Thursday, March 27, 2008

Stuck to the Toilet

(Here is my Saipan Tribune column for this week.)


A few weeks ago, the news story was published about a woman who walked into her bathroom one day, and just decided to stay. She took a seat, and for two years, she sat on the toilet, until eventually, her skin grew around the toilet seat, linking her to it. Her partner commented that he thought that when she went into the bathroom, she would be out soon, but the minutes stretched into hours, days, weeks, months, and that it just became a way of life for them. Everything was normal, except that she was stuck on the toilet. Things become so weird, and you don’t know how to cope with them, so you eventually start to think they’re normal. Then one day, someone walks into your bathroom and you realize the anomaly of your situation. “Hello Mr. Fireman. What brings you into my bathroom today?”

Gradually, over the past few months, the city water supply to our home has diminished. We already only get water for an hour a day, but for years it’s been enough to fill our tank. Now, every few weeks, the tank runs dry. I call the ever-ready trouble desk at the utility. I say something like, “Salutations. Thou art hearkening to the namesake of biblical kings. I summon thee from yonder naval knoll. Liquid hath gone thither. Wherefore art thy words to bring peace to puzzled souls?” As expected, the answerer at the trouble desk says, “huh?” So I repeat myself, word for word.. “Hello. This is David Khorram. I’m calling from Navy Hill. Our water has run out. Can you help us.” Well, if I’m going to say the same thing, then the answerer is going to say the same thing. He responds, “huh?” This will go on for several exchanges, each time with me using fewer words to simplify the description of the situation, until finally, I’m down to “Nothing water Navy Hill.” The response: “Call back tomorrow.” I call back tomorrow. We do it all over again. Day after day, this exchange takes place with high anticipation of a different outcome. But every day, it ends with the same Shakespearean quote rambling in my head -- “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time; and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death.” I find myself getting used to the absence of a solution. So, we’ve been paying an extra $100 or so a month to have water delivered to our home when we run out. “Hello Mr. Fireman. Why are you bringing a crowbar into my bathroom today?”

I’ve been doing some work with a freelance graphic artist who lives in a country where snow is currently falling on the ground. All of his work is for clients that live around the world, all done through the internet. I was going to suggest to him that he move to Saipan. After all, his location matters not, because he is “internet based”. Then I realized I had forgotten that a one man show like his, and like thousands around the world, who would love to relocate to a low-tax tropical island and set up clean environmentally friendly businesses that consume and generate only electrons, needs a reliable source of electrons. Power. Electricity. Sure, bigger businesses can buy a generator. But the little guy can’t. And, wow, the economy that could be built around selling Saipan to these freelance internet entrepreneurs! But, people from most developed countries don’t think about the prospect of not having power for hours at a stretch, certainly not for days out of a month, and absolutely not on a scheduled rotating basis. “Hello Mr. Fireman. Look, my skin has grown into the toilet seat! Please don’t pry me loose.”

Let’s just fix it. Power and water. Those are some pretty basic first steps toward calling yourself a developed “investor friendly” “tourist friendly” “resident friendly” place. C’mon guys. It’s time to pry ourselves off the toilet seat.


David Khorram, MD is a board certified ophthalmologist and director of Marianas Eye Institute, as well as the author of World Peace, a Blind Wife, and Gecko Tails. Comments and questions are welcome. Call 235-9090 or email him through, or leave comments at Copyright © 2008 David Khorram


Anonymous said...

Great article, I just linked to it on my blog.

Sean said...


It seems so simple and obvious. It's sad our leaders seem so incapable of doing the most basic things to get our economic engine running and keep it running.