Thankful for those who perform thankless jobs

On Friday night the unthinkable happened. Almost all of Alpena lost their municipal water supply. At about 11 p.m., I received a text from a co-worker asking if we had any change in water pressure as their faucets were only letting out a trickle. I was reading so I got up to check. Our water pressure was also low.

I opened up Facebook to post the inquiry to see if anyone else was experiencing low pressure. All across the city, from Eighth to First, and Island View to Ripley, and in parts of the township, people were reporting either no water pressure or low water pressure. Then, some who originally had low pressure, suddenly had no water at all.

Soon messages were coming in from friends and neighbors. How will we flush the toilets? What if it is out for a few days?

We talked about what to do. Fill up some pots with water just in case everyone totally loses water supply. Head to the store for some bottled water. Everyone was pretty sure there must have been a water main break somewhere but nobody was sure of any details. It is very unusual to experience the same anomaly over such a wide geographic area.

Water main breaks are an inconvenience, but not uncommon. Alpena’s early water system used to transport water to homes through hollowed out logs that served as pipes. A booming lumber town, why not? You can see an example of this inside Besser Museum.

Over time the logs have been replaced with metal pipes. Metal is a workhorse, but deteriorates over time, especially with our Michigan weather fluctuations that can weaken, crack, or wear just about everything. When a break occurs, municipal water supply staff must move quickly — and that is just what happened on Friday night.

Within about an hour or so of citizens realizing there was a problem Suez Environment Alpena Water Utility had the majority of water supply back up and running. This occurred near midnight, on a Friday, in the pouring rain. I would like to say that I can’t imagine how miserable that must have been to work in the rain, but I can. I’ve experienced many such events working outside in the dirt while cold rain pours down the back of your neck, drenching you to the core. And, it is. It is miserable.

So this is why on this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for all the employees across the region who work a thankless job to deliver a service that nobody appreciates until it is interrupted or taken away. How many times have I thanked the people who make sure I don’t have to think twice about getting a glass of water to drink from my kitchen sink? Zero times.

My Grandma recently came back from a mission trip to Africa and shared that the school in the village she visited, employed a man whose sole job was to bring safe drinking water to the school three times a day. I don’t have to walk any further than the nearest sink. It is always clean, always available, always there and interruptions are few and far between. I should be very thankful for that.

How many times have I thanked the people who clear the snow from the roads across the county? Zero times. There are only a few times a year when I stay off the roads. The plow truck drivers do a great job keeping the roads clear, even in weather that would have people in other states canceling everything. I usually don’t have to think twice about venturing out to visit friends or family in the farthest stretches of Alpena. I should be thankful for that. There are many more hundreds of people and professions who deserve a thank you but rarely get one.

This week, let’s make a point to reach out to some of those people who make our lives easier, yet never hear from us. Let’s go out of our way, for the people who go out of their way, to keep Alpena going.

Mary Beth Stutzman’s Inspiring A-Town runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Follow Mary Beth on Twitter @mbstutz.