Student recalls day he ‘saved the water!’


By Heshie Mortensen

Ask Miss Mary Sullivan.  “It’s all true,” she would say.  On Thursday, Nov. 1, at about 10:20 a.m., I sat at my bedroom desk doing some English 174 reading.  With no electrical power it was the only room available with windows large enough to let in sufficient sunlight in order to be able to read without “artificial” light.  At about 4 p.m., on the previous Monday “Sandy” had rudely interrupted my electricity.  It remained off continuously from that time.  The only saving grace to having no heat, lights, computer or radio/television, was that for reasons unknown to me water was still, happily, flowing through the water pipes.  Although there was no “hot” water, with some practice one could still wash hands, face, take a birdbath, have a drink, wash dishes, pots and pans, and brush teeth, (all with cold water, of course).  What more could a man yearn for in a closely honed, civilized society?  Ah hah, reverie ruination, here I come, “I could almost smell its powerful aroma stealthily approaching my front door.”

            Suddenly, ponderously, eerily, “… there came a rapping as of someone gently tapping, tapping at my…” front door.  The young man standing there in a chartreuse hoodie announced to me, “Suffolk County Water Authority.  We’re here to tell you your water will be shut off in about 15 minutes, for several hours.”  I could not believe what I had heard. “What,” I mused!  “You’re standing there alone, so how could you say, “’We?’”   Recognizing he was merely the messenger, I proceeded to espouse my opinion as to how asinine I believed the entire conduct to be, and asked him to please advise his superiors as to my responsive commentary.  “I will,” he said as he turned and abruptly departed.

            An immediate phone call was placed to the office of my local Suffolk County Legislator, Rob Calarco, “District Seven,” at which time the woman who answered the telephone, “Sarah,” advised that he, (Calarco) was unavailable to come to the telephone.  When I explained my plight, she heartily endorsed the Water Authority’s position.  Her reasoning was clear and unambiguous, “…if I have to be without electricity and water, why should anyone else be allowed the convenience of water?”  Let, “SCWA do its thing,” she heartlessly intoned, as she hung up the phone, almost certainly ignoring my plea to have Mr.  Calarco call back at his earliest convenience.  Now, some seven or eight days later, I fruitlessly still await his return call.  Thank you for nothing, Mr. Legislator.

            Next I placed a call to the SCWA.  There, “Theoni,” answered the phone.  She, too, appeared oblivious to my plight.  When I asked for the name of the “Commissioner,” she refused to provide it, even after repeated requests for same.  I guess it must be a “County” secret.  After much delay, she transferred me to “Miss Mary Sullivan.”  While waiting for Mary to answer, I thought to myself, “probably an alias.”  When, “Miss Mary Sullivan,” answered the phone, she immediately placed me on hold.  “Here we go again,” thought this caller.  After very few “seconds” she returned to my call, and patiently listened to my spewed anger, hostility, and distaste.  She remained cool, calm, and attentive.  Saying she understood my consternation, she continued, “give me your phone number, let me make a few calls and I’ll call you right back.”  The response to her was extremely terse, “exactly how long is ‘right back?’”  She responded, probably less than thirty minutes.  Once again, the voices in my head spoke to me, loud and clear, “more public service b.s., I’ll never hear from you again.”  After about thirty-five minutes had passed, conviction set in.  There would be no callback, except maybe for an angry one from me to her. 

             The soul from  within jumped from fright when the telephone ring screeched out loud, breaching the silence and solitude of a home without electrical power, power necessary to produce typical sound blasting.  It had startled me back to reality.  Most telephone land-lines had been out of service since the storm, (“super Sandy”), had approached.  Mine had come back, early on, shortly after “Sandy’s” departure.  To my amazement a pleasant voiced woman said, “Mr. Mortensen, this is Miss Mary Sullivan.  I have good news for you.”  Continuing, she had spoken to her boss, Mr. Herman Miller, Deputy C.E.O. of the SCWA.  He had agreed with me. No one needs more unnecessary burden added to their discomfort in these very trying times.  “No water will be turned off until the storm problems are over, including yours.  Mr. Mortensen, it’s the day you saved the water.” 

            Initially, I only experienced confusion and shock.  Had I heard her right?  Was this a fantasy, a hallucination, had I overdosed on my morning aspirin?  “No.  You heard it right,” she stated.  Ecstatic, I thanked her profusely.  But no one knew about her efforts except me, she, and but a few other SCWA employees.  To rectify that lack of awareness, let’s tell the world, I thought.  Along with a copy of this press notice to her boss, Deputy CEO, Mr. Herman Miller, and his boss, Mr. James Gaughran, Water Authority Chairman, and, as well, to anyone who read this article, should it be published she would be praised, hopefully admired, and definitely cherished by at least this one thirsty consumer.

            Thereby, let the masses learn of the “miracle” on Union Avenue.  There are far too few people like Miss Mary Sullivan, of the SCWA, who know how to restore reality to a whacked-out, topsy-turvy world.  Thank you, Miss Mary Sullivan, and all the other public-service employees just like you who might be out there, just waiting to convert a space-cadet fantasy into reality.  Shouldn’t we all have at least one of them to call our very own?  Thank you, Miss Mary Sullivan.  I came to you at a time of critical need and you produced remarkably well.  You “done good” by this hapless LIPA victim!

2 responses

  1. Excellent article!

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