Pantless in Seattle


Today I went to work in my boxer shorts. Don’t worry, I won’t be posting a picture of my pasty white legs … some things just shouldn’t be visualized, even on the internet.

I had intended to dress a little more conservatively, but I couldn’t find any shorts in the bedroom. I had already slammed several cupboard doors in the bathroom, and I feared that any further noise would bring me to Kathy’s negative attention. I threw on a shirt from the bulging dirty-clothes hamper, velcro-ed on my sandals, and was out the door.

Even in Seattle, such attire would raise an eyebrow or two (even if the eyebrow was pierced) … but I do have an explanation. Well, sort of.

Over the Independence Day weekend our well stopped pumping. It had grumbled for some weeks … low pressure, failure to restart when we have power outages, that kind of passive-aggressive behavior. But for the last four years we have come to expect (at least when we have power) a reliable and plentiful source of clear, cold Duckabush water.

On Monday, in a flash of prescience, I took my shower early, and thus missed out on the subsequent outage. By the time my sweet wife made it to the shower, the water supply had become intermittent at best, and required a steady hand on the switch down at the pump house. (Sadly, my hand was less than steady, since I was still trying to figure out how to make the pump work.)

We called in a local well guy (I suppose he is actually called a “water system specialist” or something a little more impressive than ‘well guy’) … he made a brief call Monday night & concluded that they would need to ‘pull the pump’ (a non-trivial task, since our well is 220+ feet deep). By evening Tuesday, we heard the fateful news: our pump was cracked and would require replacement — $500 in parts alone, I fear.

As it turns out, we are very much used to running water. Without flushing toilets, working dishwashers or washing machines, without water from the tap, our household is slowly grinding to a halt. I’m only keeping it all together by reading the tips on unclutterer and on here and there on the internet. Rachel said to me last night, “I don’t think I’ll ever have clean pajamas again. (She’s prone to a bit of exaggeration, I’m afraid … I’ll bet she gets new pajamas for Christmas, at least!) We brush our teeth with water from a 2-liter bottle and we lug in scores of milk-jugs of water for the toilets which David flushes with wild abandon.

Once again, our faithful pool saves us … what luck that we have a huge reservoir of water just outside our back door! It doesn’t do for drinking water, but that is graciously provided by our faithful “foul-weather” friends and neighbors.

Sadly, we lack the one thing that separates civilized man from his savage counterpart: hot showers. A hot shower is very important to me … I think perhaps that is why I was born in this modern milieu in spite of my medieval mind-set. On Tuesday I had a series of job interviews and I wanted to be clean and reasonably fresh. So I had Joshua go down to the pump house Monday night and hold the control switch on while I took a shower. He amused himself by showing Rachel how it worked, turning it on and off with gleeful abandon, not realising the havoc that this would play with the shower temperature and pressure. (There was a certain poetic justice in this, since I had done much the same to Kathy.)

In the morning I stuck my head in the pool and (after a few minutes’ chipping ice out of my hair) declared myself reasonably clean and passably fresh. The interviews went OK … no one commented negatively on my personal hygiene, which is always a good sign in an interview.

The wily Kathy managed to wheedle a shower out of our “foul weather” neighbors (the Bringhams) — and there was much flushing of toilets by the children who missed such civilized niceties.

This little girl didn’t get a shower or a bath.

By Tuesday night the pump had been dismantled, with the vague promise of a new pump to be installed on Wednesday. Perhaps in dread of my incessant whining, Kathy solicitously arranged access to the nearby Wilderness Northwest Training Center shower through our neighbor and camp director, Jody Weed.

As more and more people flee the cities and seek to scratch out an existence in rural communities, there has grown up a need for the mentoring of urban tenderfeet, as we find ourselves dealing with arcane mysteries like “septic field maintenance” and “the safe and lawful operation of a chainsaw”. In a cooperative program with State and local governments, Jody was appointed as our benevolent guardian. He takes his mentoring duties seriously, and can be relied upon to steer us away from costly mistakes and dangerous practices. His casual oversight of our property is a source of frequent and considerable relief to me. Working in the city, I was unable to observe the progress of the water system repair or otherwise ensure that I ended up with a working well.

So I headed out this morning with my clothes in a knapsack, intending to shower at the nearby Training Center. Unfortunately, I am a bit absent-minded and habit-driven, especially before I’ve gulped my first Diet Coke of the day. Imagine the driver’s surprise when I boarded the bus in Poulsbo, still fetchingly attired in my sandals and boxer shorts! As it turns out, they have city ordinances against that sort of thing in this conservative Scandinavian bedroom community. How convenient that the State Police have a branch office directly adjacent to the Park ‘n Ride where I catch my bus!

What luck for me that one of my fellow passengers happened to be a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). With his masterful grasp of logic and political correctness, he convinced the bus driver and investigating police officer that they were infringing on my right to freely express myself and encouraged them to go pantless in support of my bold stance. The passengers all followed suit, showing that they were hip, tolerant people as well.

