Work of Art — Water’s not portable

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By Art Trujillo

“Ha! Look how those people ahead of us spelled ‘potable.’”

“You’re far too critical. It’s still affluent water, no matter how you spell it,” my wife, Bonnie said, as we went for the fifth trip to haul effluent water from the city plant on 12th Street.

And if this seems like a commercial, well it is. We’re pleased with the service by those people who provide recycled water to legions of pickup-driving residents trying to save their lawns, bushes and trees.

Some of the city employees assigned to the water department will even climb up the back of our pickup, remove the cap from the tank and insert the large hose into the opening.

We appreciate that help, given that no young pickup owner ever appears content with, well, a regular pickup. No-oo, all pickups nowadays need to be a foot higher than normal, creating the need to grab the steering wheel to board the truck or use a stool or winch when climbing in back.

It’s become a routine, rising by the time the plant opens, around 7:30, to squeeze in as many as five loads at 250 gallons a pop. Almost all the men we’ve met at the water plant are friendly and helpful. They enjoy being chatted with.

Bonnie never misses a chance to ask them how long they’ve worked for the city, how many tanks they’ve filled so far today, and what’s the average mileage on that shiny Harley parked under the shelter.

For as long as we’ve been in a high-stage drought, I’ve wondered about certain protocols, the first of which is that the city bosses want us to mark our water tanks with bold letters: “Non-potable water.” But, at least on radio, they never spelled it for us, leaving us with myriad interpretations. Most frequently, we hear it pronounced “pottable,” almost rhyming with “audible.” Other spellings? Well read on.

But first, I’ve wondered about the need to put up the letters in the first place. Aren’t we the ones who know what’s in that quantity of recycled water? Is it a way of warning others to stay away, lest they believe the water they’re siphoning is “potable,” not to be confused with “pottable”?

“Pottable,” likely, refers to what one places on the stovetop to boil water for coffee. There are pots for that purpose, but it’s unlikely that justifies spelling it “pottable.” Remember, “potable” has a long “o” and sounds like the word a Brit would utter to describe a kind of typewriter.

We’ve been on water hauls long enough to observe that almost everyone who buys the splashy stuff spells things alright. But Saturday we came across two variations of the word.

A driver behind us had tagged his tank as “Non-portable.” Realize, please that you can’t compress water, even a little bit. You can’t squeeze two gallons into a gallon container. So, the owner of that “non-portable” sign is correct: There’s no way to compact the water.

The other sign, which I didn’t see, but which Bonnie swears she saw, read “Nun-potable.” And that spelling exudes all kinds of interpretations. Back in the ‘70s, a Highlands administrator asked us faculty to help solve the problem of “too many nun-readers.” That’s a problem? It was the nuns at Immaculate Conception School, back in the ‘40s, who prevented us from becoming non-readers.

So we have a variety of spellings for the stuff we haul, and so far, I’m not aware of any city worker taking off for spelling or sending us to the back of the line for Magic Marker typos. When we finally see a tank marked “none-potable,” we’ll let you know.

• • •

Usually, when we see a vehicle illegally parked on a city street, we find some harried person dashing to or from the car, hoping to avoid being ticketed. The consequence for being found guilty of parking illegally in a handicapped zone is steep. And for blocking a fire hydrant? Apparently that’s different.

True, people might park double or use a forbidden parking spot as they run into a store to drop off something. Traffic often gets tight in Las Vegas. But what about the “it doesn’t matter” factor? Some people feel free to use some spots as their private parking lot. Notice the store on the west side of the Plaza: Dream Spirits; a painted yellow curb there, apparently, is merely a suggestion.

And what about those pesky fire hydrant zones on Bridge Street in this bone-dry Meadow City? On the northeast side of Bridge Street is a spot reserved to allow access for fire trucks. Last week, as I looked for a space near the Las Vegas Arts Council, I noticed a car had taken up a piece of real estate right alongside a hydrant. I don’t know how long the car had been there, but I photographed it nevertheless. After about 15 minutes, I noticed the car had remained there, and an hour after that, when my meeting broke up, the offending car had gone.

But wait — there’s more. It had been replaced by yet another car, in the same spot, blocking the hydrant. I suspect that seeing an unticketed vehicle in a prime spot gives others ideas: “Well, if they can get away with it, so can I.”
Drive around. Notice the number of cars parked with the expiration date of their placard taped over. Isn’t that also illegal?

Now, lest anyone get the wrong impression, let me say I haven’t suddenly turned envious of others who choose prime, illegal real estate.

As an elderly person myself, I usually try to park a distance from where I’m going, in order to get whatever cardio-vascular activity I have time for. People need to be fair.

And we need consistent enforcement.

Art Trujillo is a copy editor at the Optic and a contributing member of the newspaper’s Editorial Board. He may be reached by calling 425-6796 or by e-mail to art@rezio.net or atrujillo@lasvegasoptic.com.