Nuclear Councellor, British Embassy Tokyo
21st May 2020 Japan
A Flood of (un)Kindness #KindnessMatters
It was the summer of 2007, and Gloucestershire had just experienced the worst floods in living memory.
In an ironic twist, the major impact on the area was a water shortage. The floods had overwhelmed the pumping station at the reservoir in Tewkesbury, and the water supply to hundreds of thousands of people in the surrounding towns had been cut off. It wasn’t restored for a full three weeks. The local authorities did an amazing job, supplying bottled water for drinking, and household water supplies were provided through ‘bowsers’, large plastic tanks, which looked a little like mini petrol tankers, parked in various places throughout the town.
My area was serviced by a large orange bowser. You can actually see it here on YouTube. I recorded it being filled on my “flip phone” in the early days of phones being able to record video, it is appalling quality, but at the end you can just about see the bowser.
The bowsers had three ‘exits”. There was a large hole in the top for filling it, a small tap on one end where you filled your bucket, and a large plug at the opposite end to the tap, presumably for emptying the bowser when it was no longer needed.
On this particular day, my friend from across the road, Mark, went out to fill his bucket. He set it on the ground and turned on the tap. He then became aware of a voice saying “Help! Help!”. At the other end of the bowser, a boy of about 12, who had been sent out to fill the household bucket, had mistakenly gone to the wrong end of the bowser, and had managed to unscrew the plug, instantly filling his bucket, but with the slight disadvantage that the water supply for the next two days for the local area was gushing onto the ground, forming a small lake. Mark immediately rushed round, and between them, somehow managed to push the plug back into place and screw it back on, saving the day!!
It was just then that another neighbour came out of their house with their bucket. All he could see was two drenched people sitting on the ground laughing, while at the other end of the bowser Mark’s bucket had now filled up, and was overflowing onto the road.
“Oi you!”, he shouted (or perhaps something slightly stronger..), “What do you think is so funny! You are wasting all the water! It’s selfish people like you who cause problems for the rest of us! How am I going to be able to wash the dishes if you waste water like that! Absolutely ridiculous!!”
I have to confess to feeling like Mark in February, having been involved with the evacuation of the Diamond Princess, and then coming back to my desk the following week to find a slightly irritated email from a colleague in London wondering why I hadn’t responded to their email.
However, that seems a very long time ago now, but the moral of the story still stands. You have no idea why someone hasn’t responded to you, or is acting in a particular way, particularly just now. So, take a moment before thinking the worst, and be kind…