Friday, June 24, 2016

Standpipe: Delivering Water In Flint

I drive slowly up a narrow dead end past a low contiguous building partitioned into cramped motel units rented out as apartments.  Residents are sitting on stoops, doors flung back to the afternoon heat.  The air is heavy, building for a thunderstorm.  Turning the ERV around will be difficult.  The woman we’re looking for, the one who made the 211 call, waves us in.  She’s heavy set, rises with difficulty from a metal dinette chair, her breathing labored.  She has a Britta faucet filter new in the package, and the promise of a nephew to come install it for her.  We give her six cases of water, then two more, insurance against the heat.  Neighbors gather, we hand out two, three cases, then another two, replacement filter cartridges, some recycling bags, still more water.  A crowd forms.  Maybe I should attempt to attach the woman’s filter.  The interior of her unit is dark, impenetrable seen from outside under blazing sun.  The ERV blocks vehicle access to half the complex.  Available shade is a narrow band the length of the building scattered with white resin chairs, plastic cups, foam coolers, empty water bottles, crooked riding toys.  I give her a filter pitcher, a hedge against uncertainty.  The pitchers are in short supply, a last resort, highly desirable.  Some neighbor women push forward for their pitchers.  Eight addresses remain on our emergency call list.  Distant knots of people back-fill our return access to the street.  I hand out the last two pitchers, swing the doors shut.  Turning the ERV around isn’t as difficult as I feared.  I raise a hand as we pass, residents reassembled side by side, birds on a wire sheltering from the relentless afternoon sun.

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