IT'S THE GESTAPO!


“Oh, Carol! I didn’t know you come upstairs!” Aurélie grins at me as I pull down spastically on one of the weight machines.
“I try to come a couple of times a week,” I say, glancing over at Ian who’s pulling his own weights. “How’s the pool?”
“Oh, it is good. Very good. You know? No one was in there today. I don’t know what is with that, I asked the lifeguard. Maybe it’s the weather?” Aurelie shrugs as only the French can shrug, glancing over my head at the couple working out on the leg machines. “That is my daughter. She graduated. She’s back now, with her boyfriend.” She gives a little frown, then sighs softly.
“Oh, that’s nice for you, isn’t it?” I ask.

She shrugs again. “I don’t know. Maybe….” Her voice trails off, distracted.
“She probably came to Californian for the weather,” I joke, vaguely remembering that Aurelie’s daughter had been at college somewhere back East.
“Yes, yes, that could be it.”
“Though with the drought now, the weather’s not so great,” I sigh, thinking about the pathetic little spritz of drops that fell on the back deck that morning. I counted them. 12.

“She got a letter to the editor published yesterday about the drought,” Ian says.
“Oh, really?!” Aurelie’s eyes light up. “My husband, he gets the paper, but yesterday?” she frowns. “It is in the recycling.”
“That’s okay,” I smile.
“What was it about?” she asks.
“Oh, there was this article about how the water agencies are setting up hotlines so that neighbors can snitch on each other if they see water waste.

“OH!” Aurelie exclaims, disgust lacing her exclamation.
“I know, it’s disgusting,” I say.
“It is the Gestapo!” she proclaims, shaking her head.
“Big Brother, 1984,” Ian adds.

“Why don’t they just allot the water per person?” she asks.
“Yes, that was my proposal. So simple. Which is why I wrote the letter.”
“You, know,” Aurelie leans in close to me, conspiratorially, “I see these women in the locker room in the shower they take the shower for so long!” she harrumphs. “I take a shower, I dry off, I get dressed, I pack up and still they are in the shower!”
“Yes, I’ve noticed that too,” I nod.
“And sometimes….” Here she leans in closer, “I see they leave the shower on. They walk away. I turn it off.”

“Yes, I’ve seen that too,” I say.
“In the men’s showers it happens too,” Ian adds.

“And then sometimes, I am in the shower and the woman she is soaping up for oh so long and I want to reach around her and turn off the shower while’s she’s in it, but I don’t….” She clucks her tongue. Or do I just imagine this?
“Yeah,” I laugh, “that might be a little too intimate.”
“Too intimate!” she laughs. “Yes, you are right. But still, it makes me angry. I hear they are going to raise the dues here because of the water rates and then people will change.” She rubs her fingers together in the universal filthy lucre mode. “When they have to pay their money, then they will care.”

“Yes, that’s the only thing that will really change people’s behavior.” And I have to wonder, would I be so obsessed with the drought if I weren’t worried about my water bill? I keep hearing women in the locker room berating ‘renters’ and their water waste since they don’t pay the bill: “This guy, he’s a renter, washes his car twice a week! Can you believe it?” I overheard one afternoon as I was packing up to leave after my swim.

And the pool….I have this fear that if the drought continues, all the swimming pools will dry up. They won’t be allowed to waste all this water for such luxuries. How many 1000’s of gallons of water does one pool hold? And then you multiply that by all the pools in California, well …..it’s a LOT of water.

I hope that it doesn’t come to this. But it may. And if it does?
I’m moving. To somewhere where it rains all the time, filling the lakes and rivers and pools with abandon.
This would be paradise.
Oh, yeah, that’s right. Hawaii. Waterfalls. Oceans of fishes. Rain showers galore!

“You have a good swim,” Aurelie interrupts my Paradise Reverie. “I go now. Wait in the car for them.” She nods shortly toward her daughter and the boyfriend.
“Did you have a good swim?” the boyfriend appears by her side, grinning in youthful bearded sweat.
“Yes, yes, of course,” she answers. He lumbers away. She gives me the French eye, grins, and then disappears out into the lobby.

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