Monday, July 25, 2011

Shep

By Lee Waites

Here’s the story: You’re dining in your favorite restaurant. Your waiter—let’s call him, oh, I don’t know . . . Shep. Well, Shep goes to the kitchen and gets your appetizer. Let’s pretend it’s an avocado dip. In fact, It’s your favorite avocado dip in town. You’re very much looking forward to it. He pours a pitcher of water from the drink station, puts it on the cart beside your dip. While he’s there he grabs his bottle of cleaning solution. It’s a nice toxic solution, good for cleaning. Some Health Department official with some pesky regulation made him store it nice and safe, under the counter where it wouldn’t be close to your food.

You consider Shep to be a friendly waiter. You like him fairly well. On his return trip, cart full of food, he stops beside a counter where he talks to his manager, briefly. They giggle, slightly, at some funny little joke, then glance up, looking sheepish, remembering where they are.

Shep continues on, cart laden with yummy goodness. Upon reaching your table he places your delicious avocado dip in front of you. You’ve been waiting patiently. Mmm . . . it smells really good. Shep turns over your water goblet and pours it full of water. He sets it down in front of you with a smile. All is pleasant. He picks up the cleaning solution bottle, shakes it for a few seconds, leans carefully in, then sprays a fine mist of cleaning solution over your avocado dip. He removes the sprayer from the top of his bottle and pours a small amount into your water. You smile. He smiles.  

You’re so happy your food has arrived. You pick up your chips and dip away. You feel grateful. After all, you need to eat don’t you? You wash it all down with your ice cold fresh water. That’s what we do isn’t it? We eat. We drink. We smile. We pay our bill.

For some reason, on the way home you begin to feel somewhat ill, tired, run down and sick to your stomach; you have no idea why. You get into your house, go immediately to the bathroom and look at your reflection. You take a few vitamins. That should help. You probably need more sleep, that’s all.
    
You bed down to a fitful night, for some reason filled with nightmares of people dumping toxins and junk into your drinking water. They look like the Penguin from Batman, hundreds of them. Dumping and laughing and pointing at you, pouring 50 gallon drums of sludge into a river. You wake up the next morning with pain in your lower back, right where your kidneys should be. You can’t figure out why you feel so bad. Then, in a brief moment of clarity, you think to yourself, “Maybe the problem is I’m a complete idiot and I participate in a greater social idiocy which allows blatant violations of the law resulting in pollution which harms my idiot body and destroys our God given, beautiful environment!”

Then the moment passes. You get up from bed, lumber to the bathroom, where you brush your teeth . . . in that water.

To learn more about the Shepherd Bend Mine, which has received the go ahead to discharge wastewater a mere 800 feet from a major drinking water intake for the Birmingham Water Works Board, go to www.blackwarriorriver.org 

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