Guilty Pleasures

It’s not what you think, although it is a damn good lede. I’m talking about taking a bath. A glorious, hot bath that uses more than 40 gallons of precious water from our monthly allocation. Sinful, guilt-inducing decadence that is now unfortunately a fragrant whisper of memory.

Climate change has left California in a terrible situation. Five consecutive years of drought left us parched and bone-dry. Strict water rationing is the norm. And I mean strict – there are fines involved.  I’ve had former colleagues and friends around the world ask me what it’s like.  My answer has five words.

We can’t fill our bathtubs.

The ‘Brown Is The New Green’ campaign has left us silently judging our neighbors whenever we see a lawn that has a spot or two of green still in it. Our neighborhood user group was filled earlier this year with posts about naturescaping our yards and replacing our lawns with native drought-tolerant plants and bark mulch. We’ve been left with deciding which of our plants we’re going to keep, and which we will remove or let die of thirst. Forget the lawns – they’re toast. Our front yards look terrible, and we have no choice in the matter. We keep quiet about our back yards – ours is all tanbark mulch and the few plants we have are either drought-tolerant or edible. Our trees we can water once a month with a slow drip. It’s not a pretty sight.

It’s affected us in more ways than just our yard. We have recirculating hot water Shower Bucketsconstantly flowing through our pipes so we don’t waste water.  We keep buckets in our bathrooms to catch the shower water until it reaches the right temperature, and restrict showers to 3-5 minutes. Every morning you find me in the back yard, tipping the shower buckets over our fruits, vegetables and culinary herbs in an effort to keep them alive in our unusually long and hot summer. The rest of the plants scream silently for water, but have to wait for their twice weekly allotment of drip irrigation. Those of us who cut back and conserved the past couple of years were punished this year by the new mandatory reductions to our previous reductions. No good deed goes unpunished

Now that you have the context, I have a confession.  I took a bath.

What made this socially conscious, environmentally sensitive, perennial do-gooder slip so far down the moral slide that she indulged in an illicit pleasure?

I deep cleaned our second floor carpets.

If you don’t immediately say “Ah, now I understand”, then you’ve never personally cleaned a large master bedroom, two offices, a sitting room, a hallway, and a set of stairs with a professional-grade steam Bissell. And I mean really cleaned. A move-all-the-furniture-scrub-along-the-baseboards-with-the-hand-attachment kind of clean. The type of clean that you can’t get even when you pay a service $800, and I know from bitter experience.

I’m sure you saw this coming – – I could barely move by evening. No sooner had I sat down to watch some football, I realized I desperately wanted a hot soak to work out the stiffness that was settling in.  Our club and its wonderful jacuzzi was closed for the night, and I had no other option for relief but filling our bathtub. In a major drought. For a sin of that magnitude, I’d have to go to confession.

Hubby valiantly tried for Husband of the Year status by saying I should go ahead and take a hot soak even if we end up getting fined. I was initially touched he offered that, especially since he pays that bill, but he spoiled it by saying that since I’d probably just book a massage at the spa to work out the kinks, the cost would end up being the same. Fortunately, I saw the twinkle in his eye, so I decided to let him live. Smartass. This is what happens when you’ve been married for more than 30 years.

Our son then came up with a brilliant plan. I would take that bath I so desperately needed – using oil instead of soap – and then he would haul the water down in our shower buckets to water our back yard that evening by hand, and eliminate the next morning’s scheduled watering. Problem solved, with our water allocation intact. That young man is going places.

I took a glass of wine and my current book upstairs, found some lavender oil, and luxuriated in that steaming Tub of Deliciousness until it was a tepid memory. I felt better, my strawberries got water, and everyone was happy.

The problem with one taste of La Dolce Vida – you always find yourself wanting more. I now anxiously read all NOAA weather reports and their shifting forecasts on how much rain we can expect this winter. The prognosis is good, and I’m cautiously optimistic we’ll get enough water to fill my bathtub one more time this winter. Or maybe twice. I’m not greedy. Really.

I’m starting my rain dances now. Just to make sure.