It was a hot day, the kids had been whining all day about the heat and there was nothing I could do to cool them down. We were in drought with level 6 water restrictions which meant no swimming pool, no outside taps and an empty town pool. Brodie didn’t take it too well and he was very loud in his objections to the drought and the distinct lack of water for him to cool his little self off with. It was hard on the kids, it was the first hot days since we had moved back from the tropics where they were used to swimming in the streets every afternoon in the monsoon rain.
Mid morning I went into the kids rooms to start tidying up while the little ones played outside, All of a sudden Brodie came running into the house with heavy footsteps and then there was silence. My ears pricked up to listen to what he was doing but all I could hear was the steady stream of a tap with water flowing outside. Hell No!!. My feet never even hit the floor before I was flying out the back in a mad panic. I skidded up to the tap like a batter running to home base and frantically turned it off. Standing up, I looked in dismay at the now running water just creeping to the end of the short drainage ditch before the side path.
Of course Brodie was nowhere to be found. After spending weeks trying to turn the tap .. we had turned it off with pliers, he finally succeeded, scaring the poop out of himself in the process at the thought of what was going to happen next to him and his little tush.
I had barely rounded him up from his spot in the library behind the bookshelf and was dishing out his lecture when there came a knock at the back door. No, it couldn’t be, I thought shaking my head as I went out to answer it. Oh dear it was, standing in front of me were three council workers, in their bright orange shirts that a person needed sunglasses to be around without being blinded and all wearing floppy cowboy hats with bulbous round red suntanned faces.
The largest one, who was obviously designated “leader” by the look of his big “fines” book unfurled in his hand, glared at me as the door opened.
“Ma’am we just received a phone call that reported you had an outisde tap on. You do realize this town is in water restrictions and that is a 300 hundred dollar fine”. He said, puffing his beer belly out even further in my face. (I hate being little at times like that)
I did a double take, I could help it. I felt so surreal, like I was in the middle of a movie set or worse the subject of The Truman Show. I peered around for cameras before setting my eyes back on the three men standing with their arms crossed in front of me almost frothing at the mouth in anticipation of a good catch.
I laughed, I couldn’t help it.
“Pardon, did you just say what I thought you said”, I asked politely of the BeetMan in the pumpkin suit directly in front. He got more blustery if that was possible and with gritted teeth spoke. “I said do you realize that there is a ban on outside taps and it is a 300 dollar fine for any failure to obey. You have been reported as having a tap on at your premises and I can see a little bit of water here.
I took a deep breath.
Well yes I do know there is a ban on outside taps and I abide by that ban where possible and that is why the tap was turned off immediately we found it on. I have a small autistic child here that doesn’t quite understand that he is not allowed to do his favourite thing in the whole world and we have taken precautions but unless the water is turned off to the taps all together I can only do so much.
“Well im sorry, that is not good enough. The law is no outside taps at all, fines are enforced and we encourage people to report all breeches in the water act”.
“You are lucky its us and not the police taking you down and charging you”. Blustered the BeetMan, beginning to start writing in his fines book. His two cronies, “Bill and Ben” the flowerpot men, nodded in serious agreement at his words, with a look in their eyes that spoke of their great lustful thoughts of handcuffing me and parading me through the town naked to be tarred and feathered.
I said. “Listen this is a joke, you cannot be serious I just explained about my son. He doesn’t understand he is four years old. It was turned off within a minute”.
Beetman kept writing, he eyes glaring over the top of the fine book at me. “Our laws are no outside taps at all and you have broken the law”.
“Ok well, technically my son broke the law so lets get down to it. I do not waste water, I encourage water savings in every way possible but having said that my husband is inside in bed with radioactive Hepatitis c medication that he has to inject into himself. He is not allowed skin contact with me and I wash his vomit buckets outside everyday with gloves. i will continue to do so no matter what you come here and threaten me with. I will not wash them inside and expose my children to the radioactivity anymore than they do by him living at home and not being hospitalized . I could have lied and said that was what happened today but I didn’t. As I said my son turned the tap on and I turned it off.
BeetMan looked incredulously at me “If you do that ever Ma’am you will be fined every single time for multiple infractions and we will be having your neighbours report you” he spluffered, getting more fervent by the second. I was getting worried that steam was going to blow his hat off and his red face would erupt everywhere.
By this time I was stunned. I was watching him getting himself so worked up and so indignant about this huge breech of the law.
“I am sorry but every week I spend over 70 dollars on water. I buy in 15 litres of water a day. I do not use your town water to cook with or drink. My children due to restrictions of hot water and water restrictions have reused bathwater of a night and at the moment I have no washing machine so I pay for the use of a washing machine and water down at the laundromat. Now if you will excuse me a moment I am just going to step inisde my kitchen and turn my sink tap on and open the window for a minute while we talk.
he looked at me strangely. “What are you doing. Where are you going, come back here”. He looked at his buddies frantically as if I was going to bolt off into the sunset on him.
I am going inside to turn my tap on and waste some water legally, as I am allowed to do while you waste me time with such a pathetic issue and situation. Do you have any idea how ridiculous this looks.
“You can’t do that”, he belched at me.
“I can and I will, if you are going to fine me then I might as well sit here and waste 300 dollars worth of water. At least then I will accept the fine accordingly and feel it was warranted”. I answered calmly.
They looked at each other with blank looks in their eyes, all unsure of what to do next.
I stood there and folded my arms back, trying to draw myself up to my full five foot zero zip, ziltch inches.
