So we’re having a drought here in California. A serious dry-up-and-blow-away-in-the-wind kind of drought. Lawn watering is strictly rationed. No watering before 7pm and you can’t use sprinklers except on your designated days (Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday if you’re even. Monday, Wednesday, Saturday if you’re odd.) The lawns are mostly dead, bare patches of dirt with a little oasis of oat grass or a solitary dandelion adding a splash of color, but I water for the sake of the trees. The jacaranda has cut out the middleman and pried its way into the sewer line so it’s nice and green and stopping up the plumbing now and then, but the citrus trees out back need some help. Laden with green lemons and oranges, halfway to being edible fruit, they need a drink now and then.
So, after 7 on my designated night, I turned on the back sprinklers. Long ago they used to be automatic so the switch in the yard is a bit dicey with wires and electrical tape all around in a way that makes me a little nervous to touch it. I carefully grab a tiny black knob at the back and twist it once, twice. A hissing noise starts and then suddenly the air is filled with arcs of cold water. The wet dirt and the thirsty trees immediately begin giving off wonderful smells in celebration. I get a little damp turning the knob because the sprinkler controls are right there at the edge of the lawn in perfect range of the two closest sprinklers. But I turn it on and dash inside with hardly a splash.
I keep one eye on the time, let the poor parched growing things outside have their three minutes before I go to turn off the sprinkler.
And it doesn’t turn off.
I keep turning and it keeps sprinkling. On me. And it’s cold.
I turn a little more frantically, anxious to stop the unwanted shower.
And the little knob comes off in my hand.
A tiny geyser of water bursts from the hole it should be in.
I try to shove the knob back into place, but now I am not only trying to find a tiny hole on the backside of a scary sprinkler head by porch light, but that hole is spewing enough water to push the knob back out again. I push and turn. The knob pops out. I push and turn. The knob pops out. I push and turn. The knob pops out of my hand and lands in the only long green grass in the entire lawn.
Water is starting to drip out of my hair and run down my face. And I’m getting a little panicky. I can’t leave the sprinklers running all night. The water Nazis will come and take me away.
I run into the house, dripping as I go, grab the phone, call the local plumber. But at 9pm, he has apparently shut off his phone. Okay, I guess I’m on my own.
I find a flashlight and run back into the sprinkler spray, which is becoming less fun by the minute. The extra light is just what I need. There is the knob, all wet and shiny in the grass.
I grab it and shove it back into the hole. Water spurts up through my fingers. Water rains down onto my wet hair and soggy shirt. Pretty soon I’m going to be wearing my monthly ration of water.
I think it’s reached my underwear.
As I start to turn the knob for what feels like the hundredth time, I suddenly realize that I’m turning it the wrong way. I shake water out of my eyes and try again, turning to the right instead of the left. The knob wiggles a bit, still not quite seated in whatever spot it belongs in, then suddenly the screw bottom catches, rotates, actually does something. The sprinkler hisses and the water stops.
I stand there, grateful, freezing, happy Lawn Dude won’t be coming to drag me away.
No way I’m watering the front lawn.