When Sam was here a couple of weeks ago, he and I made the trip to Marble Falls so he could see the new house. On I-10, between Houston and Katy, traffic piled up and we skipped over into the HOV lane, which to me seems insane because, to my way of thinking, two people don’t signify high occupancy. Sam waved his hand at the packed lanes to the right and made a comment about how inefficient it was that all those massive SUV’s and pick-up trucks were only transporting a single person. It wasn’t a criticism of Texas, or, for that matter, the US; it was more an observation about the differences in cultures and the pull between what people say and what they do. In Texas we don’t litter, we recycle with zealous dedication, and we’re prudent with our electricity; but no amount of conservation is worth sharing our traveling space with strangers, and we don’t think a thing about getting into an oversized SUV and driving six hours to visit a friend or shop in an outstanding store or have a night’s entertainment. In Beijing, Sam gets around on an electric scooter, leaving the smallest footprint possible in one of the most polluted cities in the world.
And none of this has anything to do with David and me making the drive to Marble Falls this weekend—except maybe big cars and trucks are on my mind because of the number of intimidatingly massive hauling vehicles on the highway. Also, we came in David’s Tacoma, which, as far as trucks go, is modest, and kind of fun to drive. And the question of efficiency and waste is also on my mind because the reason for this brief trip is that we got billed for ten thousand gallons of water during a month when we were only here for three days. The disappearance of the massive amount of water is a mystery we’d like to solve. Unfortunately, our only idea is that maybe the watering system was left on, which, we ascertain within minutes of our arrival, simply was not the case.
So far, our biggest issue in the Marble Falls house is water. It’s been raining heavily in the area and the water’s flowing right at us. We didn’t think about it when we bought the house, but we occupy the lowest lot in the estate. We’re not flooded, but we realize it could happen. David’s first landscaping project will be to shore up the drainage gully on the right side of the property. Waste and water disposal is also a question mark with us. As city dwellers, we’ve always depended on the municipal system to carry off our poop, but here it apparently hangs in a tank that’s buried somewhere in the back, and we’re kind of freaked out about that. Also, the well water we’re using leaves spots on our drinking glasses and the shower glass—and to that end, there’s a mysterious contraption in the garage that doesn’t seem to be working—a water-softener that we have no idea how to maintain. And the kitchen sink has a leak. So. A lot to be seen to, which means many trips to Home Depot and David’s favorite new store, The Tractor Supply.
On one of our jaunts to Home Depot (four in a twenty-four hour period) we stop by the Whataburger for a quick lunch. The lady at the next table is telling two friends about her recent visit to her new grandchild.
“He don’t look like no one in the family,” she says, befuddled, waving her phone in front of their eyes so they can see for themselves.
I gasp in horror.
“What?” David asks mildly, looking around to see what’s got me appalled this time. I’m always gasping in horror at something.
“Did you hear what that woman said? Did she not go to school?”
“You’re going to be busy if you’re going to be the grammar police around here.”
“Somebody has to do it. Southern doesn’t mean ignorant.”
Maybe it’s a trade-off. Though the vernacular may jar, the manners are charming. People who aren’t even waiting on us or trying to sell us something address us, and each other, as ma’am and sir. They hold doors open when they see someone approaching. Drivers let other drivers in rather than cut them off.
We work around the house for a couple of days, poisoning fire ants, putting coasters on the bottom of the bar stools, and making lists of future projects. On Saturday we visit various businesses, researching internet access and cable v satellite. On Sunday we pack up and head back to Houston. We’re dismayed that we still have no idea why we were billed for all that water.