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Moving to the Desert MAG
I originate from the land of 10,000 lakes, and I’ll admit I had a spoiled childhood: after a long bike ride or a salty snack, I would drink a glass of water directly from the faucet. When I announced to my friends that I would be moving to Arizona for college, they told me to watch out for scorpions, tarantulas, and any unusually large, scary bugs. They didn’t tell me to watch out for the tap water.
Arizona’s climate in the summer is dry and hot. You don’t have to wonder whether you can fry an egg on the sidewalk: the answer is obviously yes. There is no humidity, so the above-110-degree temperatures are (semi-)tolerable. The terrain is sparsely inhabited, rocky desert straight out of an old Western movie, right down to the occasional cactus or dead-looking tree. Anything green must be a palm tree imported from California or turf pretending to be grass. “Just wait until winter – the weather is perfect then!” the locals say.
My dad agreed to help me settle into my dorm at Arizona State University in the middle of heat-stroke weather (a.k.a. July through September). By the time I had buckled my seat belt in our rental car, instead of eyeing my new home with wonder and anticipation, I was asking myself if I had made a terrible mistake. Beads of sweat sprinkled my brow and crept down the backs of my legs. The interior of the car scalded my skin, while my dad desperately tried to drive without getting third-degree burns from the scalding hot steering wheel. We were silent, avoiding any mention of the possibility of a fatal flaw in my college decision-making.
I grew up believing that water was water. I assumed that when I turned on the sink of any public establishment, I would get water. If I was thirsty, I would drink straight from the tap. But while the water coming out of the sinks in Arizona looks exactly like the water I knew and loved, I assure you, it tastes nothing like it.
Imagine stepping out of your car after hours of driving, soaked in sweat. You carry your life in boxes and bags nearly a mile from your car to your new dorm room. Your muscles shake from exhaustion, your head pounds with food and water deprivation, and your sweat has dried into a hot mess. You turn on the faucet in your new home and a sour, rotten smell confronts your nostrils. In desperation, you lean down to scoop some of it into your mouth. Instead of cool refreshment, you get a mouthful of homesickness and tears. A metallic aftertaste coats your tongue, leaving a deeper thirst in place of your dehydration. You spit what you can back into the sink, looking around for something to wash away the taste of disappointment.
When I registered for college, I unknowingly signed myself up to live without access to water. I wish that this had been noted in the acceptance letter. Perhaps I wouldn’t have so readily said good-bye to the beautiful Minnesotan weather, five-star water consumption, and my health.
My dad left me with a case of water bottles and hopped on the next flight back to true civilization. Meanwhile, I measured out my life in the 24-pack of H2O and imagined my untimely death from dehydration. Luckily, I escaped being left for dead, because my roommates began arriving from their own waterlands. I welcomed them to the drought. Over the next few days, we watched our pre-packaged water supply dry up, and eventually we had to face the problem. “We need to buy monthly water service,” I declared.
“That’s exactly what we were thinking!” my roommates responded. Three hundred dollars later, we were promised 15 gallons of water a month. Problem solved.
Yet here I sit, a quarter of the way through October, staring longingly at the empty gallons from September’s delivery. An early morning heat wave, and the water’s not there. A mid-afternoon meal – still feeling parched. Wiping away my last dried-out tears – a new kind of paradise! It’s not like water is vital to human life or anything. (Fifteen phone calls later, our water arrives, just in time for Halloween.)
All dorm rooms at Arizona State University should come equipped with drinkable water. Students shouldn’t have to use a meal swipe in order to get vital hydration, or pay hundreds for an unreliable water service. More than two-thirds of the human body is water, and doctors’ rule of thumb is to drink eight glasses a day. College students shouldn’t be viewing water as a treat for special occasions – it’s a necessity!
So as I reflect on my first year in college, I can’t help but feel choked up. Not because I’m going to cry, though – my throat is just dry.