There are two settings for the tap in the kitchen sink: not hot and cold as you might assume, but rather one setting for when you have water coming directly from the pipes and the other setting for water coming from the container above the sink (when you do not have water coming from the pipes).
We live on the 10th floor. And because the pumps at the base of the building are not powerful enough, we only get water twice a day: once early in the morning and the second time, in the evening (after 6 pm). You never know the exact time; you can only estimate. But what music to my ears when I wake up and hear water trickling into the container above the sink.
The bathroom sink and bathtub have two taps each: confusingly labelled hot and cold when in fact it’s the same system as in the kitchen. One tap for water directly from the pipes; the other, for water stored in a large plastic container above the bathtub for when you do not have water.
Now imagine planning your day (doing laundry, cooking, taking a shower) around when you do and do not have water. You could decide you want to take a shower in the middle of the day only to realize that you do not have enough water stored in the container and you will not get more water till after 6 pm. And since the water you get is never hot water, you also have to plan ahead by heating up the water in the container. All it takes is a flick of a switch, but then you have to wait at least an hour to an hour and a half for the water to heat up. And of course this depends on how much water you have in the container to begin with (more water = more time to heat) as well as how hot you want the water to be (so you have to keep checking it as it heats up). Once it heats up, you can’t adjust the settings to make it more or less hot: it is what it is. And therefore, you can’t let it get too hot or you’ll either have to endure the overly hot water or wait another half hour to an hour for it to cool down.
If you think about it, it’s quite a process and the number of decisions and actions you have to take throughout can really take up most of your day. Of course to Asya it’s second nature: she doesn’t really think about it. She goes through these rituals half-asleep in the mornings :) For me, I’ve gotten used to this system, but still find myself grappling with the odd decision or so. For example, when you do get water coming from the pipes, you can allow it to trickle into the container (so you can store it for later). If you open the pipes too much (because of course you have to open and close them), you will pay more (since more water is coming in). So you have to open them just at the right point where water trickles in, but not too fast or too much. With the kitchen sink there is the added fear of overflowing from the top container. So we keep a closer eye on that one :)
Also, the arrangement with this particular household is using water between 11 pm and 8 am is much much cheaper than using it during the day. So if I can get up before 8 am and take a shower (I prefer morning showers), we’ll be better off. But I never seem to be organized enough and end up taking a shower (and heating up the water, thus paying for gas too) during the more expensive day time.
In the bathroom, you have the choice of filling the container above the tub or filling the toilet: you can’t do both simultaneously. So, do you need to take a shower first? or do you perhaps need to make a big stink in the toilet (and therefore you should probably fill the toilet first so you can properly flush after you go)? Have you ever had to make such mundane and constant daily decisions in your life?
And since there’s two of us living here, I have to remember to check with Asya: do you want to take a shower this morning (or this evening) or do you need to use the bathroom after I go (in which case, I won’t flush; I will wait till you go and then we can do one big flush :) If there’s not enough water in the container above the bathtub, who gets to take a shower (if only one of us can)? Is it laundry day today? In which case, we’ll have to gather lots and lots and lots of water (so maybe no more water left for a shower). Have you ever thought about water to such an extent? It’s really quite something...