Whaddyadoallday? Real Life on a Desert Island Rotating Header Image

January, 2013:

Out, Damned Spot!

Absolutely, perfectly idyllic weather aside (the lows have been dipping just below 70 degrees at night lately), life in the tropics can be harsh – especially if you are living right on the sea. The otherwise blessed sunlight permeates everywhere (as sunlight is wont to do) and fades everything. Any claims to the contrary, even Sunbrella® fades – though in all fairness at a slower rate than your average cotton blends. And whatever the sun doesn’t bleach out, it browns. Friends back in the States always comment on my tan. Whatever tan I have, though, I must be acquiring in the brief exposures between the house and the car or the car and the grocery store because I never just sit still basking in the sun anymore. The sun’s rays simply find you wherever you are. 

Just like the salt in the air that settles on anything and everything: mirrors, table tops, fabrics and floors. As a result, everything (even glass) corrodes. The impact on metal is just the most dramatic. I’ve mentioned before that our corrosion-resistant window mechanisms were ridiculously rusted within months of moving in to the house; and the fashionable, hi-tech pendant lights hanging in the kitchen in the back of our house were quickly so badly pitted that the company representative in California assumed we have mistakenly installed them outdoors! Stainless steel, galvanized steel, it makes no difference.  Towel rods, bathroom faucets, light fixtures all succumb. An overlooked screw out on the veranda overnight will be rusted on the stone tile by morning. 

Of course, you would expect fading and rusting to be issues in this environment even if you couldn’t begin to imagine just how much trouble they would cause. What about spots, though? What about those strange, orange spots that mysteriously show up on white linens and towels that are safely tucked away in cupboards. Not on white furniture or even on white shirts hung on hangers in my closet….only on folded sheets and towels. There are numerous theories as to what causes these spots. Some folks claim they are the result of cockroach droppings, but I hardly ever see a cockroach in my house and why wouldn’t the spots show up on furniture or hanging clothes. Other people blame gecko eggs, but if that were the case wouldn’t I find remnants of little broken eggs? Personally I subscribe to a mold theory. But whatever causes them, nobody seems to know how to get them out of the fabric. Bleach doesn’t help. Oxyclean does precious little. Nothing works reliably to get rid of them. 

I’ve been fighting these spots this week. This is the time of year when folks tend to come to visit us (reference that opening statement about the weather). So I’ve been getting out the good sheets and towels – some of which have never ever been used. And sure enough, there they are….stupid orange spots.  In my frustration, I was asking the guy at the grocery store what causes the spots and what takes them out. Well, according to him the staining is not from geckos or roaches or mold. What causes it then? It’s just what happens to white fabrics  – like a natural aging process, like going gray. It happens to everyone (or every linen in this case) so his recommendation was to just not fret about it anymore. 

You know, I really wish I could because he’s right, of course. The discoloration isn’t hurting anything. The best thing would be to simply quit worrying. But I can’t. I know I’ll keep fighting the stupid spots just like I know I’ll keep coloring my gray.

It’s All Going Down the Drain

Figuratively and literally. 

It all started with the leaking pipes. Was that really only two weeks ago? It seems like a lifetime. Of course, since then we’ve had holidays galore. (Christmas Eve, Christmas, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day). We’ve had football games galore. (The Steelers and the Bears are out, the Redskins and the Niners are still hanging on, and the Kansas State Wildcats had a truly abysmal showing in the Fiesta Bowl.) We’ve had the cable go out during It’s a Wonderful Life. And then the power went out all over the island just before the ball drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. 

All of that pales in comparison, though, to the plumbing issues that have assailed us since those leaking pipes started it all. It was the Friday before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring when under the house there arose such a clatter….well, you get the picture. That was the morning I woke to hear the water pump running and running and running and to find that two pipe joints were leaking under the house where we wouldn’t see them and that one cistern had run dry. That led to that first plumber’s arrival. 

A few days later, I realized that the water heater on that side of the house was not working. Its physical proximity to the original leak and its subsequent demise were so coincidental that I briefly entertained the thought that the unscrupulous plumber may have sabotaged it. There’s no point in speculation, however. After all, the water heater is 11 years old and that is like 130 in island years, so I just called another plumber.  In the classic diagnostic approach taught to all repairmen in Repairman School, we replaced one part. (After Michael scoured the island to find it himself because the plumber unsuccessfully checked one store and promptly gave up the search.)  No luck. Still no hot water. So Michael went off to find different replacement parts which weren’t exactly the ones we needed but they were close enough for jazz. So as of yesterday I believe the water heater is functioning properly. 

In the meantime, the sprinklers came on the other night and never turned off again. Yes, we have three whole sprinklers just to water a little patch of grass outside of our office. They were probably on for two hours before we realized it. (No, I haven’t checked the water level in the remaining cistern yet.) Something is obviously wrong with the automatic solenoid thingy. Michael has a ruptured disc in his neck (which is why we’ve been calling in plumbers), nobody here understands automatic sprinkler systems, and finding those parts is nearly impossible. So that repair is on currently on indefinite hold. 

There is no rest for the wicked, though. Last night when I was out picking some arugula for dinner, I realized that the pump on the gray water septic reclamation system wasn’t running. The control panel wasn’t alarming either; but apparently someone had, at some point in time, either intentionally or inadvertently toggled off the alarm switch. Not to get into too much detail, but the tank was pretty darn full of, well, the stuff that goes into a septic tank. 

Come Monday I’ll have to call the repair guy who just replaced that motor a few months ago. In the meantime, though, quite miraculously, on a Saturday morning, the guy who deals with full septic tanks arrived within an hour of my pleading call. So, while I know that my recent glut of holiday cheer may have had you thinking that my nightmares have passed and that I’m just hanging here living the dream, not to worry.  We are still here knee deep in the middle of it….but now only figuratively – thanks to the nice guy from Elmoalis. (Gotta love the slogan!)

You Talk It. We Pump It.