Written by: MEGAN RUMBELOW
I have some severe issues with anything being wasted. I get anxiety when someone tosses half their lunch away, or is speaking to me while a faucet is running or taking things in and out of a freezer. It takes all of my willpower to not scream at them mid-sentence, My god, please, oh please, just turn the water OFF! An island girl since birth, I’m not sure if this is a quality I’ve inherited or learned. Either way, since moving back to my wee rock several years back, my “waste less” philosophy has only been strengthened.
Island life and its limitations make you all the more aware of how wasteful we humans can be. When basic life essentials like water and electricity come and go without warning, you learn that it pays to be conscientious. When there is a blizzard or other inclement weather up north (or the odd strike going on), and you’re out of stock of all the imported food your rock relies on until God knows when, you learn to be patient and do with whatever you can get. When the island’s law dictates only one car per household, you learn to embrace the inconvenience, reassuring yourself with how much money you’re saving and stress you’re not dealing with parking on the rock. When a hurricane strikes, you gain an entirely new level of gratitude for the bare necessities of life.
In the autumn of 2014, we were hit by two hurricanes back to back in the course of a week. The first one, Fay, swept in like a woman of fury, with little warning of the wrath she would bring forth. Apparently, I had too much sand and swizzle fogging my brain and didn’t prepare adequately. I was a bit too complacent, as we had had many false alarms for a few years running. We islanders are nothing if not laid back – sometimes to our own detriment! Hence, I had no extra batteries on hand, no buckets of water, and my coolers could only hold so much. It was a couple of days before I got my electricity and water back – and boy did I appreciate it when it returned.
The next rager, Gonzalo (who comes up with these names?!), was a different story. We had plenty of warning, so we knew to prepare and we did it well. A tub and buckets full of water, torchlights and plenty of candles on-hand, batteries, extra borrowed coolers, snacks, non-perishable food, and plenty of alcohol stocked – I learned my lesson, clearly. Gonzalo wreaked havoc; it was a Category 4 and no joke!
Of course, many were left with no electricity and water for days on end, some of whom hadn’t even gotten these basics back since Fay. Ice bucket showers, bucket flushes, washing dishes and lingerie in a bucket – this was the reality. Days went by and little by little the supply diminished, ice melted, and I was eating my cheese so rapidly I felt like the girl from Willa Wonka that blows up into a blueberry. I had to go for several early morning runs to avoid the thought of how it was clinging to my arteries. (Cheese is my vice and it is indeed pricey – I couldn’t allow myself to let it go to waste, obviously!) I had to toss any remaining food items from my fridge and freezer, and oy, was that nail-biting.
Thankfully I was able to use showers and power outlets at my job, gym, and friends’ places when they had sustainable power for more than an hour, and virtually every night for several days I was patronizing a different restaurant simply to charge my basics in exchange for a proper hot meal. You would think we could be okay without our gadgets, but many of us had to update our social media and email our loved ones worldwide on our status: “Don’t worry, we’re fine; another day another bucket shower and deciding between the last can of beans and warm beer or proper food and good antics and jokes with the locals at every place in town again.” A storm does bring us together, doesn’t it! And we have a good laugh about it in the end.
So now, when I see a bucket, cooler, bottles of water, non-perishables, and alcohol for sale, I grab them up and hoard them to be extra prepared for our next storm or whatever else may strike.
My worldwide friends occasionally ask me things like, “How do you live without a car?!” or “How on Earth do you manage to be so controlled with your water usage? It sounds so inconvenient!” And while I certainly understand where they’re coming from – when water flows without fail every time you turn the pipe and the cost of it is practically inconsequential, it naturally holds less value – it only makes me smile. Sometimes, yes, living with less is a nuisance, and sometimes I do miss the abundant convenience of city life. But it means more to me to live more responsibly and to feel more connected with where our basic life essentials actually come from. Besides, in the city, you also miss out on a lot of the fun that comes with improvising. Who’d want to miss out on the occasional bucket shower anyway?