Intersections – No water, no $hit!

Posted by July 29, 2015
Nicki Salcedo

Nicki Salcedo

By Nicki Salcedo

When the water pressure dropped on Thursday, I thought we forgot to pay the water bill. I can’t be the only person who went to check the status of my account online. I can’t be the only person who has had a utility turned off because I forgot to pay the bill.

Because of a little accident with the water system, the entire county exploded into Watermageddon. Five days without proper running water in DeKalb County. Some had no water, some had low pressure, and some had brown liquid come out of their faucets.

The water shortage, like summer vacation, taught me a few things. I’m not so worried about the county’s ability to communicate or fix the problem. Apparently, we can rely on citizens and social media to get the word out, and on private general contractors to fix the broken pipes.

I’m worried about my ability to survive a disaster. I’m obsessed with the apocalypse. Not the Biblical apocalypse where I assume there will still be running water. I’m worried about the zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion or a measles outbreak that will kill the world’s population.

I have to periodically test my survival skills.  The water shortage was a good opportunity.

We know how to fill up the toilet tank with water so it will flush. We know how to brush our teeth with minimal use of bottle water. I hope I have lots of bottled water when the zombies arrive. My skills only highlight how much water we waste every day.


I admit my survival protocol involved going to my mom’s house. She’s in DeKalb County too, but I figured she would be less impacted because she was further away from the incident. Wrong again. Every corner of the county was impacted. Good thing my mom is a savvy survivalist. You would want her on your zombie team.

She instituted the policy of when to flush, and we taught her a new phrase. “If it’s yellow let it mellow. If it’s brown flush it down.” She’d never heard this before. When you have aging parents and small kids you spend a lot of time talking about poop. There might not have been water, but there was a lot of laughter this weekend.

And I developed a sudden craving for asparagus.

I have peed in the woods on many occasions, and my only fear during Watermageddon was that I would have to poop in the woods. When I realized the lack of water was greater than just my house, my first thought was, “Oh, $hit.”

My bowels are particular. Port-a-potties and airplane toilets easily shut down my excretory system. I know it’s not healthy to hold it, but I’ve seen a port-a-potty in such bad shape that my pee turned back.

I always look for the bright side. I’ve lived through worse. I lived in California.

You can’t drink the tap water there. I’m not kidding. In Monterey County, it comes out milky white. They call it hard water. Soap doesn’t foam. No one showers for longer than 5 minutes. The locals never consider drinking the water. In California, the drought has gone on so long some lakes have disappeared.

Out West, I lived through brownouts. This is when the city turns off the electricity in sections to conserve power. Water and electricity were limited all the time. My San Francisco office was in the city near the baseball stadium. The electricity would be shut down in rolling blocks for several hours at a time. In America. On purpose. There were grumblings. Oh, it was the beginning of the Dot Com boom, and we would die without electricity.

But I was a good Southern girl. Twenty-something and practical with my optimism. “It’s like a snow day. Y’all never get snow days in California.”

I’ve lived through no electricity and worse water problems. If you’ve traveled anywhere off the beaten path, you’ve dealt with no water or unique water situations. You’ve been in countries where the lights and water are turned off at night as a normal course of business.

I know you suffered without Starbucks. I don’t drink coffee, but I feel your pain. It wasn’t the inconvenience that caused you pain. It was the proof that when the zombies attack, we really are screwed. Every woman for herself and every man for himself.

After five days of not boiling water, I continued to look for the bright side. I had paid my water bill. I did not have to do laundry. I did not have to $hit in the woods. I considered the water crisis a time to learn about myself and my bowels. I ate asparagus with joy and said “F*k you” to the water system.

At least my Netflix account was still up and running. DeKalb County, do not mess with my Netflix. That would really be the end of civilization.

“Intersections,” the book, is a collection of columns from and beyond. It is now available on Amazon and Barnes & NobleNicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.


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  • Elizabeth B

    I have the exact same worry: come the zombie apocalypse, I’m done! Maybe I should start storing water and canned goods in our crawl space? But then where will the neighborhood cats hang out??

    • Elizabeth B

      And to reply to myself: I liked that our neighborhood seemingly celebrated the lifting of the boil water advisory by lighting fireworks 🙂

      • Nicki Salcedo

        I noticed that. A water outage is a great time to start a fire or blow off your finger.

    • Nicki Salcedo

      I have sardines for unknown reasons except the apocalypse. Neighborhood cats will warn of zombies.

      • Elizabeth B

        The cats will lead the way …

  • Maggie Worth

    I have many intricate plans for the zombie apocalypse and cultivate friendships based, in part, on how an individual can either help us survive the initial outbreak or help rebuild a society worth the bother. At the moment, I’m rather short of warriors within my circle. I am a terrible shot, so I need more of those. Given where I live, however, I feel confident that I’d be able to find some fairly quickly if needed. One of the five most liberating moments in my life came a couple of years back when I learned about solar flares. I was unaware that, at virtually any time, a flare could reach earth and that it would completely fry at least half the world’s electrical grid. There is zero we can do about this. Scientists seem to think it’s only a matter of time and no one is quite sure why it hasn’t happened yet. To me, the message is that security is truly an illusion. I remind myself of this whenever I get the urge to play it safe against my instincts. I think the more comfortable we are with the idea of a doomsday event, the better we’ll be able to thrive through it.

    • Nicki Salcedo

      I’ve done all the quizzes. I basically die on day 1 in all of the end of the world situations. Everyone else is worried about food and water and coffee. I’m worried about where to go to the bathroom. There’s on contingency plan for the bathroom. I’m thinking solar flare would be best case scenario.

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