Water, Water, Everywhere

Composed on the 15th of October in the year 2007, at 10:51 PM. It was Monday.

Assuming the task of putting together the ideas for these essays is a job, sometimes, on a lucky day, the job is done for me.

Sadly, this only seems to happen on days when I'm doing other jobs that are not done for me. The day in question was when I was searching for something to pay attention to other than the job that pays my bills. Inexorably, I was drawn to the Noise.

The Noise is something I've learned to ignore since moving to the city, but my boss somehow hasn't, which makes me want to ask him if he's really cut out for city living. Admittedly, it is obnoxious to the point of having to conduct conference calls in the hallway, but since I spend most of my time deciphering error messages along the lines of "Your flux parameters are causing recursion issues in chaos tides near taiwan; please reference variable 0019aax or roll again," a little background noise is all that keeps the voices in my head from getting a majority vote. My boss is more democratic about imaginary contributions, hence the Noise drives him wild, and being of a naturally empathetic disposition, it's started to demand more of my attention than it should.

Still, it was better entertainment than the latest error message–something about tribbles–so I looked over at the latest Noise vendors, which are the building cleaners polishing up the brickwork on the building outside our window.

It's not that bad a noise. It's a power water sprayer, with which they are cleaning out the little cracks between the bricks. That's what I assume; the bricks don't look any cleaner, and the periodic concrete divisions look worse for the water staining. But they do have huge hoisting mechanisms and the classic hanging window-cleaner baskets, so we keep an eye out in case super-villains or super-heroes or meteors or terrorists come crashing through the glass and send the window cleaners hurtling toward their surprising, if cliched, deaths.

It hasn't happened yet, but I was zoning out so I watched them for a good five minutes and my mind wandered toward activists, many of whom had tried to hand me pamphlets earlier in the day. I forget what they were for, but I hoped a few of them were to save trees, because there were so many pamphlets, and that some of them were to clean up our city, because I threw them on the ground. But they did inspire enough whale-saving, tibet-freeing sentiments in me to wonder how much water was being used to barely clean a building that is, frankly, trying to compensate for gross genetic shortcomings with a forty dollar makeover.

Since I had many thousands of dollars of computer equipment in front of me, over which I was given full control so as to better manage a multi-million dollar web and intranet project, I was well prepared to surf the internet and look up pressure water cleaners.

After some research, and reading a lot of things having to do with bars and psi and flow rates, I discovered the water pressure industry, aside from having 1995 websites made of images preventing me from cutting and pasting, thus aggravating my carpal tunnel that little extra bit that makes me want to write nasty essays about them, uses many little abbreviations to keep the numbers I'm about to give you out of the hands of hippies. It probably works.

Anyway, they use lpm, igpm, and usgpm, which are liters per minute, imperial gallons per minute, and US gallons per minute. And at least the AUS Water Blasters corporation can boast blasters that reach 205 usgpm, or 773 lpm for my european readers.1[1]

These guys spend about 7 to 8 hours wandering around spraying, and I would estimate the hose is actually on for about 4 of those hours. So at four hours a day, five days a week, for about five weeks and running, times six teams of cleaners for each face of the building, that comes to 7.38 million gallons of water used to clean off a publishing building. Or, again for the european, 27.828 million liters.

It the sort of thing that makes you want to get up and say, "Well, thank GOD for those public service announcements telling me to turn off the water while shampooing, because we need all that water to pressure clean buildings that get rained on 60 days out of the year." I wondered why all the low flow shower heads were coming into vogue in a country so obviously as wasteful as ours; clearly it about saving the pressure, not the water, since they needed all that pressure to pump and blow the 8 million backed up gallons all over the dirty faces of office buildings.

I mentioned this to the rest of the office, to prove I was still contributing to the work effort, and they were just as horrified as I was. We wondered briefly if we should call some protesters, but didn't know whom to call. Our best guesses were the prison or the unemployment office, so we gave up, but not before our technical writer did some research of his own and discovered that the publishing house being cleaned had recently published a book called "Thirst: Fighting the Corporate Theft of Our Water". The cover has a glass of drinking water sporting a spider web bullet hole.

Hoboken is not exactly a hotbed of political activism. As far as I can tell, it's where West Villagers go to have babies. Nor do I think it would do any good for the activism to arrive. I assume the activists are folding more reams of paper with informative somethings on it, or driving their SUVs to awareness music festivals sponsored by Coke, and generally exacerbating the apocalyptic flaw in the structure of our society.

But I guess the activists did ultimately raise my awareness of the decaying world, albeit indirectly. Thanks for the pamphlet. Next time I'll try to hit the trash can.

1 Hi Kyveli.

The one piece of technology I still use that hasn't changed since I was born.

Hi there! You should totally go buy my book for the low low price of 6.66! It's like buying me a beer at an out-of-the-way dive bar in Brooklyn! Not in Manhattan. Manhattan prices are ridiculous, though there are a couple of decent Irish dives where you can snag a drink for five bucks. Otherwise, you're looking at a two or three book beer.
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