It’s Going to Get Tough Being a Californian
ADAM MICHAEL LUEBKE
We’ve been hearing out of Sacramento that we live in different times, so Californians will have to learn to live and act differently as well. Most of these warnings are in relation to water usage and coming to grips with what looks like the re-desertification of California.
But what changes are we supposed to expect?
My wife told me there was a man peeking in on her in the shower. I hadn’t seen anyone come into the apartment, so I assumed she was losing her mind.
“What did he look like?” I asked her.
“Medium height, bald on top, with a head shaped like a peanut,” she told me.
“I’ve seen him, too,” I said. “It’s just Jerry Brown, the governor of California, checking to see if you’re staying in the shower too long.”
“I wish he would stop,” she said. “It’s happened twice already, in two days.”
I told her it won’t stop. Not for a long time. Not at least for the rest of the year, with the harsh California summer months coming up.
There will be little to no rain, heavy heat, and plenty of wind. The drought will enter its fourth year with no signs of relief ahead.
“It’s going to get tough to be a Californian,” I said. “So buckle up. With no water, there won’t be any peace.”
“Is he popping up in everybody’s shower?” she asked.
“Not everybody’s, but many. I’ve come to realize what the media means when they talk about Brown’s ‘commanding presence’.”
As disconcerting as it might be to find Jerry Brown in your shower with you, it’s not totally unwelcome in my household. I’ve too been lit up by the spirit of water conservation after listening to the governor propose his 31-point plan for mandatory water cuts.
I’ve become the San Bernardino water Nazi, documenting the
sprinklers blasting all over the sidewalks and streets for hours on end. I wrote a hit piece on the CSU San Bernardino campus’ egregious lawn watering methods.
I wander around the neighborhoods as well, seemingly out on a stroll, but secretly taking pictures and videos of spewing sprinklers and gross watering practices.
When my neighbors in the next unit start their shower, I turn on the timer on my smartphone and record how long the water runs. I send all the hard data to Jerry Brown’s email address. How much good it does, we don’t know yet.
There’ll be outlandish fines, we’ve been told, for indulging in long showers, for flushing the toilet too often, or for watering lawns. By next year, the exiled cultural philosopher Hubert Humdinger says, there’ll be jail time, too, in California for blatant abusers. Unless we make serious cuts.
Seeing Jerry Brown give the orders in his gravelly voice on the news was enough to shape me up. His stark warning was a great start to implant himself in the minds and hearts of Californians.
Like my wife, I too have seen the governor in the shower. He counts off the gallons of precious water that pour down the drain. “You’re at three gallons, already, pal,” he said the last time I showered.
“Three gallons?” I said. “I just started!”
“You’re not saving water by talking about it,” he said.
He was right. So I scrubbed quickly. Jerry Brown even handed me the bar of soap so I could hurry. I’d been groping helplessly along the shower’s ledge, searching for the soap, while blinded by water in my eyes. But there it was, being offered to me by the governor.
“Ten gallons,” he told me. “Gone. Vanished. Probably won’t get another significant rainstorm this year, anymore,” he said. “Maybe not even next year, either.” He paused. “Twelve gallons, now. If you like water this much, go live in Minnesota. Land of 10,000 lakes.”
“I grew up in North Dakota,” I said. “Where it’s offensive for politicians to insert themselves into the homes of the public.”
I couldn’t believe the tone I’d taken with the governor. But nobody wants to be lectured about how much water he’s using while he’s enjoying a hot shower.
“Don’t worry, in a few months or so we’ll have smart meters on every home so I don’t have to bother you about your water usage. We won’t have messy scenes like this one in the future,” he said.
“Well, stop distracting me and help me scrub my back,” I said.
“No can do,” said the governor. “I don’t want a lawsuit for gross imposition.”
“Then shampoo my hair while I do the rest,” I said.
“Fifteen gallons, going on twenty,” he said.
“We’re in America,” I reminded him. “We gotta live it up a little bit, don’t we?”
“Not in the shower we don’t,” Brown said.
I stopped to rinse and asked, “If this drought lasts five or ten more years, do you think we Californians will be drinking our own urine just to stay alive?”
“That’s what I’m trying to avoid, bucko,” he said. “Nineteen gallons.”
“Will your water restrictions stretch the water supplies for another five or ten years? Because the urine trick won’t last forever, either. You can drink it twice to stay alive, but the third time it’s so loaded with toxins it’ll kill you.”
A friend, back in 2010, that we’d be forced to drink our own urine soon to stay alive. And that had been during a year with record rainfall. It’s going to get tough being a human, he’d told me. You’ll be forced to live like a coyote, or die. We’re going to lose everything, even the shirts off our backs.
Brown was telling me, “It’ll stretch the water supplies no matter which way you slice it, but for how long, there are too many factors to say for sure. We’ll make further restrictions that include farmers and really rich people, too,” he said, “if the drought continues like it has.”
“The other nightmare scenario is that the hoards of thirsty, desperate Californians will flock toward the Midwest, drinking and eating up every resource in sight, emptying ponds and drying up rivers. The Midwest has seen that kind of infestation before with locusts and dust storms in the 1930s, but this will be different.”
The governor’s brown wingtips and the lower half of his suit were soaked. He had suds scattered on his chest and shoulders.
“Twenty-five gallons of water,” he said. He slapped his palm on the shower wall. The thump knocked the bar of soap loose. It skidded across the tub and ended up atop the governor’s shoe. He nimbly flipped the soap in the air, caught it, and set it in its holder.
“You should have been finished ten minutes ago,” he hollered. He shouldered me out of the way and turned the water off. For one moment there were stood, cramped, chest to chest, hip to hip. I was too startled to realize this is how politics should be. Intimate. Person to person. Making changes the old fashioned way.
Brown snarled. “You’ll have no shower tomorrow. That’s an order.”
And then he was gone.