Or maybe that isn’t what happened. Truth be told, I did drive past the Camp facility, but remembered my undressed condition before I got to the foot of the valley. I turned my car around, enjoyed a hot shower with excellent water pressure, and made it to Poulsbo in time to catch the bus, fully clothed. (I was clothed, not the bus.)

I wonder if I could have pulled it off? This is a crazy town … people wear the strangest things. One guy that rides my bus, wears winter camouflage pants and swimming-goggle sunglasses pretty much every day, rain or shine. Another long-haired guy wears a full-length, dark green trenchcoat even in the warmest weather. I had two meetings today … it is probably best that I wore pants. Maybe I should adopt that as my new motto — “When in doubt, wear pants.” It’s catchy, succinct and achievable … I like it.


Later in the day I heard the good news … the well is repaired and Kathy has water again. No more scrubbing clothes on a washboard down at the river … her solidarity with the pioneer women is ended. It is probably just as well … we were getting tired of those cornmeal flatcakes and that dubious rabbit goulash.

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Time is on my side

This summer the weather has been horrible. Usually we can count on a good bit of rain, and clouds are the rule, rather than the exception during the months of May and June. It often remains cool, as well … a day that reaches 60 degrees Fahrenheit is considered warm. We don’t usually make any plans that require good weather until after the July 4th weekend, during which it often rains.

Since May we have faced an unremitting monotony of warm, sunny days. Oh, there have been a few cloudy days, and there was one promising stretch where it looked as though the rain might settle in, but that passed all too quickly and the sunshine returned.

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(This is not actually the pool I bought. It is the kiddie pool, now three years old.)

What’s a guy to do? I finally broke down and bought a pool for my children, even though the shade around our home and the deep chill of our well-water don’t promote comfortable swimming conditions. A visiting missionary-in-training and I whipped up a solar heating system for it (it is important to keep those missionary-types busy) and the kids are often able to enjoy the pool for whole minutes at a time, at least once they break up the ice and chase away the penguins.

Last summer I was unemployed (or self-employed, depending on how you look at it) and I was able to squeeze every last drop of sunshine out of a nearly cloudless season. But this year I’m working in the city, and am confined to a small cubicle deep in the bowels of a former hospital, bathed in unattractive fluorescent light. As midsummer’s day approached, I began to resent the blue skies and bright sun, often only experiencing the sunrise and sunset on a given day. Each day seemed a priceless treasure that was sinking uselessly into the past, exchanged for the dubious privilege of scratching out a living wage in support of my family.

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This is the new pool. The penguins said their agent didn’t permit pictures without compensation.

Then one day it came to me as I listened to a song on the local Christian radio station. I don’t know the name of the song, but the words (sung to God) go like this:

If I know you, and I think I do, you’ll turn this day into a perfect surprise.

I remembered that I am not a finite being, nor am I limited to a finite number of deep blue skies. However many days I spend (or even waste) in this life, I have an unlimited number of better days to enjoy to the full in heaven. I had been thinking as though this life was all there was … and it changed my perspective when I began to think in terms of the spiritual reality I enjoy. The real tragedy is not in losing this day in terms of personal gratification or material gain … it is in making this day spiritually useless. If I work all day in a way that honors and obeys God’s current will for me, then the day is surely redeemed. God promises that He will return a hundred-fold anything that we give up for Him. Call me greedy, but I’m hoping for a lot more than 100 blue-sky days in exchange for each of these that I am missing.

This kind of thinking changes the way that you protect your time from the depredations of others, and makes you more available to minister. I can afford to help you move to a new house, or can take the time to listen to your troubles, because I am on the eve of a permanent vacation in the best of resorts with all the people I love most.

For many people, the days and weeks before a long vacation can be very stressful. There are projects to be handed over, e-mails to be sent out, details to nail down. But with respect to Eternity, when God calls me home, I can go right away! There is nothing in particular that I have to accomplish between now and when I go to be with Jesus … the hard work has already been done. Without minimizing my responsibilities in this life or my desire to qualify for the very best beach cabana, I’m mostly just hanging around until my vacation begins.

I missed the shuttle to the ferry dock today, and then the next ferry was late arriving. Just now, they have announced that the other ferry is late leaving the Bainbridge terminal, and so we are further delayed. No doubt the express bus will have gone, and I’ll be even longer getting to my car. And of course I’m low on gas, so I’ll have to stop on my way home. All this means that instead of getting home at 7:30, I’ll probably walk through that door just before 9:00 … just time enough to check my e-mail and post this blog entry before I head for bed at 10:00 pm.

Ha. I just got home at 9:20 … there was construction on the bridge to top it all off … I lost another 35 minutes. But for some reason I don’t mind. The sun is still shining, and my family seems to be doing OK even though I’m rarely home. Whether I’m killed on the way home tonight or live to be 95, these days will seem like a passing shadow compared to the millenia I will spend in Heaven with my Lord. I hope to see you there!

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