BURLINGTON – H.T. Oats started storing water after reading a Facebook post from a real doctor (of literature, not medicine, but still a smart guy) saying that if you stay hydrated you won’t get the coronavirus. Although he later read that the water treatment didn’t actually help, he started fearing that the water would eventually run out. “Look what happened to all the toilet paper. And now I can’t even get a can of beans or a couple of pounds of hamburg at the grocery store!”
He filled every empty bottle in his small Burlington apartment. But even using all available containers, it still didn’t seem like enough. He thought about keeping his bathtub and sinks filled, but that would interfere too much with his daily life.
He then began knocking on neighbors’ doors, asking them for any extra bottles, cans, jugs or other containers with lids. (Of course, he would knock or ring and then step back the requisite six feet from the open door.) Though puzzled, people were only too glad to help, as it reduced the amount they had to recycle, and some even praised H.T. for his “reusing” ethic. But even after filling all he had collected, which now took up about a third of his bedroom, he realized it still wasn’t enough. “Do you know how much water you use for flushing, showering, and especially endless hand washing?” he asked this reporter.
His next step was to head out to the streets to ransack recycling bins. “It was a gold mine of bottles!” he claimed. His ransacking provided more containers than he could comfortably carry, so he started using a shopping wagon. Nobody in Burlington seemed to mind, perhaps because there was almost no one on the streets by then. He only once got into a tussle, with a homeless man who was collecting deposit bottles, but they soon sorted that out, as H.T. promised to only take the non-returnables. Soon his entire bedroom was filled, and he was forced to sleep on his living room couch. But that still wasn’t enough for him.
“I saw all the unused space in my living room and kitchen and I knew I had to fill that, too,” he said, especially since, with his many outdoor trips, he was washing his hands ever more frequently. That’s when he had his master stroke. He was walking on the bicycle path at the waterfront, trailing a mother and her young daughter who were drinking apple juice, hoping to nab the bottles when they were done, when he thought about all the tanks at the ECHO Center. “Eugreeka!” he said, as a vision of a massive fishtank in his living room appeared in his mind’s eye. “It worked for Captain Kirk to bring back the whales!” he said.
He quickly rushed to the hardware store and bought as much glass, caulking and flashing as he could. He assembled his materials in his apartment and started putting them together. Within two days he had a massive tank built, and it seemed strong enough to hold hundreds if not thousands of gallons of water. He ran a hose from the bathtub to the tank and began filling it.
The water pressure in the building did drop a few times, but he eventually got the tank mostly filled. He heard creaking sounds from the floor and walls, but he was used to that, living on an upper floor of an old building. “I mean, you should hear this place when the temperatures go below 20.”
He turned the tap back on to top it off when he heard a loud crack. Suddenly, the floor gave way, dropping the tank to the apartment below, where it shattered, setting off a tsunami that washed the furniture and rugs out the windows. Luckily, the apartment was empty, as the college students who lived there were forced to return to their farflung homes (bringing the Burlington strain of coronavirus with them, no doubt).
A firefighter called to the scene, Corporal Blaze Starr, shook his head and said, “People never learn.” Asked what he meant, he took a couple of puffs on his pipe and continued, “During the hippie days of Burlington — I mean, the real ones back in the ’70s, not the wannabes we have now — we’d get calls like this maybe once a month. No one ever realized the forces that could be generated by two people bouncing around enthusiastically on a waterbed.” He took a few more puffs and said, “Ah, those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”