The public standpipe

Built in 1956 or 1957, the public standpipe elevated New Village residents to a higher status. They no longer had to trek to parts known and unknown in search of water. The constant bickering, and sometimes unfriendly rivalry, between La Pansée and New Village residents over the use of the one La Pansée standpipe became a thing of the past.

The thirty-inch-high copper pipe was sheathed in concrete, and there was a raised concrete dais directly beneath the tap on which people placed their receptacles to collect water. The whole thing was nestled snugly between Mister William on the left and Mister Small, the son of a Barbadian immigrant, whom everybody called “Pa,” on the right. Constructed approximately three feet off the road’s edge beneath a street lamp and facing the road and bridge that connected New Village to La Pansée, the standpipe soon became the perfect place for community interaction.

To catch up on the latest gossip, one had only to get a plastic or metal bucket and go to the standpipe. Sometimes, there was one, two, or three clusters consisting of two, three, or more persons of both sexes, discussing other people’s business. Usually, you could tell by the intensity―or lack of it―of the conversation whether the gossip was current or something rehashed. A woman with hands on her hips, slightly bent at the waist and talking in a spirited, barely controlled manner, signaled that a juicy tidbit was under discussion. Men had their own peculiar way of involuntarily telegraphing this information. Children, not to be outdone, formed their own gossip groups.

On weekends, holidays, and in times of water shortages, a large assortment of buckets of various sizes, colors, and shapes would be lined along the road’s edge and crammed around the standpipe itself. During those times, tempers would flare and heated exchanges take place as to whose turn it was to collect water.  Children would usually express their indignation at an offending party in the local dialect: “I dere before you e!” one child would yell.

“You lie! I dat dere before you,” would come the instant response.

 

Translations

“I dere before you e!” – I was at the standpipe before you

“You lie! I dat dere before you.” – You’re a liar! I was the one here before you.

Author’s note: The preceding is an excerpt from the story “The public standpipe” from the novella “New Village” – now available on Amazon kindle

 

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2 thoughts on “The public standpipe”

  1. My goodness, didn’t I laugh at this selection. There’s a very well known, and very popular, coffee shop in a town about two hours from me that’s called — The Standpipe. I’ve been there a couple of times, and it certainly does function as a center of “village life” and a place for gossip. Different cultures, same dynamics.

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