairs. A plump pig with the gift to bullshit.

“I need to get out of this hell hole,” he was saying. “The first lesson in spirituality is the golden rule. The second lesson, and you could especially use this one, is that kindness and generosity are repaid back tenfold to the giver. Tenfold,” he said.

You’re the Holy Man, I told him.

“I know I am!” he said. “So don’t allow me this extended indignity of sitting in a police station. You know my heart was in the right place with this water petition thing. You know me better than almost anyone since I’ve moved to Los Angeles. If people see me here they’re going to think I’m a crackpot!”

It’s too late, I said. The streets are too dangerous after dark. I’m not stepping out. You’ll have to squeeze out a miracle and get yourself home.

“You didn’t just say that!” he shouted. “I think it’s starting to rain outside, too. I’ll get pneumonia walking home!”

It’s raining? I asked. I looked out the window and saw that my spiritualist wasn’t lying. Well, that’s a blessing! I shouted back to him. I’m going to take a shower and consider dropping you as my metaphysical adviser and hire Dolores Cannon to do my spiritual work from now on.

The line went dead.

[Norman “Chubby” Chaney, 1930, dir. Robert F. McGowan; Private Hatherall gets a friendly scrub during the Second World War by No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit]

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