“Furthermore I think the council’s policy of getting neighbors to spy on each other is reminiscent of a recent disastrous fascist regime and is an aberrant practice and it is so disgraceful and disgusting that Australia, who prides itself on being a free country, has thought so little of their citizens to enact such an atrocity.
This one bamboozled them. By now their shoulders began to hunch and the previous “get her at any costs” attitude was replaced by a definite unsure air.
“Look we will let you off with a warning this time but if you turn the outside taps on for anything we will be back and we will fine you for multiple breeches”.
I was still cranky, and I looked at him in the eye and said” I just told you I will continue to use the outside taps and I have told you why. if you wish to get my neighbours to ring you up and report me that is fine with me. It is what it is, appalling.
With that I turned and walked back into the house and sat down with a cup of coffee to digest the stunning events. it had all happened so quick, since I had first heard the sound of the running tap and then closed the door on the gestapo. I lit a cigarette and smoked in silence, contemplating the sad breakdown of community. I could not believe that we had stooped so low so fast as a society to spy on neighbours for imagined minuscule breeches in laws.
I will mention at this point of people I know who had leaking pipes and toilets that leaked upto 8 litres of water every 45 seconds. Nothing was done about this after it was pointed out to them by ater officers.
Council themselves were video taped and outted in the local paper after they left taps on in the cbd and the water was found to be flowing down the gutters and wasting away for eight hours every night. Hoses were also left on for over 24 hours in a local park.
I stubbed my cigarette out and walked out of my office to the front door. I opened it and standing there was a gaggle of Beetmen in pumpkin suits, all with floppy hats except the one standing in front with a look of authority on his face. Behind him were my three stooges of not 15 minutes before, looknig very sheepishly at the grass growing around their feet. Further spread out behind them was another six or seven Beetmen all with arms folded glaring at me as if i had just robbed the payroll and killed the hostages..
“Yes, what now” I said, stifling the urge to run back inside and grab my camera to record the moment for posterity.
The Head Beetman spoke in a deep voice that was fitting for some freaky unreality show.
“Say what” I said stunned with a warning tone in my voice.
My reaction took him back a step.
“I am here to start an investigation as a course to laying charges against you for water breeches”, he repeated. “You were reported by your neighbors for having a tap on outside”.
“Oh no that is quite enough,” I replied. ‘This has gone to far, did you just really say an investigation over my tap being on for two minutes’? “Do you realize that I explained to your so called staff Officers that it was an accident from a small autistic child, which was immediately corrected and discipline taken”.
“yes” he answered. “I am aware of that but I am investigating for charges, you were reported and we have to take action”.
I shook my head again, still trying to get a grasp of the implications of what was happening.
“Do you mean to say you encourage and condone the act of neighbours dobbing in neighbours over “water crimes” when a tap is accidentally turned on for less than two minutes?
Do you see what you are doing and how nazi like your actions are at this moment?
Do you understand how much you are undermining the community by encouraging people to spy on neighbours?
Do you have any idea how morally reprehensible your actions are.
Have you really looked at yourselves here and your gestapo tactics, I mean a good long hard look at yourselves and your own personal morals?
He stopped still a moment thinking, I don’t know whether what I was saying was having any effect but his tone softened. “We are here to fine and stop breeches in the water act”.
I once again explained my actions and told him how hypocritical he was and ridiculous. I think he started to get it when I once again mentioned going inside and turning on all the taps for an hour or so. I think it was at that point he saw the utter idiocy of what he was doing, he turned and looked back at the other men and sort of shook his head before turning back to me.
I wasn’t finished though.
Furthermore think it is disgusting how you all came down here flying on your high horses on charge over such a trivial matter. This is Australia not some repressed military regime. Where is the common sense here. Can you logically explain why it takes ten grown bullies to come and pick on one little lady with a big family for accidentally losing one bucket or less of water? Do you have an idea how incredible this looks from this side of the fence honey, or even to the people on the fence watching a whole herd of orange shirts and cowboy hats piled up in my front yard?
What a despicable act, turn around and look at my kids and how much you have freaked them out thinking I am going to be arrested over your so called “water breech. Better still go on into my bedroom and tell my terminal husband to his face that you are going to start an investigation over a bucket of water that his son lost.
He would be out here but he is sitting on the edge of his bed crying about being unable to get up and come and help me deal with this utter crap.”
By now head Beetman was turning even redder, He tried one last time to warn me about the water but by this time I was furious and I said “Don’t Start again” as he opened his mouth.
Now if you don’t mind I have important things to do and Im sure you have more water thieving criminals to catch out breaking your water laws so if you will excuse me, I do so hope this is the last time I hear of this idiocy and you can tell my neighbours *I pointed to the only house with a view of my backyard I said they can stick their phone and spying where the sun doesn’t shine. I don’t know who is worse, them for having no life or you for encouraging it. Not only that, as John next door here is at work and would never disrespect my family to do this and my house is blocked from view at the front and back, it leaves those people in that flat there as being the ones that called you. What are you creating in neighborhood relations here now that we know those neighbors spy on us and are itching to “dob us in” for any supposed breeches?
He had the decency to say “I can see your point and I can understand why you feel that way”
Good , now please leave me alone”. I said and walked back inside. I sait down in my office shaking. I could not believe and still can’t believe to this day that it all happened.
I had reminders of a certain “dob in a jew” campaign of long ago. When a society orders neighbors to spy on each other, it is then the beginning of the end for that society .
It is the fall of Community. What do you see around you that causes a breakdown in society?
What do you think of the practise of “Spying and Dobbing in neighbors?”
What effect does it have on community Spirit?
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